Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Where they teach you how to be thick

The writer below says that state education in Britain has consistently encouraged working-class children to accept their lot in life. He has some interesting history but ignores several problems: Such as the virtual abolition of discipline and IQ differences

As loudly as the middle classes moan about the state school system, it is the working class that has been let down. Middle-class children do very well out of state education. It is the middle-class children who pass the exams, and get the college places. They go on to get good, well-paid jobs, too. Working-class children, however, do worse than they ever have.

Studies for the Sutton Trust found that social mobility in Britain started to go backwards from 1970 onwards – those born after 1970 will earn no more than their mums and dads. Since 1973 wages have fallen as a share of Britain’s wealth, from 65 per cent to 55 per cent.

Since the 1960s there have been big reforms in schools and colleges:

* Comprehensive schools were brought in, in 1969.

* The school leaving age was raised from 14 to 16.

* The share of those going on to colleges and universities was boosted from 8.4 per cent in 1970 to more than a third today

These reforms were supposed to help working-class people. Instead the working class has lost out. Wages have not kept up with growth. Working-class people are doing no better than their mums and dads before them.

You might argue that the schools did not make the class divide – and you would be right. But schools have not done anything to fix the class divide, either. All those years of education reform have done nothing for working-class people.

The state education system has let down the working class. It has not helped people to better themselves. Instead it churns out school-leavers who are more divided along class lines than ever before. For working-class children, state education is not part of the solution. It is part of the problem.

The origins of state education

When Robert Owen opened the Hall of Science in Manchester, a committee of churchmen and mill owners was set up to put down ‘that hideous form of infidelity which assumes the name of socialism’. The good burghers of Manchester founded their own school to rival Owen’s. Soon after, the Hall of Science was set on fire.

The attack on the Hall of Science was just the beginning of the ruling-class attack on working-class schools. Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, a baronet, was made Britain’s first secretary of education in 1839 – it was his job to set up a state education system in Britain.

Kay-Shuttleworth’s principal motivation in 1839 was a fear of the growing, and independent, working-class movement: ‘We confess that we cannot contemplate with unconcern the vast physical force which is now moved by men so ignorant and so unprincipled as the Chartist leaders.’

The mill owners and landlords did not like parting with their money, but Kay-Shuttleworth told them schools would ‘promote the security of property and the maintenance of the public order’. Spending a little money on schools now would save them their whole fortune, said the first minister of education, ‘Only by experience and education can the workmen be induced to leave undisturbed the controls of commercial enterprises in the hands of the capitalists.’ Ever since then, the whole point of state schools has been to curb the threat of the working class.

Forster go to school

The first law to say that you could be forced to go to school – compulsory education – was passed in 1870. It was the idea of William E Forster: ‘We had this fearful state of things – a large portion of the nation growing up in our large towns without education, and ready to become members of the dangerous classes.’

Forster’s backer, MP Charles Buxton, made it clear at whom the act was aimed: ‘No feeling of tenderness for the parents would deter him for one minute from adopting compulsion. Society was suffering grievously from their shameful apathy with regard to the education of their children.’ (House of Commons, 12 March 1869)

Forster forced mums and dads to hand over their children to the vicars and priests who ran the church schools – who duly beat the word of God into their backsides – from the age of eight to 13. Later on Forster would force Irishmen to obey British rule under the so-called ‘Coercion Act’.

The 1944 Act and a Brave New World of tripartite education

Tasked with setting up schools for children aged 11 to 15, Labour education minister Ellen Wilkinson told local authorities to ‘think in terms of three types’ of state school (Circular No 73, 12 December 1945). The three sorts of schools were: grammar schools for clever boys and girls; technical schools for practical children (only a few were built); and, last of all, new ‘modern’ schools for working-class children ‘whose future employment will not demand any measure of technical skill or knowledge’ (Ministry of Education, 1945). ‘Not everyone wants an academic education’, Wilkinson said: ‘After all, coal has to be mined and fields ploughed.’

Wilkinson was on the far left of the Labour Party. But just what ‘left wing’ meant was changing. In Churchill’s war cabinet Labour ministers got into the habit of pushing people from pillar to post. The ‘tripartite’ education system seems a bit stiff-necked today; it treated boys and girls like cogs in a machine. But that was pretty much in keeping with the way that ministers bossed workers around in the war.

The ‘Blackboard Jungle’ scare

The upwardly-climbing liked grammar schools. Ellen Wilkinson’s Ardwick Grammar School helped her out of the working class and into Manchester University. Another Labour minister, Roy Jenkins, went to Oxford after Abersychan County Grammar – not bad for a miner’s son. Shopkeeper’s daughter and later Tory education minister Margaret Thatcher went to Kesteven and Grantham Girls School before going to Oxford.

But three-quarters of children did not go to grammar schools. An exam at age eleven – the ‘Eleven Plus’ – sorted children out into the grammar school winners and the secondary modern school losers. It was called ‘selection’. That meant a lot of unhappy children, and unhappy parents.

Before long, the better-off began to get scared of what was going on in secondary modern schools. Newspapers ran scare stories about crime and violence in ‘The Blackboard Jungle’ (taken from the title of a New York school novel and film).

‘A 15-year-old boy draws a knife on a master who is chastising him then waits for the teacher with a studded belt outside – forcing him to ask for police protection.’ This lurid tale was part of a big ‘Blackboard Jungle’ spread in the Sunday Graphic, 12 July 1959. The News Chronicle editor backed up such scare stories, saying, ‘until the black spots in secondary schools are cleaned up they will continue to taint the whole’ (in a letter to The Schoolmaster, 23 September 1955).

Secondary modern teachers wrote racy novels, like ER Braithwaite’s tale of hopeless youngsters stirred by a young Guiana-born teacher, To Sir, With Love. It was published in 1959 and made into a film with Sidney Poitier eight years later. Another was Edward Blishen’s The Roaring Boys – a Schoolmaster’s Agony. The blurb read: ‘They came from the backstreets and slums of London’s east end. They were the roaring boys. Teenage delinquents living for kicks. Young tearaways full of searing hate and fury.’

Class war

It was fear of the young tearaways that put an end to school selection and the tripartite system. It was fear of the class war getting out of hand. In a speech in 1966, Labour minister Tony Crosland owned up to a ‘deeply felt’ and ‘controversial’ view that ‘separate schools exacerbate social division’ and ‘the eleven plus divides overwhelmingly according to social class’.

Crosland did not want to start a class war. He wanted to stop one. He promised he would not ‘argue the point in terms of equality’; he would argue it ‘in terms of a sense of cohesion’. ‘We only have to consider our industrial relations’, he warned, ‘to see the depth of social division’. ‘But so long as we choose to educate our children in separate camps’, he warned, ‘for so long will our schools exacerbate rather than diminish social divisions’.

The rise of the meritocracy?

Crosland’s fears of class war were outlined by the social scientist Michael Young, the collator of the 1945 Labour Party manifesto in which Labour promised to build new secondary schools. In 1958 he wrote The Rise of the Meritocracy, a darkly comic fable set in the year 2033, which tries to guess at what will happen to a country that selects its children according to their ‘eleven plus’ scores – what he called ‘a meritocracy’.

In The Rise of the Meritocracy the upper-class owes its standing to intelligence, not money or land. But they have made an awful mistake. The lower orders, domestic servants and the ‘Technicians Party’ rise up in revolt against the cruel meritocracy. Half a million copies of The Rise of the Meritocracy were sold worldwide. The case for the comprehensive school, and against selection, was won. It was won because while the ruling class were too scared of what would happen to the working class if they were shut up in no-hope schools, the middle class were too embarrassed to say out loud what they secretly thought: that their sons and daughters deserved better than the rest. (Michael Young is Toby Young’s dad.)

School choice

Even though comprehensive schools became the norm, the professional classes were never really happy about it. Right-wing university lecturer GH Bantock was outraged at the idea that ‘the future doctor, dustman, admiral and cabin-boy must be taught together in the same mixed-ability class’. Instead of calling for a return to the eleven plus and selection, critics called for different kinds of schools and for school choice.

What they meant was that some schools could be made more ‘academic’ and that they could ‘choose’ to send their kids there.

The Labour Party leaders do not send their children to comprehensive schools. Tony Blair sent his children to the London Oratory – a grant-maintained school. So did New Labour stalwart Harriet Harman. Alastair Campbell, Blair’s press secretary, is one of few who does send his sons to a comprehensive school: William Ellis in Camden. It was Campbell who coined the phrase ‘bog standard comp’.

More here

Australia: How the Left hate the Brethren

What the report below omits to say is that the Federal government has part-funded church schools since the days of Bob Menzies. Church schools of all denominations ALWAYS get private as well as government funding. So many parents send their kids to private schools in Australia that they represent a significant voting bloc that no government can ignore -- as Mark Latham found out to his cost. So the report below is not news at all.

The furore is just another Leftist attack on a very conservative group. Although it is doubtful that anybody takes much notice of them, the leaders of the mainstream churches almost always come out in support of the Labor party at election time. The Brethren are a rare group that actually funds advertisements supporting the conservatives. And hell hath no fury like a Leftist scorned

A RELIGIOUS school run by the secretive Exclusive Brethren religion was granted more than $9 million in government funding despite getting $15 million from "other private sources", the MySchool 2.0 website reveals.

The government handout was based on it being rated one of the most disadvantaged schools in the nation, equivalent to an impoverished Aboriginal mission school. Yet despite its government classification as a "category 12" school, with private funding it is able to spend more than $20,000 a year on each student. The average for a state school is about $10,000 per student.

It runs MET (Meadowbank Education Trust) School, based at Oatlands near West Ryde, but is, in fact, 18 schools spread throughout the state as far as Albury and Condobolin.

"This is a complete, total abuse of the funding system," NSW Greens MP John Kaye said. "It's very hard to argue that these schools are impoverished when they're getting $15 million from private sources."

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the school's arrangements highlighted the flaws in the federal funding system. "Like all private schools, this school is funded regardless of its income or wealth," Mr Gavrielatos said. "As a result it has almost double the average income per student of a public school."

The school, which had no input over its rating, failed to return calls over the funding issue yesterday.


Clumsy fakery of test results in Australia

THE "gobsmacking" NAPLAN score of one disadvantaged Melbourne primary school, detailed on the My School website, has raised fresh questions about whether schools are manipulating the literacy and numeracy tests to gain an unfair advantage.

Education consultant and NAPLAN expert Philip Holmes-Smith said of the result achieved by Dallas Primary School in Broadmeadows that he had "never seen anything like it". "In statistics I never say it's impossible because there is probably a 0.0004 per cent chance it would happen," Mr Holmes-Smith said.

A growing number of principals and academics believe that schools face so much pressure to perform well in NAPLAN (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) that manipulation will result.

In the United States city of Atlanta, 109 educators faced scrutiny or sanctions after an investigation found test-related cheating at 58 public schools. Funding decisions there are made on test results. Similar problems have been found elsewhere in the US and in Britain.

The federal government, under its National Partnership Agreement on Literacy and Numeracy, will begin allocating large reward payments to schools based on their improvements in NAPLAN.

In the 2010 test last May, only 74 per cent of Dallas Primary students sat the test; 20 per cent were "withdrawn" and 7 per cent "absent". The national average attendance was 96 per cent.

Former education department bureaucrat John Nelson said the Dallas results were "gobsmacking". Despite a large migrant population and low socio-economic status, year 3 students were reading, spelling and understanding grammar and punctuation at significantly higher levels than the national average for year 5 students. In grammar and punctuation, the school's year 3 students outstripped its year 5 students, by a score of 596 to 522.

The students' improvement from year 3 in 2008 to year 5 in 2010 was enormous, putting year 5 students at near year 8 levels.

Dallas principal Valerie Karaitiana has in the past attributed her school's success to its specialist programs, but would not respond to questions on Friday. Northern region director Wayne Craig has, in private forums, used Dallas as an example to other principals of what can be achieved, but he refused on Friday to defend its performance. A departmental investigation of the school has found nothing wrong.

Other Victorian principals are suspicious. Doug Conway, principal of the western suburban Kings Park Primary School, believes the "lowest-performing kids were told to stay at home". "If you did that at my school, the low SES, high non-English-speaking background children, we'd get a colossal spike," he said. "I think the pressure on schools has led some schools to have lower participation rates than they should have." Terry Condon, Roxburgh Rise Primary principal, called Dallas "one of the most miraculous schools in the state".

Schools Minister Martin Dixon said he was concerned about Victoria's low participation rate in the NAPLAN tests, but was not aware of problems with any individual school.

Mr Holmes-Smith, a consultant at School Research Evaluation and Measurement Services, pointed out that Dallas's score for writing was much lower than for spelling and grammar. "Writing is the most authentic assessment because the children actually have to write something," he said. The other tests are multiple choice.

Mr Nelson, who quit his Education Department job because he thought a departmental investigation into Dallas was "a whitewash", asked: "What did they do that took a kid in Broadmeadows from the bottom 10th or 20th percentile and put them in the top percentile? Whatever they did needs to be copied by everybody, so why hasn't it? Why didn't they celebrate their methods?"


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