Left-wing teachers

The state of education across the world

Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Mike » 31 Mar 2013, 07:04

Gavin wrote:There has been a Moral Maze programme on the UK history curriculum. You can find a transcript here but you have to scroll down a fair way for it.


Thanks for the link. Some of the statements and assumptions of the participants were highly revealing. That professor who was on first made me want to put my fist through the computer screen, repeatedly. To wit:

RICHARD EVANS The key thing [in teaching history] is to teach children to develop their own ideas, their own skills, reach their own judgements about the big issues in history, the big questions in history to make them, in a sense, capable of independent judgement as adults...


The fact that this is being said by a supposedly distinguished (indeed knighted) historian is pretty disappointing, to put it mildly.

The key thing is to allow them to develop their own ideas? At a very advanced stage of the study of history students can reasonably claim the experience and body of knowledge required to form individual judgements, i.e. not judgements merely force-fed to them by their teachers (which, unbeknownst to or more likely unacknowledged by Sir Useful Idiot above, is the result in practice of the move away from facts to interpretation in history curricula).

And nobody needs to be taught the faculty of independent judgement, this is simply a case of framing the desideratum in the wrong terms. The faculty of logical and reasoned judgement is a different matter.

RICHARD EVANS Well no, because facts don’t have any meaning by themselves, they are always tied into interpretations and narratives....

...There’s no other way of testing historical knowledge except in conjunction with interpretation and argument.


The postmodern approach, writ large. It would only take a moderately intelligent six-year-old to display the basic fallacy of it, but if enough academics say it, loudly enough and often enough...

RICHARD EVANS Because education is about understanding, it’s about learning. It’s not about rote-learning of facts. Facts are important of course but not just by themselves. How are you going to test it? I come back to this, how are you going to test this?


Err, perfectly simply. Here's one method, dealing with a period of history that I'm more familiar with than British history:

Put the following events in chronological order:

a) The assassination of Julius Caesar
b) The first triumvirate
c) Tiberius Gracchus's land reforms
d) The Catiline conspiracy
e) The battle of Actium


Now, taught properly, this assortment of facts (along with a few others) tells a fascinating, instructive and perpetually relevant story about the state of Roman society at the time. And a knowledge of the basic chronology, and the basic facts, as tested above (and by various other methods, no doubt) is absolutely crucial before one can have the remotest claim to be able to express an informed opinion on, among other things, the moral and ethical status of certain actions during that time.

I've got plenty more to say about the other speakers but might leave it for another post later on.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Charlie » 31 Mar 2013, 21:16

Over on Acquaintancebook, I've just seen a lefty-teacher posting a picture. Apparently it's a protest against Michael Gove. The picture shows a daughter asking her mother the following question:

"Why do I have to go to school?"


To which the mother replies:

"So you can be molded into a state approved homogenous drone that cannot think outside of the prescribed consensus. You will learn to repeat information instead of how to think for yourself so that you don't become a threat to the status quo. When you graduate you will get a job, pay your taxes, in order to perpetuate the corporate system of indentured servitude."


So that's what lefty-teachers think Gove is up to. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Gove's plans, the above 'quote' is obviously hideous and wrong on so many levels. Not least because it reads like a lyric which Rage Against The (Washing) Machine would have rejected 15 years ago for sounding just a bit too much like a a sixth-form political rant in the common room.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Gavin » 31 Mar 2013, 21:53

Laughed out loud at "Rage Against the Washing Machine"! ;)
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Mike » 31 Mar 2013, 22:02

What's gloriously ironic about that quote (Rage Against the Washing Machine - ha!) is that as far as genuinely "thinking for yourself" goes, a system that involves chiefly teaching facts and knowledge is far, far more likely to engender this than the current trend in the humanities towards teaching opinions (which is thinly disguised under the various mantras of progressivist education - skills-based, constuctivist learning, student-centred classrooms, and all the other nonsense). And this shouldn't even be a Left v. Right issue, to be honest, although of course it's been transmuted into one over the last 30 years.

Like Charlie I can't speak for the detail of Gove's proposals (in fact, a couple of things I've read about them rub me the wrong way as well, in fairness), but most of the ranting against them that I've seen is simply childish and ignorant.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Caleb » 01 Apr 2013, 08:03

I actually think that the mother has somewhat of a point, but it's just off the mark. There is currently an unholy alliance between government and corporations. What has happened in Cyprus (or more precisely, who has been able to get their money out and who hasn't, who has or hasn't been on the hook, etc.) has shown how screwed up the world is. Yet at the same time, the solutions to this are always way off the mark. The solutions always involve more government, bigger government. Yet more and bigger government are precisely the things that have enabled the most extreme forms of corporatism (which is a very different beast from capitalism).

The education system is woefully inadequate at even imagining the depth of this issue, let alone allowing students to discuss it.

I don't know if people get quite what I mean. I don't have time to write a full explanation right now, but will at a later date.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Elliott » 01 Apr 2013, 09:52

Last night I listened to the Moral Maze debate. It's strange how I am never satisfied by the MM debates, yet whenever I hear Michael Buerk saying "that's it for this series" I feel disappointed! There is something comforting about Radio 4 shows, no doubt.

I thought that Anne McElvoy (who I have always liked) and Claire Fox came out of the debate best. The former New Labour spin doctor, whose name I always forget, always strikes me as a man struggling to be a man in a post-man world; he's trying to be practical but he's hamstrung by the touchy-feely nonsense to which he has devoted his life. As for Giles Fraser... how immature he seems! He sounds like a whiny, idealistic adolescent. I honestly think that he is too immature and unrealistic to be fit for an adult debating show.

As to the debate itself, there seemed to be a rather tedious blockage when it came to deciding whether facts or interpretation are more important. I would always say facts are more important because, to any interested mind furnished with those facts, interpretation will follow naturally. But for all other people, the facts by themselves would be far more useful than an attempted (and doomed to failure) furnishing of the abilities to do historical interpretation. I tend to think that, for the most part, the interpretation of history should be left to experts, and we shouldn't even pretend to be giving schoolchildren the mental ability (and certainly not sufficient historical facts) to attempt it. It's like trying to build a spaceship when you only have the materials for a bicycle. I actually think the (re-)interpretation of history is something that might be best left to the elite, not spread around haphazardly amongst the population at large; one thing we have forgotten in recent decades is how to build functional and trustworthy elites who can do the things the population at large simply can't: we have elected instead to pretend that the population at large can do these things.

I agree with Mike that, ironically, Gove's "knowledge-based curriculum" is far more likely to produce independent-minded adults than some touchy-feely PC indoctrination curriculum. It's amazing: things have gone so far now, that people are actually able to object to kids being given knowledge while in the classroom.

But in a sense I can see what these people are moaning about (though I think they are chiefly motivated by the fact that Gove is a conservative). Nobody wants a system in which every child is treated like a mindless unit, to be installed with the software that will make them a good worker. But I don't think anybody is proposing such a system. Gove might be a bit arrogant but what I really like about him is how straightforward and honest he is (or, at least, seems) - he even published a newspaper article the other week saying that he wouldn't be beaten by the cultural Marxists!

Caleb, corporatism is a very interesting topic and I hope you do write about it. Corporatism does seem to be a rising menace, and, as you say, as yet it's such a new phenomenon that I don't think many people (let alone slow-moving institutions) have really sussed out how it works, how prevalent it is, etc.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Caleb » 02 Apr 2013, 01:03

Elliott: As with any of these economic matters I always threaten to write about (I remember I'm still on the hook for writing about how different classes think about money), it is a daunting task. On the one hand, I don't want it to appear like I'm just a blowhard. Yet I can already imagine people's eyes glazing over looking at masses of graphs if I provide lots of evidence to back up my claims. To be honest, I also wouldn't know where to begin with the mountains of data. If I collated all of the information I read week to week on these matters, it would make one of your threads that compiles comments from a newspaper look short by comparison!

Much of what happens in the economic sphere is an own goal on the part of citizens/consumers/employees. Yet much of it is downright criminal on the part of those above them. There are all the usual suspects such as quantitative easing, artificially low interest rates, pumping of the stock market, bailouts of institutions too big to fail, and so on. Then there's the massaging of CPI and other government fudging of numbers. One set of numbers there that is particularly important is what's happened with student loans in the U.S. over the past decade. Then look at wage levels (adjusted for inflation) over the past forty years. You've got guys who migrate back and forth from being government insiders to having top jobs at major corporations, campaign contributions from top corporations (when the last U.S. presidential election cost two billion dollars -- or was it two billion dollars each? -- you know there's a problem) and all of that stuff that we might otherwise call corruption if it were being done in a country full of brown people. If all of that wasn't bad enough, there's the most recent turn of events where people's money was outright stolen from them in Cyprus, while the big (smart) money had already done a runner, including that of the Cypriot president's family! The clowns in power can't even get their stories straight. Is it a template or isn't it? Frankly, I wouldn't be keeping my money in a (European) bank long enough to find out.

People are told to go to school, knuckle down, and get a good job. They're told to get a house and fill it with stuff. They're told to save for their kids' education and for retirement. Obviously, if they don't follow that path, they often end up as complete bums. Yet even when they do follow that path, they often end up as complete suckers. Even if they live well within their means, they can still be wiped out through inflation, taxation and outright confiscation. People who engaged in property speculation ended up underwater on their mortgages and lost their houses. What about the top people at Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, etc.? What happened to them? As country after country in the E.U. falls flat, what is happening to their politicians' wealth? If I hack your bank account and take all your money, I go to jail. If a guy with an official title does it, what happens to him?

I have a real love-hate relationship with the middle class. I often think they're idiots who get what they deserve, yet at the same time, I see the destruction of the middle class -- be it culturally or financially -- as a great threat to the continued stability of society. At some point, people will clutch at straws because they lose all faith in the institutions of society. Those straws often turn out to be populist parties with seemingly easy, straightforward solutions that will help the common man. Yet we know exactly how that will turn out because we've seen it on almost every continent for the past one hundred years.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Mike » 02 Apr 2013, 09:05

Caleb wrote:You've got guys who migrate back and forth from being government insiders to having top jobs at major corporations, campaign contributions from top corporations (when the last U.S. presidential election cost two billion dollars -- or was it two billion dollars each? -- you know there's a problem) and all of that stuff that we might otherwise call corruption if it were being done in a country full of brown people.


To my mind this is THE major problem in Western democracies today. It happens everywhere, of course, but it seems to be particularly virulent in America. And of course when people blame capitalism for this sort of cosy relationship, they miss the point. It is corporatism (or kleptocracy, if you prefer). And it's practised by parties of both the left and the right. Francis Fukuyama couldn't have been more wrong about the end of history, in my view!

Caleb, I don't know if you remember Tim Fischer particularly well, but I consider him the last of the old breed in Australian politics. After steering his party successfully through very difficult times (One Nation, the GST, the last throes of old-style rural protectionism), he just emulated Cincinnatus and went back to his farm. He did take on some ceremonial positions afterwards, but none of any particular consequence and none which would have had broad-ranging effects on people's lives. He would never have dreamt of taking on a chairmanship of a bank or a consultancy firm.

You can't see anyone, and I mean anyone, in contemporary Australian politics doing anything like it.

(...and the Australians have hijacked the thread again!!)
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Caleb » 03 Apr 2013, 02:27

Mike: Yes, another threadjack, as it's known online. Yet as if to immediately confirm what I wrote, there is this.

I remember Tim Fisher, though not very well. Your comparison to Cincinnatus seems apt. Sadly, there are few of the old school left in any party. What do you think of Bob Katter? He's an often outrageous character and I often disagree with him, but he seems to be the real deal and wildly popular with his constituency.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Charlie » 03 Apr 2013, 18:49

Caleb wrote:
I actually think that the mother has somewhat of a point, but it's just off the mark.


Caleb, I see where you're coming from, and may I add that I agree with everything you said about corporatism.

Now I know that you said that the teacher was off the mark, so I don't really need to make the following point, but to me, this teacher wasn't making a legitimate point about schools churning out automatons, questioning authority, or say, the link between government and big business. Instead, all she wrote was "Gove, I'm looking at you...". My suspicions appear to have been confirmed by some of the reports in the papers. Let me just quote one of the things that I've read recently:

One teacher replied to the survey: "I came into teaching to enhance the lives of our children, not to blindly inculcate them with mindless facts."


Needless to say, there was no mention of what these "mindless facts" were, nor any reason why said facts were "mindless". So it's the shrillness of these teachers and the total lack of nuanced debate which: a) undermines any serious point they want to make, and b) marks a lot of them out as being intellectually dishonest. They can't even say "I respectfully disagree, but…". I know that "the Right" can be just as guilty of all of that too, but that's what irked me, and aroused my initial suspicion.

Elliott wrote:
"I agree with Mike that, ironically, Gove's "knowledge-based curriculum" is far more likely to produce independent-minded adults than some touchy-feely PC indoctrination curriculum. It's amazing: things have gone so far now, that people are actually able to object to kids being given knowledge while in the classroom."


I agree and I was heartened to read a letter to The Times today. It makes a simple, yet eloquent point in a much better way than I ever could. If you don't mind, I've copied it out in full - it's brief:

Sir,
You need only listen to interviews on the radio to realise how increasingly incoherent many young people are becoming. They may have interesting things to say, but they have such difficulty saying them.
I'm 77. The people of my generation weren't and are not robots, even though our education may have been based initially on facts. Haven't we produced a number of creative people: writers, musicians artists, actors and film-makers?
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Caleb » 04 Apr 2013, 07:44

Charlie: I actually wrote that the (fictional) mother was off the mark. Anyway though, I agree with your points.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Charlie » 04 Apr 2013, 18:32

Caleb wrote:Charlie: I actually wrote that the (fictional) mother was off the mark. Anyway though, I agree with your points.


I should have been a bit clearer in saying that I knew that you had written that the mother was off the mark. I think I just confused things again. :-)
Anyway, my apologies.
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Nathan » 11 Apr 2013, 21:22

Would you want this man teaching your children? (Though it must be said, he had already resigned over a separate incident.)

Craig Parr, a 27-year-old special needs teacher at Haverstock School - nicknamed 'Labour's Eton' - was pictured waving a "Rejoice: Thatcher is Dead" banner in Brixton, south London, earlier this week.


Some more information on the man:

He describes himself as a revolutionary socialist, who appears to support a number of anarchist groups on the site.

On Twitter he describes himself as “Socalist (sic), teacher, gay, dyslexic, veggie, Londoner”, has posted a series of left-wing messages, using an expletive when referring to the Conservatives.

He tweeted 10 Downing Street last April, saying: “Families will loose (sic) over £500 today....Will make no difference to you of course...Shame on you.”


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politic ... acher.html
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Elliott » 12 Apr 2013, 00:09

Here's an exchange I just had with somebody on Youtube.... It related to a video showing a teacher castigating his class of slovenly, ungrateful students. I believe that the person, my interlocutor, is a teacher of some kind though I may be mistaken. At any rate his witterings display a degree of moral relativism which would surely please any modern education manager:

My interlocutor wrote:just do your f***ing job, and ignore those who dont want to learn and teach those who do and stop putting your students down. THERE ARE NO BAD STUDENTS JUST BAD TEACHERS who dont try


Leaving aside the glaring contradictions in that comment (both in its observations and in its advice), I took him to task on the last part.

I wrote:Do you seriously believe that? There are no bad students? Jeez...


My interlocutor wrote:Yes i do i believe there are no bad students they just need to be managed properly and a with a routine created to identify what triggers them off.This can be done by time, patience, skill and awareness now with this you can make any bad student into at least a manageable 1
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Re: Left-wing teachers

Postby Caleb » 12 Apr 2013, 00:45

Elliott: I can't even begin talking about such matters to most people involved in education anymore. They're beyond being out to lunch. Of course, there are those who believe all people are always good, but the interesting ones are those who believe adults can be bad, but children can't. Is it really a case that a child is sweetness and light and then one day (coincidentally, his eighteenth birthday) he is Hannibal Lecter? Is it really that binary?

Teachers and adults can indeed make things better or worse (I think they are part of the issue), but there has to be some responsibility placed on the children themselves, at least after they hit adolescence and are able to think in abstract ways about morality.

I am so at odds with the educational establishment, and probably the wider society, that it's just pointless to have these discussions with most people these days.
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