Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Springing to attack

Via WebCommons, I find this entry on sport by Richard Spring MP and I really have to take issue with the following sentence.
Sport is in decline in this country, and one of the results of this is that many young people are insufficiently fit.

I think that Richard has rather put the cart before the horse here: young people are unfit because they do not play sport, not the other way around.


massive whoops! This is, of course, what Richard said. Never mind, I shall let this post stand, if only as a monument to the folly of not reading carefully enough...


Sports—and especially team sports—in this country have declined for a number of reasons. The first is the pathetic idea that either everybody wins, or nobody does; I have concentrated on this before. In the last year that I was at a state primary school (in 1985/96, I think) we had a sports day in which everyone got the same prize, simply for running the race, regardless of where one had come in that event.

But even this would not be a problem: there is, despite constant attempts by the education system to stamp out the spirit of competition, an exhiliaration to winning which often more than compensates for the lack of any physical trophy.

Unfortunately, being able to participate requires that there is actually somewhere to play it. And this is a problem because, since at least the late 70s—and with a massive acceleration from the mid-80s onwards, schools and councils have been selling off playing fields for development. This applies especially to those schools in the innner cities—which, it could be argued, need them the most—because the price of land is so high in these areas.

This has accelerated still further under NuLabour who have favoured—surprise, surprise—the PFI approach; school fields are sold to development companies who are required to install indoor facilities which the school must be able to use. Unfortunately, these facilities are usually both inadequate and expensive and, as such, the participation in sport is reduced.

And so, instead of having lessons and then a couple of hours of sport and getting out of school at about 5 (as I did), we now have kids roaming the streets from about 2.30 in the afternoon, bored out of their minds, waiting for their parents to come home from work.

I have always maintained that schools are about more than mere academic work—this is what people pay money to public schools for, by the way—but, alas, government targets pay absolutely no attention to such things, for how can they be measured?

Sure, you could take measures of "satisfaction", but how can a child know that they would love to spend their afternoons with an oxyacetylene torch, sculpting in metal (as I did), if they have never had the chance to try it? And thus, how can they possibly express dissatisfaction at the fact that their school has no such facilities?

As I have stated many times—in the face of jibes from socialists—I know what a good schooling is (as does Cameron): so, who is better to advise on the best way in which to achieve a fine education—someone who has explored all of these facilities and been encouraged to do so, or someone who has never known what a broad and extensive schooling can offer?

Education is about more than mere academic exam results, especially when those results are so devalued—the very fact that we have an A* grade testifies to the degradation of the system on its own. In fact, as Matt Sinclair wrote superbly about, education is about more than economics.


Larry Teabag said...

I think that Richard has rather put the cart before the horse here: young people are unfit because they do not play sport, not the other way around.

Psst - that's what he said.

Devil's Kitchen said...

Whoops! Classic case of not reading it properly...


Mark Wadsworth said...

School sport is a load of shit.

Never liked it, don't see why kids should be forced to do this under the supervision of people who are either halfwits, psychopaths or child molesters. The only kids who enjoy it are bullies, brown-noses and all round cunts.

I for one welcome the selling off of school playing fields!

James said...

I'm a libertarian, and I am happy with the idea that almost every single overweight adult is overweight because of their own actions.

Children are however not adults, so the 'its for your own good' argument holds some water. Otherwise how will kids ever work out that they DO like running about a muddy field kicking a ball, or painting, or welding etc if they don't try them?

I suppose much as it offends my libertarian feelings, kids aren't adults, and have to be made to do or learn things for their own good.

Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth as I remember with no great fondness running around freezing fields in December being yelled at by some bastard standing on the sidelines with his bloody thermos...

Mark Wadsworth said...

Kids aren't fat because they don't exercise, they are fat because they overeat. I have never done a day's exercise in my life and am pretty slim because I don't overeat.

Sure some kids like painting, welding, playing rugby etc, but other kids like playing snooker, computer games, riding ponies, shooting animals, collecting stamps, who's to say what the State should enforce/subsidise and waht people should pay for/choose themselves? Not you, not me, and certainly not the State.

james said...

In that case where do you draw the line for subjects to be taught? Obviously employers like to have some record of a kids grades and achievements at school.

If state schools must exist, which they will for the forseeable future until one of these bastard 'servants of the public' happens to look at the Swedish system, and actually UNDERSTAND it, do you doom every kid that goes through them to having to learn exactly what is required to pass the 9 GCSEs and nothing else, even if a kid wants to learn more, less or something different?

How on earth would a single one of those kids ever view learning as fun? Their parents may be able to turn them onto certain things, but the hours of drudgery every weekday would likely remove all the joy from those things.

Thats all based on extrapolation of course, so if I have created an army of strawmen I apologise..

Mark Wadsworth said...

James, item one in my education manifesto is of course vouchers - but unlike Sweden, schools will be able to charge top up fees. If parents want to send their kids to a more expensive school that offers pony lessons and judo training, then good luck to them.

Or they can send them to a cheaper school without all this extra-mural crap and spend the difference on piano lessons or welding classes OUTSIDE school - where the range of possibilities will always be greater!

The same goes for 'items to be taught', if a school wants to offer one subject only, 35 hours a week, then fine. They won't get many pupils, but that's not my problem. There's no need for a 'national curriculum' as most parents will choose a school with a reasonably wide range of possible subjects.