Firstly, Katy Newton commented.
I went to a public school for three years and then moved to a comprehensive. The comprehensive was a good one. I was in the top stream for classes that were streamed and I can honestly say that I didn't register a difference between the quality of teaching in the top stream at the comprehensive and that at the public school. Of course, that was a while ago now.
I have talked about this before. As far as I am concerned, the great value of public schools (I don't know about grammars) is the opportunities that one has for doing and learning thinks that are not on the curriculum.
But, why was the Eton education so valuable (not for my A-level results which were, due to my extreme laziness and inability to grasp the more complex points of organic chemistry, not particularly good)? It was because whilst there I could do almost anything that I wanted in terms of... well... hobbies. I took part in theatre, both acting and producing; I am sitting in my flat, in Edinburgh, right now, surrounded by my metal sculptures (my primary passion at school); others played sport, or did fencing, or swam, or built working aeroplanes, or... Well, you get the idea.
The attitude of the best public schools was that simply doing well at exams simply was not good enough. You had to contribute to the community, whether that of the school or that of the local community. I know that, for instance, expulsion decisions—or "sacking" as it was known—often rested on whether you actively participated in the life of the school or not.
The philosophy of Eton, at the time (I suspect that it has changed now), was that if you had qualified to get in, then you were clever enough to get good exam results: the academic teaching was, as far as I am concerned, not that great. There were, like any other school, good teachers and bad teachers. What was important was the "rounded man", someone who had many skills. This is at least one of the reasons for the preponderance of Etonians in high places; the old school tie is, these days certainly, not enough: it was, however, an advantage to have gone there because people knew that you were not simply an exam-passing machine.
Katy pointed out that it was the attitude of the comprehensive, as opposed to her previous public school, that was problematic.
At the public school we were all encouraged to compete to give the right answer first. At the comprehensive I was taken aside by a teacher and asked if I could stop raising my hand to answer questions because it might be intimidating those students who needed more time to think than I did.
To which Jim replied,
I went to a comprehensive, and never felt I was being "held back" through some PC desire to let everybody learn at the same pace.
I went to a state primary until the age of eight and, whilst I did not meet the same active repression as Katy, I was bored to tears, as were the other bright kids. There is no doubt that some sort of streaming is needed. As a result of my boredom (and my brother, who is a fucking genius, had it worse) I became utterly disengaged; my grades slipped, and I went from being a good student to being a one of the worst. Few people really remember much from when they were very young, but I can still recall the terrible, crushing boredom of the time (a feeling which has recurred in the last few years; thank fuck for blogging: it's the only thing that keeps me sane!).
Jim then sets up a wee bit of a straw man.
That's where DK's argument falls down - he doesn't accept that both comprehensive and grammer schools have committed and motivated teachers (despite Blunkett/Clarke/Kelly's interventions), and these teachers will do whatever they can to help the kids in their classrooms.
I don't think that I ever said that the teachers were uncommitted, and thus my argument stands; there are committed and uncommitted teachers in all schools. But sometimes they just don't have the facilities to help (more on that in a second), and sometimes they are swamped with paperwork. Three of my good friends are teachers, in various age groups, and I know the frustration that they often feel; and I also know how exhausted they are most of the time.
Other commenters, including MatGB, felt that 11 was too young to select, and that 13 was a better age.
The streaming system you described from Eton souned about right Chris, not selection based on one exam at 11.
He was referring to this explanation of the Eton system which is a neat and practical way of streaming. It is not perfect, but it is flexible and doesn't require timetabling each individual for each subject, which would be a nightmare.
It is interesting how many comments I get when I post about education (and how few are of the "what the fuck would you know about it, you posh, upper-middle-class fuckwit" type, which is nice); it is obviously a topic that many people care about deeply. Princess Toni obviously realised this when he made his "Education, education, education" speech, the incompetent, lying tosspot.
One thing is certain: thousands, if not millions, of people in this country are being failed by our shitty education system. One of the main problems with state funded schools, in your humble Devil's opinion, is the lack of facilities; by "facilities" I mean the funding to allow students to do their own chemistry experiments, to explore art, particularly pottery and sculture, in any meaningful way, to create Design and Technology projects, to play team sports, to put on plays, to have their own books.
And a really good way of starting to sort out this situation, in the short term at least, would be for the fucking Local Education Authorities to stop taking a fucking third (in Scotland at least) of the fucking education budget to keep themselves in stationery and jobs. A fucking third! A cunting third of the Scottish Education budget never reaches the fucking schools! Think about that: doesn't it get you fucking raging? Don't you want to go and kill every last LEA employee and burn down the no-doubt plush sodding offices? I do. Oh, and a good way of getting those team sports—desperately important for so many obvious reasons—would be for selfish, greedy cunt councillors to stop selling off the fucking playing fields and actually getting people to play bastard, fucking sports in the afternoons rather than sending the little fuckers out of school at half-two in the afternoon so that they can go drink White Lightning and fuck in an alley until their parents get back from work.
Anything that isn't directly linked to the fucking joke known as the academic curriculum is denied to many; the opportunities that I had to explore and express my creativity are denied to thousands. Amongst other things, those who are not academically inclined are denied the chance to find something else that they are good at. This attitude—that some sodding piss GCSEs in fucking Spice Girl studies, or whatever, is the be all and end all of education—is leading directly to our shortage of practical tradesmen, such as the, sadly not, ubiquitous plumber. Furthermore, it stifles creative thinking with the result that the country that was once the creative powerhouse of the world is becoming a piss-poor backwater which is so fucking desperate that it even considers shackling itself to an obvious fucking piece-of-crap economic, administrative and cultural basketcase like the EU. The fucking piece of crap that this country's governments have called "education policy" has led directly to the decline of this once-almost-omnipotent union.
It must not—should not—be tolerated. The education policy pursued by so many governments, both Labour and—yes, Neil—Tory, is not only failing this country economically, but it is also failing people: individuals about whom we profess to care. [You will have to imagine me shouting at the screen now.] FUCKING SORT IT OUT! PEOPLE, INDIVIDUALS ARE LIVING LIVES OF DESPAIR AND MISERY, LACKING HOPE, BECAUSE SOME CUNTS IN GOVERNMENT WILL NOT SORT OUT THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE IN THIS COUNTRY.
Balls to all this liberty crap; worthy though Liberty Central is, it is utterly pointless unless one can mobilise the masses. And unless you can teach the masses to think for themselves, rather than regurgitating Mel B.'s tit size in a pointless exam, then it will fail. Furthermore, if you taught people to think for themselves and actually understand their economic, political and social situation then you wouldn't need things like Liberty Central. Successive government have merely created robots, easily manipulated drones, whose sole purpose in life is to work in order to give money to the government. We wouldn't want people to actually consider their situation, eh?
Education should be a priority; it helps us as a country and it helps people as individuals. The very fact that we are churning out thousands of people who are functionally fucking illiterate is a fucking disgrace. And when I rule this country, education will be the first thing to sort out (well, after executing Blair, Brown, Byers, Jowell, Hewitt and the rest of those utter cunts. They have failed the people of this country, and lined their own pockets and they should fucking be killed and have their heads stuck on sodding spikes to remind the people of what demons look like) and then we will be great.
We can dump the EU, we can negotiate our own trade deals with the US, we can open up our markets to the Developing Nations, we can start to innovate again. I might be the angriest, and arguably only, dictator that this country has had but—in the name of all that is unholy—I would be the most uncorruptible person to run it and, in the name of fuck, I'd think of something other than the fullness of my back pocket. This is, you see, because I have great plans, great ideas and I'm not a total and utter cunt, unlike every other politician in this benighted isle.
God, this makes me angry. Does it show?