Sunday, October 05, 2008

Melissa Benn: pig-ignorant and stupid with it

Obviously, we are all used to reading utter bilge in the Grauniad, but this load of fucking hogwash from Melissa Benn is one of the most massive piles of crap I have ever read in my life.

As Timmy (to whom I am playing host again at present) points out at the ASI blog, we haven't necessarily reached the apeothis of schooling at all, so why remove the mechanism that allows us to test out new methods?
And there is now a surprising amount of agreement across the political spectrum about what constitutes a good school [...] There is widespread recognition of the need for human scale institutions, be it smaller classes and now smaller schools. It's also widely agreed that we need good order in the classroom; more engaging teaching; strong, autonomous heads, and more spending on those with the greatest needs; the so-called "pupil premium".

That these things are now agreed right across the politicl specturm means, according to Ms. Benn, that all schools should thus be like this in one rigid system. Which is to miss one of the basic reasons why we have markets at all: they're the way that we can have innovation, the way that people can try new things and see what works.

Exactly the same is true of schools and education: it's the height of hubris to assume that we, now, have had the revelation denied to all previous generations as to how a perfect school system should be run, that those who follow us will not devise better methods. And for them to test what may or may not work we need a market in alternative methods of education organisation rather than one huge system devised from the centre.

Additionally, however, Melissa Benn does not even understand the system that she is talking about—I know that she's a journo, but one would hope that she could do some basic research.
The failure of our schools is not down to the alleged eccentricities of the National Spelling Society (whatever that is) or the marking system of the QCA or the fact that not enough students wear stripey ties and blazers or study Cicero.

Balls to the schools: they actually aren't important. We aren't talking about the failure of schools themselves, we are discussing the failure of those schools to educate children. It is the education that is important: schools are merely the (most common) delivery method.

(As it happens, whilst Cicero was a bit of a bore, I happen to think that the learning of Latin is a worthwhile thing: it is an incredibly useful language in many different ways. But, I shouldn't, of course, have the power to force children to learn it: that should be up to the parents.)

So, having established that education is failing in the public sector, Melissa's argument is that the public sector should emulate private schools and then shut all of the private schools down. Brilliant! Let's carry on with the failed part of the education system, and destroy the successful part!

Because, you see, darling Melissa doesn't have the first fucking clue about private education. Let me take you through the salient points.
In every town and city, but most sharply in the big cities, children are separated, largely along lines of social class, at the age of 11, often earlier. We have a pyramid of educational provision with the well funded private schools at the top, and many struggling local schools at the bottom. Parents are left to scramble for their own places in the hierarchy, using whatever resources they have in their possession, be it money, religious faith, private tutoring or sheer desperation.

Right. So, we have established the idea that parents do, in fact, care about their children's education, right? They are willing to spend vast amounts of time and money to ensure a decent education. Good. Now we can proceed.
David Cameron should talk to the incensed parent I met earlier this week who wants to start a local campaign called end "educational apartheid" in her neighbourhood; there are thousands like her, profoundly angry not just at the deep divisions in the system, but the political silence that surrounds these divisions.

There is no political silence here, Melissa: it is only champagne socialist morons like you who try to close down debate, you know.

Look, the parents want better education for their children; the entity that does everything that it possibly can to stop them achieving that aim is the state—the near monopoly education provider.

It isn't the parent who decides whether or not their child should learn Latin, for instance, but the state. And if the state decides that they shall not, then they shall not. Further, the state then prevents the parents moving their children to a school that does tech Latin—and the council uses RIPA to enforce this lack of choice.
Tinkering with the structures that serve the poorest communities, in effect replacing community comprehensive schools with privately run academies, is not going to effect real change. Nor is suggesting that hard pressed or highly motivated parents or both group together to create yet more institutions that will only confuse the picture.

Quite right: none of it is going to change whilst the state uses the law to forbid parents any kind of real choice. The state prevents parents from choosing the school that they want to send their children to and, through the National Curriculum, it effectively forbids schools from educating the children as it sees most fit to do so.

Do you get it, Melissa, you fucking moron? The enemy here is the fucking state because it reduces choice. Do you get it, you fuckwit? All of the changes that we have seen in the public system have merely given the illusion of choice, introducing massive costs whilst stifling the real choice that might provide tangible benefits (and the same applies to the NHS, for that matter).
Anyone serious about social justice, should stand back and argue that now is a time for a fresh start. That in a proud, self-confident, modern democracy, all children, rich or poor, raised in heart of rural England or in the most rundown parts of the inner city, should have access to exactly the same educational chances. Education should be free...

Why? Because you say so? If people want to pay for their children's education—sorry, if they want to pay directly as well as through their taxes for their children's education—why the fuck should they not be able to do so?
... and uniformly excellent.

Well, chance'd be a fine thing. But that is not going to happen whilst the state controls the educational agenda, you twat: why will you not see this? The falling standards in our schools are not because schools are getting inherently worse—with all of the money that Labour have shovelled in, they should be a lot better—but because the government sets the educational agenda.

The reason that universities and employers are complaining about the shoddy fucking standards of those with a billion As at A Level are not because the schools are getting any worse at teaching—it is because the government has changed the emphasis of educational attainment from knowledge to empathy.

I shall spell it out for you again, you stupid bitch: the state is the problem, not the schools.
Absurdly utopian?

Yes, you silly cow: it is. Nothing is free, for starters.
Politically unthinkable? Well, no. It would not be the first time that the Tories took on vested interests when it suited them. After all, it was middle-class fury at the inequities of the grammar schools that paved the way for Tory support for comprehensive reform in the 60s and 70s.

Good. So, we'll go for the Swedish system, shall we? Oh no, not Melissa...
And there is now a surprising amount of agreement across the political spectrum about what constitutes a good school. Selection may run rife in our current system, but no mainstream politician on left or right will publicly advocate it. Tory proposals on school admissions may still be a little hazy, but the party have come round to all-ability schools. Social class is no longer seen as an excuse for educational failure.

Really? Perhaps you should tell Snuffy that. Hey, Snuffy, you can stop your fighting for the kids now: Melissa has decreed that "social class is no longer seen as an excuse for educational failure". Everybody say "yay!" "Yaahay!"

As for her assertion that "there is now a surprising amount of agreement across the political spectrum about what constitutes a good school"—well, this is bollocks.

There isn't even a consensus across the private sector as to what constitutes a good school. Master Worstall, having been brought up a Catholic, went to a Catholic-oriented school; I did not. My school placed a massive emphasis on activities undertaken outwith the classroom (to the extent that you were likely to be dealt with far less harshly for any transgression than someone who did not). As it happens, I spent a lot of time in the art schools; a private school that I did work for in Edinburgh had almost no art facilities but placed a massive emphasis on sporting prowess.

So, what consensus does Melissa think has been achieved?
There is widespread recognition of the need for human scale institutions, be it smaller classes and now smaller schools.

Um... OK, Melissa. So, what sort of size are we looking at? I went to Eton which had 1300 pupils: for the first three years, the main class that I was in had no fewer than 22 pupils (and in one year, more than that).

So, perhaps you would like to set a level?
It's also widely agreed that we need good order in the classroom; more engaging teaching; strong, autonomous heads, and more spending on those with the greatest needs; the so-called "pupil premium".

Look, love: if you have good order in the classroom, then the size of the class matters increasingly little. The point is that how you achieve good order is rather more tricky.

(The first step towards this is streaming: when people are in a class of similar ability, then they are more likely to learn along with the others. This is, of course, going to require some sort of selection.)

And "strong, autonomous heads" would also be a good step forward, but you are not going to get those whilst the state and the LEAs retain a stranglehold on both the curriculum and the fucking funding. Do you understand that, Melissa? Do you?
As existing economic structures break down, new possibilities open up. Suddenly, the fairness that seemed so impossible in a supposedly more stable era, seems reachable. That's how the welfare state was created, after all.

Indeed. And the welfare state has been a massive fucking failure, so can we move towards a proper system of choice now? Look, massive and sudden decisions are, in cases of society, usually failures because they have unforeseen circumstances: allowing choice tends not to because people gravitate, over time and in an evolutionary process, towards the best possible solution for them.
You never know; when ex-city employees can no longer pay for their children's private education or cuts in public spending further deplete local schools, public anger and anxiety might just facilitate a cross party consensus and create a national education system of such quality and fairness, some might ask, what took us long?

Ah, yes: let's employ a bit of envy, shall we? Instead of sticking up your hand and saying, "yes, the state has made an utter fuck-up of the education system and we, the commentariat, encouraged them in this and we are sorry", Melissa and her ilk prefer to point at those who would opt out of said system and, faces contorted with hate, scream, "look! Look! Look at those bastards! They have shiny beads and you don't! Quick, string them up, the evil people, and you too shall have shiny beads!"

Fuck you, Melissa, you evil fucking moron: since you have established that parents do give a crap about their children's education, how about you let those parents make the choices, rather than dictating to them from your ivory tower, you hideous little shit?

Here is the educational reform that we should be seeing (and no, this is not what the Tories are offering):
  1. Abolish the LEAs.

  2. Abolish the National Curriculum.

  3. Give the parents a voucher to the value of the education spending. Having abolished the LEAs, this will have about a third more value than current spending.

  4. Privatise all schools and let anyone who wishes to set up a school.

  5. Allow al schools to compete. This means that you must also...

  6. Abolish the concept of catchment areas.

  7. Allow schools to set their own entry criteria.

And, finally (or firstly), abolish Melissa Benn and her piss-poor evaluations of an education system that she knows fuck all about. The fucking tosspot.


Anonymous said...

What else do you expect from one of Anthony (call me Tone) Wedgwood Benn Viscount whatever the fuck he was

Unknown said...

You are my hero.

Furry Conservative said...

"create yet more institutions that will only confuse the picture."

And there you have the Socialist 'mind'. How patronising do you have to be, how contemptuous of people to claim that a choice of multiple schools in their area is 'confusing'?

People make informed choices amongst complexity EVERY SINGLE DAY. This might astonish socialists like Melissa, but it is true. Melissa would prefer that instead of 'confusion', there is the cold, hard clarity of single provision, by the State. IN EVERYTHING.

Anonymous said...

Why stop at education? I suppose the confusion of the general public about life in general would be much reduced if they didn't have to choose what to eat or where to buy it- state supermarkets in every town selling just five types of vegetable would be so much simpler. And if everyone had to travel by bus there'd be no confusion how to get from A to B. Etc.
Should there be anyone out there who feels they can't deal with the dazzling array of choices available I for one would be happy to make their choices for them- I guarantee that they would have all the necessities of life and have more money in their bank accounts (even after paying my deservedly high fee) than would be the case under state provision, or probably under their present arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Good post, the cunt should be shot... several times... in the face.

Quick question though regarding parental choice and the abolishment of the curriculum DK, what view does the LPUK take on faith schools? I wouldn't have a problem with people sending their kids to Anglican schools and such, but do you think that this could open the door to radical Islamic madrassas becoming more mainstream?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Rapturous reading DK, and a recommendation from Snuffleupagus just confirms it.

Anonymous said...

Wenn ich "Social Justice" höre…entsichere ich meinen Browning.

Anonymous said...

I went to a so-called flagship comprehensive school in the early 1970s. It was in a rich area (Kensington) and had a substantial middle-class intake as well as the more usual inner-city population.

By the time we reached the sixth form, almost everyone who could afford it had disappeared to private schools: the ones who remained were either too impoverished to go anywhere else or had parents who didn't give a stuff or were mad ideologues who paid for extra tuition on the side. The atmosphere was utterly hostile to learning. History A-level seemed to focus on nothing but the trade union movement. Maths was so badly taught that it was incomprehensible. I got myself onto an A-level science course by accident, having simply walked into the wrong room. Six of us wanted to read subjects at Oxford which at that time demanded O-level Latin. When we asked for this to be taught we were told that we shouldn't want to go to a university which was so old-fashioned.

By that time those of us who wanted a future other than shoplifting had worked out how to fend for ourselves; but it was still heartbreaking to see first-year arrivals beginning with so much willingness to learn and rapidly becoming angry, bored and unreachable. We all hated the place and despised the vain. dishonest, cowardly, hypocritical headmaster and his useless bearded lump of a deputy. There were some very good teachers amongst the dross, but they were overwhelmed by the atmosphere of chaos and defeat. The school is about to be demolished and rebuilt: I know at least thirty ex-pupils from my year alone who would be quite happy to save the local authority a lot of money by tearing it down with our bare hands.

The thing is, this was Holland Park School, where I was in the same year as Melissa Benn.

I am amazed that she seems to have forgotten how useless this socialist showpiece was at educating children.

Anonymous said...

In McDonalds you order a cheese burger with extra fries and coffee, you pay for it and you get given your cheese burger with extra fries and coffee.

Such is virtually everything else, including education.

If you order a value for money, great education system that stimulates and encourages achievement and confidence for most if not all of the common people, you get same, or you dont pay the bill.

Our political and ruling class have got EXACTLY the crappy type of 4th rate ,bad value for money, low achieving, self mutilating, chaotic, confused, bullshit nonsense state education system they did in fact ASK FOR.

The state cant educate our children properly because it does not want to, it is THAT SIMPLE, and that NASTY. The people who dictate to virtually ALL state and private schools as to how they should be in practice run, are the ESTABLISHMENT.they do this by controlling the media and all forms of radical ideologies. The establishment do not wish to educate their NO1 enemy, especially their next generation of potential NO1 enemies.

A thinking common man is a potentially dangerous common man for the establishment. They desperately desire a largely stupid population, and a largely stupid population is EXACTLY what they get.

Which is why the state and the establishment should get out of the business of educating,brainwashing and seriously indoctrinating impressionable young children ASAP.

It may help educating the little angles at home. However finding educational literature that has not got the deadly dishonest unseen hand of the establishment all over it, is near on impossible, now or at any time.

The lie that it is all about money, can surly be laid to rest by now. Its not what it costs that matters it is who is really calling the shots and putting in the orders that does.

Atlas shrugged

Anonymous said...

consensus with an S, Deek. Otherwise an absolute, eye-watering, fucking tour de force.

Hats off

Dave said...

If the aim of education is to turn out well rounded, balanced individuals who hae the ability to reason, think for themselves and articulate those thoughts and write them down in a way that is clear and concise and grammtically correct, then it has failed.

However, if the real aim was to turn out semi-literate sheeple who are to thick to realise that they don't know anything, who can't add up, can't write, can't spell, can't reason or articulate, who know nothing about everything, don't know our history or heritage and consequently will believe what they're told, who are happy to worship at the twin altars of football and celebrity, while being allowed to get pissed up in a controlled environment every weekend-
Then I think they've done a great job

Roger Thornhill said...


Even when the State wants to educate, it cannot for it runs a monopoly. It cannot cope with the concept of independence, parallel approaches, choice, freedom, success by lessons learnt from failure and the idea of having the potential for surplus capacity. The State is systemically hard-wired to provide a monopoly and then to micromanage said monopoly with an ever growing army of inspectors, target wonks and reviews to within an inch of utter collapse IF WE ARE LUCKY!

Aye...but we 'add it TOUGH!

Anonymous said...

If any of you at Devils Kitchen are the product of a private education then I feel truely sorry for you. The Guardian's original blog is far more articulate then anything written here.

Anonymous said...

If any of you at Devils Kitchen are the product of a private education then I feel truely sorry for you. The Guardian's original blog is far more articulate then anything written here.


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