Language matters. Having the ability to communicate well with others is an essential skill and should never be underestimated. You would think that our government would have experts in communication working for them, “spin” specialists who know how changing one word creates an entirely different message. So I am left confused, is this government’s communication team incompetent or just cruel? Nicky Morgan plans to make children in year 7 “resit” the SATs tests they have “failed”. Initially, my reaction was one of confusion, the SATs are not the 11-plus, and they were never meant to be something you “passed” or “failed”. But soon my confusion turned to anger. This passionate blog by Disidealist articulates far more effectively than I ever could the cruelty of labelling children “mediocre failures”; I challenge you to read it and maintain any sense that this government has compassion.
During election season madness, political parties will always try to appear tougher than each other. At times I sense they are competing over who can throw the most testosterone around – which is not a pretty thought. Thank goodness for John Tomsett. The timing and message of this blog are perfect and this quote jumped out: “It seems to me that too many of our state schools have become scared, soulless places. We need to reassert our courageous leadership-wisdom that emphasises love over fear and puts humanity back into the centre of the ring.” This is a timely reminder that without humanity we have nothing.
I loved this blog. Really loved it. The pervading educational narrative appears to be that to criticise league tables and use of data, and to place meaning on the relationship between child and teachers, makes you somehow against “rigorous standards” or a “woolly liberal”. Although Carl Hendrick recently confessed to being a “north London geek” he could never be called “woolly”. Together, we should not only dismiss the idea that in education everything can be reduced to numbers but we should also fear it too. “In education, the ‘incredible interest’ of the few over the many is having a disastrous impact in many areas. One inevitable endpoint of a system that audits itself in terms of numbers and then makes high-stakes decisions based on that narrow measurement is the wilful manipulation of those numbers. A culture that sees pupils as numbers and reduces the complex relational process of teaching to data points on a spreadsheet will ultimately become untethered from the moral and ethical principles that are at the heart of the profession, as the recent Atlanta cheating scandal suggests.”
When reading this I was reminded of this story: “While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, ‘It makes a difference for this one.’ I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.” Loren Eiseley
If you need to be reminded that teachers make a difference, that we all have the power to influence our world, then read this blog. Kit Andrews identified a change in attitude in his school and he took action to change it; they are now having a positive impact on the community around him. My advice, read this, follow Kit’s example, abandon your writing and start “throwing starfish”.