The left has been in charge of education for 70 years now

In the future, if you want a job, you must be as unlike a machine as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. So why are children being taught to behave like machines?

Children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

And the insistence is that as education isn’t working it’s not left enough.

25 comments on “The left has been in charge of education for 70 years now

  1. Teaching has never been about “facts”. Not even in the Middle Ages. It’s a straw man argument.

    And teaching things that aligns with people’s interest is indeed easy. Sadly we also have to teach things that don’t. And that’s what school is for.

    We don’t need school for Facebook or gaming or watching football. Which is all people would do if left to do what they like.

  2. Odd even for Monbiot. The best way to produce workers for 19th century factories is no school education at all. I really don’t think school past the age of 8 or whatever is a millowners’ conspiracy.

  3. “The desired product was workers who would sit silently at their benches all day, behaving identically, to produce identical products, submitting to punishment if they failed to achieve the requisite standards.”

    And this is different from the modern loving-diversity-of-shape-but-not-thought, no drinking/smoking/eating fatty food, uniform wearing McJobs that most school leavers will get how?

  4. It’s all very well to be a hippy about it, but creativity needs foundations. You get to be Elton John after you’ve done your scales. You score a glorious goal in the world cup after you’ve done hours and hours of dull rote stuff on the training ground.

  5. Bless the Guardian. I have no idea what they truly think “being creative” is, or what foundations it requires. I think they might mean sitting around in a bright office saying “Darling!” every now and again and then ripping off someone else’s (already derivative) idea.

    They can get away with this crap because they live in a world where enough people are educated to a sufficient standard to make it an extremely ordered and safe one. They’d soon change their minds if the surgeon operating on them had been educated ‘creatively’.

  6. “So why are they dragooned into rows”

    So the teacher can get to their desk. And to make sure no-one is missing, because responsibility.

    “and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?”

    Same reason we make them sit and finish their veggies. Remind me to dance around at my next diversity training session.

    +1 to everyone that’s already pointed out that’s not how creativity works.

  7. This really is quite bizarre, having the Left complain about too much conformity and regimentation.

    This from the people that censor speech and ideas. Spend their joyless lives meddling in others’ lives. Take away the fruits of productivity by force if necessary. That regulate, ban and conscript.

    Another astonishing display of their lack of self-awareness.

  8. “So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?”

    Because you can’t be creative if you don’t know what has already been created. Otherwise we’d reinvent the wheel every generation.

  9. Although I don’t altogether buy into the “ten thousand hours” concept popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, learning to persevere through the basics of any subject or skill is essential. I think knowing how to spell, accurate grammar, a thorough grasp of arithmetic, an aspiration to do something well makes a more confident happy adult.
    Part of the snowflakes’ problem is a worry that they will be found out to be ignorant and incompetent(hence safe spaces) and the Dunning-Kruger effect where they are blissfully ignorant of what they do not know and happy to prescribe to others who do not share their worldview.

  10. Cynic

    Monbiot is a regular bete noire of this parish and while he obviously has more intelligence than say, Owen Jones or Richard Murphy, he is still wedded to the same bankrupt socialist ideology he was raised with. he can no more change his spots than a leopard can. Agree 100%, the sheer chutzpah of him, or indeed any Guardian journalist complaining about the education system when they have had total control for more than 6 decades is breathtaking in its cynicism.

  11. Children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural exuberance, energy and curiosity. So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?

    Because teaching is dominated by women who have problems dealing with boys especially. That means they can’t really control classes and if those boys are disruptive there is little they can do.

    However it is unfair to say we haven’t made progress. In the West, in the US especially, boys are now drugged up to keep them quiet. Oh brave new world!

  12. “Oh brave new world”

    As we’re on education here, is it not “O brave new world”?

    A big swinging pendant.

  13. Gunker: what Gladwell left out was that those possessing natural talents are more likely to persevere, as their rewards are more immediate. In music, memory, tonal perception and a sense of rhythm are necessary to progress quickly to a point where the music the child is playing is its own reward, spurring further mastery. There are plenty of talented people but their degree of success is dependent on putting in the hours: this is established. The tone deaf will never become maestros no matter how many hours they put in but they might become accurate pianists.
    With reading, only those talented with good visual memory will pick up whole word recognition as promoted by the educational establishment and reap the rewards of understanding texts as a positive reinforcement. Phonics makes reading accessible to far more children, including seriously SEN. When they discover they can make sense of text by sounding out the words, they are likely to practise it and reinforce learning.
    Take home message :with practice comes competence, with lots of practice the talented are able to do extraordinary things.
    The educational establishment should be strategising the best ways to help students become competent. I am not at all sure that the educational blob believes in competence or critical thinking based on mastering anything.

  14. ‘So why are they dragooned into rows and made to sit still while they are stuffed with facts?’

    So they will shut up and listen. So one teacher can deal with many kids. Sometimes you need to be a brick in the wall.

  15. I tend to unthinkingly consider my education started at secondary school level, but pushing my memory backwards, in junior school in the 1970s we were seated in little circles. Three two-by-one tables pushed together into a group with six kiddies sat around them. And yes, that mean one third of the pupils had ther back to the teacher and blackboard.

  16. There are two sorts of creative:

    The Van Gogh sort which in practical terms is no use to man nor beast, but is quite good to look at, and being creative in finding ways to solve the world’s problems eg figuring out that steam can be used to power trains.

    The former can probably spring forth from untutored empty minds, the latter requires an understanding of how things work and an ability to express yourself. It is more likely to happen with a sound education.

    On the subject of Gladwell and 10,000 hours he’s much misunderstood. There’s a very good couple of Freakonomics podcasts on this subject including an interview with Gladwell.

    “GLADWELL: I agree that that would be in the average takeaway. However, no one is more surprised than me that that was the average takeaway. The 10,000-hour stuff that I put in Outliers was really only intended to perform a very specific narrative function — or, not narrative function, but kind of argumentative function — which was, to me the point of 10,000 hours is: if it takes that long to be good, you can’t do it by yourself. If you have to play chess for 10 years in order to be a great chess player, then that means that you can’t have a job, or maybe if you have a job it can’t be a job that takes up most of your time. It means you can’t come home, do the dishes, mow the lawn, take care of your kids. Someone has to do that stuff for you, right? That was my argument, that if there’s an incredibly prolonged period that is necessary for the incubation of genius, high-performance, elite status of one sort or another, then that means there always has to be a group of people behind the elite performer making that kind of practice possible. And that’s what I wanted to say. When you watch Jordan Spieth play golf, don’t just think about Jordan Spieth. Think about the fact that I am guessing his parents devoted a huge chunk of their adult lives to making it possible for him to be an elite golfer. And every time you watch someone on stage on Carnegie Hall playing the violin, understand how many other people sacrificed to make that — the beautiful music you’re hearing — possible. That was my point that I wanted to make about 10,000 hours.”

    http://freakonomics.com/podcast/malcolm-gladwell/

    http://freakonomics.com/podcast/become-great-just-anything/

    http://freakonomics.com/podcast/peak/

  17. It takes a huge amount of deferred gratification to get good at a demanding skill. It’s been pointed out (Pinker?) that a propensity towards the needed perseverance could be one of those factors that looks environmental but is partially heritable, which can lead to cause and effect getting confused. It’s like the idea that, OK, kids from broken homes tend to get in trouble, be more violent etc., but ascribing the bad outcomes solely to environment is ignoring the possibility that the (genetic) character traits that make for a broken home also make for troubled children. Likewise, middle-class kids sticking at learning the violin might be due to their inheriting the character traits that make their parents middle class.

  18. My boy’s education seems mostly pointless if his homework is anything to go by. Here are some things. Copy some aspect of them into a powerpoint presentation. Now pick some random similar examples from the internet and copy those in too. How quickly can we complete these hole-filling exercises is the main learning point.

  19. This really is quite bizarre, having the Left complain about too much conformity and regimentation.

    The left are slowly waking up to the fact that they have no future in a post-industrial world. Socialism has no place in a world where anyone can make whatever they want on a 3D printer in their basement.

    The smarter ones are confused and babbling, while the dumber ones are rioting against Progress.

  20. My boy’s education seems mostly pointless if his homework is anything to go by.

    Not at all. School is about teaching him to do what he’s told, no matter how absurd or pointless.

    Which is what it’s there for.

  21. “Socialism has no place in a world where anyone can make whatever they want on a 3D printer in their basement.”

    Bollocks. Open source and 3D printing in your basement is socialism in action, surely. Means of production and all that.

  22. Open source and 3D printing in your basement is socialism in action, surely.

    Well, it’s the workers owning the means of production, so possibly could be considered socialism in theory. But it’s nothing like socialism in the real world, where the People’s Central Production Committee decide what will be produced on the means of production every day, brothers.

    The 20th century was the Century of Centralization. The 21st will be the Century of Decentralization. The People’s Central Production Committee is going to be out of a job.

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