Amusingly, as I’ve said before

It wasn’t just the ethnic mix. Because Dulwich is a south London school with very few boarders, unlike most public schools, it attracted boys from all over London and parts of the south-east.

I remember my first class quite vividly. Sitting on one side of me was the son of the chief executive of a global company, who was enormously rich. They had a huge house in Farnborough Park in Kent, with staff. On the other side of me was a boy who would become a good friend and whose father was a coal merchant in Penge, also in south-east London.

Exactly twenty-five years after me, my eldest son went there. It was in many ways even better for him. The quality of the teaching was much higher – in my day a number of the teachers were terribly good old chaps and they had had a good war, but were hardly cutting-edge teachers.

One of them was my brother in law (taught both of them)….Nipper Young.

43 thoughts on “Amusingly, as I’ve said before”

  1. There’s quite a lot of nonsense spouted about grammar schools. Perhaps they were great geysers of social mobility after the war, but then there was also a vast expansion of middle class type jobs.

    Further, if intelligence has a large heritable component, you would expect the children of the bright to be bright, and the children of the poor and stupid to be stupid. So your surge in social mobility will only last a generation or two, and then you’d have to wait for the normal genetic drift to set in again for a few more generations.

    The best we can hope for is to improve teachers and teaching. But the NUT will stymie that. A friend of mine, who pays school fees of eyewatering quantity, remarks that even at public school. one third of the teachers are complete duds. But it’s better than the local comp, where two thirds of them are.

  2. The problem with the dud teachers argument is that it confuses cause with effect. Good teachers quickly realise the system prevents effective education and go and find something else to do. So the school ends up with the duds.

    If you want to improve education, stop requiring ineducable children to stay on and disrupt the education of everyone else.

  3. . We need a total revamp of thevwhole education system. Get rid of school holidays. (Why do they exist) make it 9to5 (again why 9to 3) schooling. And education vouchers to be spent by parents.

    .

  4. And why do we persist with an education system modelled on a friar reading a book to thirty acolytes who faithfully transcribe that book? In other words, a model designed to beat the then non-invention of the printing press. My daughter has a Leappad and will, I suspect learn more from it per hour than will ever be the case at school.

  5. So Much for Subtlety

    The Right is also a little sensitive to the 1% pulling away from the 10%. Farage could, presumably, explain exactly why the fees are so steep if he wanted to.

    Eton is as much in the global marketplace as BP.

  6. School holidays (why do they exist?)

    So the boys can go home and see their parents. And have adventures.

    That Gove chappie had some interesting ideas. Whatever happened to him? Oh yeah, the Department of for Education sacked him.

  7. bloke (not) in spain

    Careful there, Mr Lud. You are, by extension, undermining the entire justification for the university system. That’ll never do. How would we ever maintain our pecking orders?

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    Edward Lud – “And why do we persist with an education system modelled on a friar reading a book to thirty acolytes who faithfully transcribe that book?”

    Because it is the only one that works? Education is largely boring. It is unavoidable. At best you are teaching children what they will need when they grow up. What they want to be doing is looking at porn. It is a losing battle. Making the children turn up and write stuff down means some of it might stick.

    “My daughter has a Leappad and will, I suspect learn more from it per hour than will ever be the case at school.”

    Fondleslabs are only useful for watching porn. The more electronic gear children have, the less they learn.

    Roue le Jour – “So the boys can go home and see their parents. And have adventures.”

    Well it used to be so they could help with the harvest. I am sure we can arrange some sort of Soviet-style system here. But don’t knock adventures. Summer holidays are some of the most educational and character building parts of childhood. We don’t need to shorten them.

    bloke (not) in spain – “How would we ever maintain our pecking orders?”

    Universities will always serve to make sure that girls meet and marry the right sort of boy. That is a vital social function and it is not about to go away.

  9. School holidays (why do they exist?)
    “””So the boys can go home and see their parents. And have adventures.””
    Not convining enough. Boarding small fraction and anyway if parents dont have the same holiday time (which unless they are teachers they dont) they dont see their parents any more.

  10. Mr (n) I S, I’d happily undermine more or less the entire university system. You shouldn’t confuse me for someone who supports licensed, entrenched pecking orders.

  11. SMFS, speaking as someone who is formally educated to a high level, and largely in the classical tradition, my experience is that it has done me almost no good, and may well have harmed me, in terms of being equipped for life.

    That’s not to say there’s nothing useful, in such terms, that one can learn in one’s formative years, just that a one-size-fits-all approach that mimics the mimicry of the pre-printing press age is absurd.

    And I don’t know what a Fondleslab is, but a Leappad is a very cleverly -designed personal tutor. Have a look-see. You might be surprised.

  12. bloke (not) in spain

    “Universities will always serve to make sure that girls meet and marry the r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ wrong sort of boy.”

    But is undermining enough? I’m more of a carpet bomb, bulldoze, sew the land with nuclear waste man myself. With executions, of course.

  13. Wrong sort of boy, indeed. The former Mrs Lud, whom tragically for all concerned, I encountered at university, would probably agree.

  14. “Wrong sort of boy, indeed”

    Well she was young and probably didnt learn about those things at school

  15. bif,

    The social mobility aspect is mostly bollocks. Grammars were mostly middle-class kids. In the 1950s, 0.3% of kids who got 2 A-levels were from the skilled working class. And selective counties today generally improve the results of the rich, not the poor.

    It’s really that we got a lot more white-collar jobs and post-war economic expansion (a lot of which was simply about catching up on the expansion that should have happened earlier).

    Speaking to some parents who paid for their kids to go to private school, and some private school teachers, I’m not convinced it’s a particularly good investment. A friend of ours teaches IT in a private school to little kids and she knows no more about IT than my wife, and is ex-comp.

    I’m not sure how much education is really a transparent market. Your kids do well at school, is that down to the school, or your kids, or the home environment and activities you do? And it’s not like buying ice cream where you can try Haagen-Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s and compare them. Your kids go to one primary school, once.

    My kids went to a primary school that scores very highly, but I was never particularly impressed by the leadership or the teachers. Some were very good, but a lot were bog-standard. We had a lot of meetings because of things like my daughter doing maths homework that she was bored with, and they didn’t address it. We addressed it by paying for math websites, math game books and by me teaching her harder maths. Is that reflected in the school scores, or does it say that she’s an A* pupil because of the school?

    Of course, what then happens is that more ambitious parents try to get into the school and do the same thing – so the success can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  16. Still have trouble getting my head around my Pop leaving school at 14. Working, attending night school, and ultimately having a good senior mgt career. His brother( older) made it to 16. Became a BA captain.

  17. The Stigler,

    I fear you are missing the point. People overwhelmingly send their children to private schools for the pupils, not the teachers.

  18. bloke (not) in spain

    “The social mobility aspect is mostly bollocks. Grammars were mostly middle-class kids. In the 1950s, 0.3% of kids who got 2 A-levels were from the skilled working class.”
    Only a single data point, but my class of 39 kids-attended a state junior school took half its intake from a large council estate-managed a hundred percent pass at 11 plus, sending us either to grammar school, a couple to the technical school & couple also winning scholarships to a public school. Must confess, I left school before A levels – no advantage for the chosen career. Few others did the same, for the same reason.. So I’ve no idea how many went on to university. Possibly a half. I wouldn’t be putting a lot of that down to the final 2 years under the equality driven Wilson regime, though.

  19. ELud
    My kids had leap-pads. I don’t think they work. Maybe I don’t have a base line for comparison but they get bored quicker with gadgets at that age. On the other hand they will sing rhymes for hours and can’t get enough charades or bed time stories. (I am the Gruffalo, and if I ever find that fucking mouse, anonimouse or not, I will crush it underfoot in revenge.)

    Roue (and others, passim)
    Children are naturally curious. (What’s that thing with steam in the kitchen? That’s why we keep them out of it.)
    One in a hundred is uncurious. Another maybe 20 are not really intelligent enough to get much benefit. That leaves a lot of kids. You don’t need to be a Daltonian evolutionist or a Fabian eugenicist to think that when teachers winge that two thirds of their class are completely estranged from getting educated, something has gone horribly wrong.

  20. bif

    In my experience, (I’m a teacher, BTW, but not in the UK) school knocks it out of them. Children become institutionalised by school, and I’m surprised this isn’t pointed out more often. It is, after all, only what you would expect.

    An awful lot of children don’t want to get educated. Just like any other prisoner they want to do their time and get out. And yes, something has gone horribly wrong.

  21. RLJ
    “An awful lot of children don’t want to get educated.”
    Tough. But we can do them the service of educating them as efficiently as possible. My contention is that we give them either too much or too little in too much time.

    LJ-

  22. There is no known way of educating a child that does not wish to be educated that doesn’t involve physical punishment, and we aren’t allowed to beat them anymore.

  23. Roue
    Institutionalised? My arse. My kids are institutionalised in a patriarchal hetero-normative nuclear family. But maybe other instituitions work too. And I don’t beat them.

    There was an unusually interesting article in the Graun last week, about how similar teachers get very different outcomes from their classes. It was all about tempo, although I don’t think the article used the word.

    At home we enjoy pop quizzes round the dining table (7X8, what continent is Burma, Paraguay, etc). It drives me blood bonkers when the old ones blurt out the answer when the little ‘un is still schlepping her bucket to the memory well.

  24. You realise The Guardian is the house journal of the people who stuffed up the education system in the first place, right?

  25. RlJ,

    “An awful lot of children don’t want to get educated. Just like any other prisoner they want to do their time and get out. And yes, something has gone horribly wrong.”

    I think it went pear-shaped after mandatory schooling was extended from 12 to 16. There’s loads of kids for whom the period 13-16 is a waste of time. They leave school with almost nothing to show for it.

    You can’t teach anyone something that they’re not interested in, and see no value in learning. They will just,as you say, serve their time.

  26. The Stigler
    Yes, it is a commonplace among secondary teachers that the main function of compulsory secondary education is to keep teenagers off the streets.When I was at school the disruptives left at fourteen and the rest of us heaved a sigh of relief. Of course, there were jobs and apprenticeships then. Nowadays the police would complain if education ended in the early teens because there’s nothing but trouble for them to do. Nonetheless, the youngsters who don’t want to be there are an enormous cost for no benefit.

    Incidentally, John Taylor Gatto says parents saw this coming and protested against compulsory secondary education when it was introduced in the US a century ago. His book “The Underground History of American Education” is essential reading for anyone who thinks the current system came about by accident.

  27. Roue le Jour,

    “Of course, there were jobs and apprenticeships then. ”

    And there’s no reason you can’t do that today. Create trade schools for plumbers, hairdressers, welders, programmers and mechanics. Plenty of jobs out there in the F1 teams for people who know how to use CATIA, the problem being (and always a problem with apprenticeships) that companies that don’t train will then poach trained people.

    It won’t happen of course, because a masters in philosophy is seen as a “better” than an NVQ in hairdressing.

  28. Stig
    Have you looked at what a 12 year old is supposed to have learned? There are innumerable docs from education authorities, and they all show that along with grade inflation comes competence deflation compared to our day. I doubt leaving school at 13 is an option, they’d have to have a dedicated social worker for the rest of their lives.

    I have some sympathy with teachers who regard their jobs as keeping their charges off the streets. But not much. My children look forward to school as an opportunity to hook up with their friends. Not one has said “Oh goody, this term we’re going to do astronomy or statistics or Shakespeare” or whatever.

    Which brings me to another rant. The teaching unions (everywhere) claim that mixed ability teaching is a sacrosanct principle. Bullshit. At 16 they are ruthlessly culled into Pro, BacPro or academic Pro, or in England 6th form or teenage pregnancy. A principle that can turn 180 degrees according to your birthday is no principle at all.

  29. @ bif
    Competence deflation? These days an 11-year-old is supposed to have learned their tables up to 12×12. I taught myself the 13 times table at the age of 6.

  30. Did not mass education become a necessity because the military at the start of WW1 were shocked to find peoiple couldn’t read or write.and so training them to service machine guns was tricky.
    Nowadays so many people are just taking in each others washing.
    Looking after other people children so the other people can do some other rather pointless task.
    And then there are the beaurocrats who are alleged to have a purpose.

  31. Dulwich was far from alone in having a social mix funded by bursaries. My school in the 1960s had over one-quarter of its pupils funded by bursaries – a few of whom could have won Open Scholarships but chose not to apply because the local authority means-tested bursaries were more generous. Contrary to Farage’s comment, the Bursaries came in under a Conservative-controlled county council and were eliminated by a Labour-controlled GLC. Maybe he doesn’t realise who funded and decided on them?

  32. John77
    The frog grid only goes up to ten. And as a poster it’s tables not a grid. I (nearly) despair.

  33. @ bif
    The vast expansion in middle-class came *decades* after the war. In 1964 (as a trainee computer programmer) I was catching a “works bus” – the municipal transport ran a fleet of buses to take workers to the big factories from each of the big housing estates. In a town with 80-odd thousand inhabitants I knew all the middle-class kids in my age-group and there werre not many of us.

  34. So Much for Subtlety

    Roue le jour – “There is no known way of educating a child that does not wish to be educated that doesn’t involve physical punishment, and we aren’t allowed to beat them anymore.”

    You know, I mostly agree with this. But not entirely. I think boys who don’t want to be educated, can be educated to some extent. The problem is that they have so much energy, and they want to be outside. Running around. Doing something.

    The solution is to make ’em run around the paddock six times before they start class. Get them into class when they are already tired. Not too tired, but they have done some exercise. Send them out at recess and lunch to run around some more. Encourage them to play rugby after the end of the teaching day.

    We have schools run by and for girls. Who don’t have the same problems sitting down and shutting up.

    And just for Ironman and BiG, I think this also applies even more to children from, how does one put this? Continents that they are happy to privilege over Europe. Some boys develop earlier and perhaps have more testosterone. They need the exercise even more. After all, no one has found a way to educate said boys from said preferred continent have they? No one.

  35. @ bif
    “Not one has said “Oh goody, this term we’re going to do astronomy or statistics or Shakespeare” or whatever.”
    Sad.
    When I was 15 the school was pretty lousy at time-tables so I was in a class supposed to start on ‘A’ level Physics but someone said, as usual, “Oh B will get them through the ‘A’ level course in one year, so young C (the new Maths teacher) can look after them.” So he taught us some Physics that had no visible conection with the ‘A’ level syllabus but did include a bit on astronomy and a very interesting chunk on telescopes including digging out and demonstrating some old formerly state-of-the-art telescopes and an after-dark session looking through the biggest . When he asked us to write an essay on telescopes I, despite being lousy at essays, filled thirteen pages before I had to stop and hand it in. *We enjoyed that year.*
    “Lousy at time-tables”? Well B retired at the end of that year so we didn’t have him to teach us the ‘A’ level Physics course in one year. I invested £5 (a lot in those days – I started work at £6 a week) to buy from a swot in the year above me his ‘A’ level notes which (second-hand teaching by B) got me through ‘A’ level Physics.

  36. @john77: “I started work at £6 a week) to buy from a swot in the year above me his ‘A’ level notes which (second-hand teaching by B) got me through ‘A’ level Physics.”

    That is fucking strange.

    I started to work in a Bingo hall in Blackpool, a pound an hour. I learned a lot about how people judge people.

  37. Hallowed Be said “Get rid of school holidays … make it 9to5 schooling.”

    The schools can talk about having my children that long once they’ve shown that they do something useful in the time they’ve got them for.

    At the moment, holidays and 3-5 is the time they can learn stuff. I’d never have got boy into grammar school if he’d been wasting his time at school 9-5 all year round.

  38. John77 . They only learn 10×10. Outraged, I was at the point of questioning it when I saw a statitical analysis which convinced me its hardly worth going beyond 10.
    Richard: ok so you got the extra done between 3:5.? Yes thats what I would do too pay a private tutor 1to1 whilst I am at work.

  39. SMfS

    Quite right, boys need to run around, kick balls, etc. However if you look at the evolution of timetables over the years less and less time is available for this. It is a mistake to think that this is an accident.

    bif

    Most teachers start out idealistic. They don’t regard their job as child minding. They conclude that it is.

    The Stigler

    When I was a boy, other boys went off to jobs where they swept up, made the tea and ran to the caff for bacon sarnies. I thought that was illegal now? Also the benefit system was contributory in those days, which provided a certain incentive.

  40. Dulwich must have had some good English teachers at one point, as it produced both Chandler and Wodehouse. And I say that despite my having only beaten the Old Alleynians once in the last 10 Boxing Day fixtures…

  41. @ Charlieman
    I quoted my weekly earnings to provide some perspective on the value of the ‘A’ level notes, as it is difficult to compare the purchasing power of money prior to Wilson’s hyperinflation with it later. I could have said that you got 60 Mars Bars to the £ or that a Boy Scout would dig your garden for a shilling in Bob-a-Job week.

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