The trouble with brains


Jazz and I have a running duel about education which revolves around the value (or otherwise) of non-practical subjects. So perhaps a comment from Iolanthe is relevant? ‘I’ve a great respect for brains – I often wish I had some myself.’ Spoken by a 19thC member of the House of Lords, whose rôle in the burgeoning grammar schools debate in 2016 may prove critical.

Y’see, I would argue that the state education system must cater for all the different propensities our grandchildren exhibit – including brain work. Unfortunately what has happened since the introduction of the so-called comprehensive schools is that people who can afford it buy places at schools which offer better education. That even applies to the remaining grammar schools which increasingly are attended by children from homes who can afford coaching and do best in the 11-plus. And that leaves the rest of the more academically equipped children in local schools whose curriculum cannot stretch them.

The current system also ignores the fact that youngsters develop at different rates – academically, that is. Some fail at eleven but could excel later at, say, fourteen. Looking back I recall my own grammar took in new entrants at the age. (But hey! who’s talking ancient history!?) Understandably the schools themselves might balk at it – how to make room for extra pupils in the third year? Mine did – what’s the problem?

If courses are to suit horses, change is needed. The idea that ‘selection’ is bad for society really is rubbish. Life is about selection in so many ways. Why should education be different?



Author: janus

I'm back......and front - in sunny Sussex-by-the-sea

12 thoughts on “The trouble with brains”

  1. I shall forever credit Michael Gove for being among the first ministers to take on the Blob. British education has suffered under the weight of years of failed theories. The Wavey One failed to take advantage of Gove’s talents in this respect. The delightful Mrs May seems committed to making necessary change to reverse the decline of educational standards in England — good on her, pity those poor, bright Jocks under the Harridan J. Krankie’s control.

  2. Indeed, we should have more grammar schools, and more opportunities for entrance to one. Not continuous assessment, but maybe an exam at the end of every year in secondary school. Along with that, there needs to be more technical and business schools. What we don;t need is a plethora of meeja and arts schools. Entrance to one of these should also be by exam, so only the truly talented get into them, and they are not repositories for anyone who cannot be arsed to work.

  3. Hear hear, FEEG. The awesome Second Master at the grammar had a phrase: Conform or get out! Schools should all adopt the slogan.

  4. That’s an imposing building, J, home to a fair few brainy chap/ette/s in its lifetime.

    And also-

    I can full well see Backside running about with his catapult terrorising the neighbourhood.

  5. I could not agree more with selection. I have never been able to understand the egalitarian rush to the bottom via the lowest common denominator!
    I cannot imagine anything worse than for intelligent clever children being held back by those that are disruptive and stupid or cannot speak the language. What could possibly be worse for both the individual and the country?

    In the past, those with various “issues” had their own schools, nowadays they are integrated with minders to drool, fit and disrupt classes of normal children. Quite disgusting apart from anything else! This was sold on the basis of integration into society, in fact it was to save money, they closed the special schools very quickly. Likewise how can you get an education when half the class doesn’t speak English? the whole system is now geared to the detriment of the normal child.
    From seeing some of the lessons of friend’s progeny, with concentration on anything and everything wog based, it appears that every effort is made to grind down the native population and denigrate anything British or Christian. No wonder people home school!

    What does surprise me is that parents don’t see this. I am surprised that more couples don.t stop at one child for whom they can afford the private fees rather than have several that will have to go to the state system. I guess I had a rather different experience with the boy. He was born in Memphis just as the schools were being integrated. People shooting up the place etc etc. Bussing across town and a general nightmare all round. Memphis is 80% black population, what with white flight to private education the school system was nearly 95% black. All the white children went to private schools , there were even charitable groups paying for white children who could not afford the fees. A seriously hot political issue and very fractious all round. We sent the boy to a Church school for both nursery and Kindergarten. There was really no choice to it at all when you saw and heard what was going on in the state system. We stopped at one because we knew he would be going to boarding school later in the UK, what with the fees and air fares! No way was I having him educated even privately in the Deep South!!! Too parochial and insular by far.

    I do hope May can bring back more selective schools, too many indigenous children are denied the chance to maximise what attributes they have in the present system. Plus an academic education is not for everyone, the technical schools were very good too and we didn’t have to import plumbers from Poland in those days did we? Plus insist employers implement apprentice schemes. Too many come out with no skills at all except for making trouble and skiving! If there were a better choice of all types of schools throughout the country, selective academic schools would not cause anywhere near so much discussion and venom.

  6. Yes, JW. A fine old pile, now a private school continuing its 400 year history of cramming! Not always on that site, but formerly in the city centre.

  7. What is just around the corner is a revolution in education. It will become very, very good. It will also be very, very cheap. Entrepreneurs in education, like Gate in operating systems, and Bezos in online retail, will join the ranks of billionaires. Oh … and the government education racket will crumble into nothingness.

  8. aedarrowby I hope you’re right. If I for instance decide to get an A level or even a degree in a particular subject. I should be able to book an exam and pay the fee. How or where I studied shouldn’t be an issue.

  9. I see no problem with selection. Not everyone can be a brain surgeon and not everyone has the necessary skills to become a carpenter, etc.

    It has always struck me as exceptionally inhumane to expect every child to follow the same curriculum after the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy have been taught. And I mean taught… none of this nonsense about ‘waiting until a child is ready’. Children are ready to walk and talk. There is nothing natural about learning to read, write or compute and, as my headmistress said, it is cruel to expect children to ‘discover’ the knowledge of centuries when they can be taught what they need to know. Reading is a basic skill which gives a child the freedom to find out what it wants to know.

    My mother, at school in the 1920s, recalls the ‘streaming system’ where those. like her, able to tackle more academic subjects, were taught to revere the skills of those more manually adept… and rightly so. We need both. Society has, in my opinion, placed far too much emphasis on academics and downgraded those who can actually do. Were I to be stuck in a jungle I’d far prefer to be with a practical companion then an academic – however brilliant he or she might be in Greek, Latin, German, French or medieval taxation! (No disrespect to any Charioteer 🙂 )

    Equality in education to me does not mean providing “the same” – it means giving to each according to his / her needs and abilities. And if that means selection – so be it. As long as each gets the best they are capable of absorbing to better their innate qualities.

  10. Yes, Boa! Were I stuck in your notional jungle, I’d avoid the company of clever-dick theorists like the plague! 😷

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