A WEEK’S a lifetime in media and already the GCSEs are history, but the debate continues. What’s the purpose of secondary education?
To better prepare people for the world of work, as it was in the industrial 19th Century or, the post-industrial 20th Century notion about developing the “whole person”, offering a rounded education to bring out the best in people and give them a better understanding of the world itself? In the 21st Century, I think it needs to be both. Most people, if asked, will readily agree.
However, most people, if pushed, will hedge their bets. Some will put work first. Others, education for its own sake. The latter group, usually, are those that have already acquired a good education and a good job and the lifestyle that goes with it.
Education, for them, is a self-reinforcing process. The same education reinforces the same values. There is nothing wrong with this. We all progress through inheriting our present from our past, both of which shape our future. It is the social as well as the socialisation power of education.
The less secure though, those without either qualifications, skills, and consequently jobs, may experience a sense of inadequacy, which in turn can breed disillusionment to the extent that they will “opt out”. They may seek alternatives, perhaps anti-social lifestyles, and in more extreme cases history has shown us that those seeking totalitarian control first seek to destroy education and then, those already educated. No wonder education policy is such a political battleground.
If we accept, as successive governments have suggested through their various incarnations of citizenship programmes, that formal state sponsored education is designed to reinforce values, then those values either have to come from a common creed or common purpose. Yet, both have been under increasing stress in recent decades as both formal religion and mass manufacturing have declined, meaning that a lot of traditional social interaction, through workplace and church, has also declined.
Put another way, you neither receive nor pass on common values or mutual respect if you do not mix with other people. That seems, inescapably, to reinforce what most parents believe: education should lead to a job.
Only when our policy makers come out of denial and admit that simple truth, will we all start attaching equal weight and value to all learning, provided it is linked to a local employment market.
It won’t happen overnight and not everyone will want to, nor should they be obliged to stay local. Many will want to follow a digital path to a greater universe, but we should not let that obscure a more fundamental demand and teach young people to get a job round the corner, not at the end of some political rainbow.
IT HAS been a tough few weeks for our police forces, as well as a reminder of the range of things we ask them to do on our behalf, even if they are not always perfect.
However, if it’s not what you say, but how you say it, this week’s “MP in police plebs row” headlines came with a small irony, as the original objections to state-funded education included the argument that it couldn’t provide a “classical education”.
If it had, then we would all have known that to be Plebeian meant not necessarily being of the under-class, but simply not one of the Roman Patrician or aristocratic class who thought they governed everyone else. So, not much change in classical education there then.
P.S: What comes out of accepting that education should be about finding a job? A good start.