Great minds ...

STILL with the Tories, the Diary was going to confess that its item last week about Chris Woodhead supporting Willy Hague (he dropped Hague's catchphrase, "common sense", twice in the parliamentary mag, The House) was a joke. Then we read Hague's speech to Politeia.

It wasn't the praise lavished on the chief inspector (he's "done more than anyone else in Britain to drive up standards"). No, a particular passage halfway through caught the eye, attacking Woodhead's favourite bete noire: progressive teaching.

"The fashions may change, the jargon is different, but the assault on moretraditional teaching methods continues," says Hague. And the new jargon? "Thinking skills".

Here's Woodhead in The House: "The old progressive gods never die. They merely assume new, more slippery shapes." The latest shape? "Learning and thinking skills."

So what should schools be teaching? Good old-fashioned knowledge, says Chris, "history and literature and the world of science". Hague agrees: "Children learn to think by studying science or history or literature, not by going to thinking classes."

Striking accord. But who is the puppetmaster, and who the puppet?

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