18th October 2013 at 13:29
When he speaks, time ceases to matter: the past and the present are indistinguishable. This is the man whose every utterance leaves teachers lost for words.
And now, for the first time, all of Michael Gove’s accumulated teaching expertise is available in one handy volume.
Amazingly, Everything I Know About Teaching is condensed into 98 pages. Each of these pages is meticulously lined, and divided into sections such as “my teaching experience”, and “why teachers admire me”.
The pages are also – though, frankly, this is exactly the kind of nit-picking detail that Ofsted thrives on – completely blank.
“Following his long and distinguished teaching career, it was only a matter of time before Gove published this weighty tome,” one reviewer wrote on Amazon.co.uk. “”Like the man himself, this book is inspirational, charming, and not the slightest bit condescending.”
In fact, teacher-reviewers have rushed on to Amazon to offer their feedback on the secretary of state for education’s latest offering.
“This must be a compulsory text for all PGCE students,” one teacher volunteered. “This guy is a genius, and we should all be proud that our future teachers will follow his guidance and expertise.”
Such fervour-driven feedback was not limited to classroom teachers. “As a headteacher, I sometimes find that the quantity of initiatives coming into schools can be overwhelming and ill-considered,” another reviewer wrote. “This book contains no such initiatives.”
Others have chosen to place their feedback within a broader socio-political context. “This is one of the most honest representations of a Government minister’s expertise in a particular field that I have ever had the privilege to read,” one reviewer wrote.
Yet others called for similar works of “refreshing honesty” from other Cabinet ministers: My Accident and Emergency Years, by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, for example.
Of course, there are always nay-sayers: the glass-half-empty people who realise that nothing says “unsatisfactory” like a satisfactory review. “Still room for improvement, Michael, but a good start,” one wrote.
Another complained that the margins were not ruled properly; one more pointed out that the book ought to have been produced in a pocket-sized edition, so as to fit easily under an academic gown or mortarboard.
But Gove ought to be strong enough to ride out such waves of disapproval. He is, after all, no stranger to bad reviews.
When Celsius 7/7, Gove’s book on the Middle East, was published in 2006, historian William Dalrymple deemed it: “A confused epic of simplistic incomprehension, riddled with more factual errors and misconceptions than any other text I have come across in two decades of reviewing books on this subject.”
But inspectors of Gove’s more recent work have an answer for such critics. “I know most reviewers have said that their copies are blank,” one Amazon reviewer wrote, “but I can only guess they lack the necessary pair of rose-tinted glasses. These are freely available from Conservative central office, in exchange for a small donation.”