Joining the bean-counters

22nd November 2013 at 00:00

Colin Richards, and for that matter Professor Bill Boyle, express lucidly and succinctly what very many teachers and other professionals know as they observe the wanton and progressive reduction of educational quality in the name of discredited targets, ideology and increasingly meaningless qualifications. As yet more narrowly defined requirements arrive, perhaps George Bernard Shaw's "curriculum" from 100 years ago, A Treatise On Parents and Children, better informs reality:

"Now let us ask what are a child's rights and the rights of society over the child ... The rights of society over (the child) clearly extend to requiring it to qualify itself to live in society without wasting other people's time: that is, it must know the rules of the road, be able to read placards and proclamations, fill voting papers, compose and send letters and telegrams, purchase food and clothing and railway tickets for itself, count money and give and take change, and, generally, know how many beans made five. It must know some law, were it only a simple set of commandments, some political economy, agriculture enough to shut the gates of fields with cattle in them and not to trample on growing crops, sanitation enough not to defile its haunts, and religion enough to have some idea of why it is allowed its rights and why it must respect the rights of others. And the rest of its education must consist of anything else it can pick up; for beyond this society cannot go with any certainty."

Contemporary circumstances would change little. We should realise that we are seriously failing our children.

Mervyn Benford, Shutford, Oxfordshire.

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