Old debate, new meaning

27th November 1998 at 00:00
I WAS fortunate to attend a recent symposium on the life and work of R F Mackenzie in Dundee University's Institute for Education and Lifelong Learning. A remarkably diverse audience was, I think, entertained and enthused by two teachers talking simply about the experience of teaching and learning, not the most common occurrence in educational circles these days.

Peter Murphy previewed his coming biography of Mackenzie with whom he worked at Summerhill, and Hamish Brown took time off his mountains to give us an engaging insight into his outdoor work with Mackenzie's pupils at Braehead.

Perhaps most encouraging of all were the discussions which followed.

Whatever one's conclusions on Mackenzie his courage in attempting what he did still has the capacity to invigorate argument about the meaning of education. That is refreshing. That ancient debate for Mackenzie and for my generation was given fresh impetus with the coming of comprehensive schools. Forty years on it has degenerated into a halfwitted palaver about organisation and management.

In a new parliament in a new millennium perhaps the debate can be rescued.

The Institute for Education is to be congratulated for trying to do just that.

Tom Devaney Inveraray Terrace, Dundee

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