Once more with feeling, please
It is perhaps ironic that David Blunkett's conciliatory announcement at the Labour party conference coincided with the publication of Daniel Goleman's book, Working with Emotional Intelligence - for it is this thesis that provides the key to a more positive, if novel, approach.
His opening sentence reads: "The rules for work are changing. We're being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other." Goleman reflects on the paradox in the developed world, where research is showing that children's intellectual ability (IQ) has been growing since the early 20th century, whereas emotional intelligence (EQ) appears to be on the decline.
He writes: "On average, children are growing more lonely and depressed, more angry and unruly, more nervous and prone to worry, more impulsive and aggressive."
Goleman developed these ideas in his earlier book, Emotional Intelligence; it is their skill in managing feelings and relationships which enables adults to live and to work co-operatively and successfully.
A high IQ is not the only prerequisite for successful living or working, he argues; a well-developed EQ offers the opportunity to understand how to be fully human in a time of technological and social revolution, by learning the skills of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and empathy.
A high level of emotional intelligence does not guarantee that difficult issues - such as underperformance at work - can be avoided. On the contrary, it ensures the necessary confrontation of such matters, without seeking to affront those involved.
If it is agreed that developing emotional intelligence is essential for both the adult's personal and working life, then this must be a core component of children's formal learning. The PSHME (personal, social health and moral education) planning group chaired by ministers Estelle Morris and Tessa Jowell bodes well for the revised national curriculum. All Banbury School students already spend two lessons each week devoted to these areas, over and above RE, tutoring and mentoring periods.
The manner in which adults work together in a school, understand and manage boundaries, personal responsibility, interpersonal relationships and the communication of their own values, offers the young a mirror of the adult world at work.
The way in which authority is managed in any community can enable the young to gain access to their own intrinsic authority, which is the spring of their being. If it is managed destructively and immaturely, then the young are denied access to their own authority and will behave typically in very destructive and valueless ways.
The Secretary of State's olive branch has not been well received by teachers' unions; the "guerrilla war snipers" are ever fearful of the necessary changes on the horizon for teachers and schools. While the formal structure of the teachers' working year mirrors in some respects that of the child's, teachers will never fully move to the status of adults in the minds of others.
Would that the young could experience in the behaviour of teachers' unions, groups of adults demonstrating how to tackle, with mature emotional intelligence, the demands of a fast-changing world.
Anita Higham is principal of Banbury School, Oxfordshire