Right challenge

27th September 1996 at 01:00
Dr Nick Tate's call for schools to "challenge society" is timely (Platform, TES, September 6). Paramount should be a reaffirmation of educare, meaning "to lead out". Rightly, he points towards the need to make "matters of teaching and learning I as independent as possible of party politics". How children learn to read, for example, still cannot be debated rationally by educationist as a scientific and technical question, rather than a quasi-political one.

If pupils become enlightened by education, then some are bound to question, criticise and challenge the norms, assumptions and beliefs of their communities and of broader society.

Without that friction, a fundamental source of cultural and social progress is surrendered. Which is why the concept of "the community school" offers such a stultifying model. Community values and norms tend to be stable, conservative and parochial; such qualities are the kiss of death for any active life of the mind.

If Dr Tate's "excellence and rigour" are to be pursued in schools, then the concept of elitism has no educational future, either. Only by exposing all pupils to the greatest music, the greatest art, and literature and science I and communicating some feeling and awe for what creativity at those consummate levels demands, can any healthy respect for tradition be safeguarded.

MARTIN BRADLEY Amington Tamworth, Staffordshire

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