Tiny minds on the Mound

30th May 2003 at 01:00
WE have a rising tide of indiscipline in schools. Which is a surprise really, as we have such a disciplined Government. Our Government obeys international law: it abstains from pre-emptive violence and never tells giant whoppers about the reasons for its conduct in the corridors of power.

"Me, sir? Ah never nicked nuthin. He wiz just away tae kill me." Aye right, son.

Moving from the grim exemplar of the Gulf attack, let's look at the guidance our Government offers in a more general light. For it manifestly seeks to follow a clear set of commandments. "Thou shalt not trouble the rich. Thou shalt place no god above the market. Thou shalt distrust all French and foreigners, but honour the United States, yea verily, for such is a special relationship."

Can the salmon of wisdom spawn in a dirty river? Can teachers swim against a tide of hypocrisy? If pupils seriously misbehave, should ministers be imprisoned?

Related to the poverty of morality by the current Government is the poverty of approach by successive education ministers in Scotland. Why have the past six years been dominated by arguments about assessment? Presumably because assessment is about "getting on", promoting tightly focused ambition and anxiety in the individual and, of course, external control.

Conversely, why have these six wasted years not been permeated by discussions about the content of education, what we want to pass on to all our children and watch them re-create: in other words our culture? Possibly because government thinks culture is something you buy tickets for. The designation of Tourism, Sport and Culture as a junior ministry suggests no less.

A couple of Fridays ago there was a diet of Higher and Intermediate English exams. "Diet" is too genteel a metaphor. The guts of the subject have been ripped out: for not a single mark will be awarded this year for pupils' writing. No marks for imaginative writing, nuls points for discursive essays, absolute zero for reflective work. Writing, butted from pillar to post by that mad quango, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, is now just a tick-box affair. The response of pupils to the world they live in is of no more account than "task completed".

There are apparently no plans to review, far less change this situation.

Again I am forced to a presumption: this Government does not want pupils to develop their literacy beyond functional levels. A Government with little vision of a better world does not want pupils developing theirs.

Am I wrong, Peter Peacock? Prove it.

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