Total reality

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
As an unreconstructed principal teacher in East Lothian, I was fascinated by the news of the changes recently made to the management structure at Ross High School in Tranent (TESS, May 9).

I was particularly struck by the football analogy used by Derek McCallum, one of the new "curriculum managers", to illustrate the aims which he believes underlie these changes. He declared that the new management system at Ross High was like the Dutch football of the 1970s which used the "total football" system "linking together to become a better team."

As a teacher of philosophy, I always tell my students that many persuasive analogies turn out to be fallacies and that they must look carefully to spot any flaws in reasoning. In this case, however, our lesson comes not from philosophy but football history.

The first point is that the Dutch no longer use this "total football" system. Why? Many of us still recall watching its complete failure in a blaze of publicity live on television in the World Cup Final. Admittedly, it looked attractive both on paper and on the park but it did not delivery its aim - success. A lesson here?

Furthermore the Dutch system was at least very entertaining to watch and prized individual technical skills above anything else. I wonder if "Ross United" would also make these claims. Perhaps we should look for our parallels and lessons closer to home where we have the obvious example of the recent performances of our national football team.

From this we should learn to be very aware of the dangers of changing to a system with which the players are completely unfamiliar and for which they are entirely unsuited. Will the "head coach" have the sense to change things back before half-time? Let's hope so. After all, this is not just a game we are playing.

Ian Johnston Principal teacher (currently) of religious, moral and philosophical studies, North Berwick High

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