One of my favourite bloggers, Tom Harris MP, wrote today that Alan Johnson is “a great man”.
Certainly, he seems favourite to be next Party leader based on this poll by LabourList a couple of weeks ago. Johnson was preferred by 38% of Labour respondents.
Why I mention Tom Harris is because I submitted a comment to his blog pointing out that Alan Johnson is a very dangerous man judging by his past performance.
Unusally, my comment was not approved, despite (or maybe because of) offering this link to the Civitas think tank study from 2007 entitled: “School curriculum corrupted by politics”
It really is an exposé and condemnation of New Labour’s education policies, devised at one time by Johnson, that are designed more to condition children than educate them.
Evidence of Government social engineering from that one Civitas document:
“The traditional subject areas have been hi-jacked to promote fashionable causes such as gender awareness, the environment and anti-racism, while teachers are expected to help to achieve the government’s social goals instead of imparting a body of academic knowledge to their students.”
“…no major subject area has escaped the blight of political interference… issues of race and gender (‘external criteria that have more to do with biology than literature’) trump the love of language in the works of literature that students are given to study.”
“A British pupil can go through the school system and get the top marks in English and English Literature without knowing that Spenser, Milton or Pope ever existed, but having studied Carol Ann Duffy twice, both at GCSE and A-level.”
“The new approach, introduced last September, conflates the three disciplines of chemistry, physics and biology into ‘scientific literacy’, which has more to do with media studies than hard science. Students are asked to discuss issues such as global warming and GM crops, based on media coverage, and to consider whether or not scientists can be trusted…. if you try to ask them to decide if we need to replace the UK’s nuclear power stations, you are far more likely to get the question: “Sir, what is nuclear power?””
“Independent schools are refusing to do the new science GCSEs since, as Dr Martin Stephen, High Master of St Paul’s puts it, there is ‘a terrifying absence of proper science’.”
“This is creating what David Perks calls ‘a kind of educational apartheid’, under which pupils at state schools are less likely to proceed to science at A-level and undergraduate level.”
“‘They reduce foreign language study to a functional skill that teaches the sort of thing you find in a “get-by” phrase book’.”
“Simon Patterson shows how the teacher’s timetable is now so minutely controlled by Whitehall that maths teachers are obliged to return to concepts such as fractions again and again in different years, without ever having the time to ensure that students can grasp them and move on.”
“History without dates: Chris McGovern describes the way in which history is now taught as the New History, that is to say, history without any sense of narrative or chronology, taught through a filter of politically correct perspectives.”
I want to reproduce this whole section: Geography and global citizenship (my emphasis on what follows)
Alex Standish describes how geography has become a vehicle for teaching global citizenship, with environmentalism as its central theme:
‘… global citizenship education is tied to specific non-academic values that tend towards the replacement of knowledge with morality as the central focus of the curriculum. Thus global problems are not presented as issues to be interrogated for truth, knowledge and meaning, with a view to students developing ideas about the potential courses of social and political action. Instead, the solution is to be found in the personal realm and is presented as a given: that people need to adhere to a new global values system that encourages them to consume less, have fewer children, take public transport rather than drive their cars, be less money-grabbing, support charities, and so forth. Such an approach is no substitute for educating pupils to interpret the world for themselves.’
Students are told to ‘Think global, act local’ – which misses out the national sphere of political action to solve problems. This misleads young people because ‘there is no world government, nor global body for citizens to hold to account’ (pp.47-8), and the only way in which children can be treated as political subjects in their own right is by ‘redefining the meaning of politics from social change to a concern with identity’ (p.48). However, by setting out to change the way in which children feel about things, in the interests of ‘deep citizenship’, teachers may be giving themselves a dangerously wide remit:
‘If the personal consciousness of individuals is no longer a place of freedom in education, then they are no longer free moral beings.’ (p.51)
In his introduction to the book Frank Furedi defines the corruption of the curriculum as: ‘the erosion of the integrity of education through debasing and altering its meaning’ (p.5). He describes how issues of pedagogy have been subordinated to social engineering and political expediency, as ‘Britain’s cultural elites prefer to turn every one of their concerns into a school subject’ (p.4). Obesity, sex education, black history and gay history crowd the timetable. Alan Johnson thinks that by teaching environmentalism and persuading children of their impact on climate change we can ‘quite literally save the world’.
‘Literally save the world! That looks like a price worth paying for fiddling with the geography curriculum!… [However] Those who are genuinely interested in educating children and inspiring them to become responsible citizens will instead look to real subjects, which represent a genuine body of knowledge.’ (pp.4-5)
Furedi believes that to confront the problems in education we need to (1) depoliticise education – ‘Politicians need to be discouraged from regarding the curriculum as their platform for making statements’; (2) challenge the tendency to downsize the status of knowledge and expose the destructive consequences of ‘anti-elitist education'; and (3) take seriously the ability of children to engage with knowledge and provide them with a challenging educational environment (p.10).