Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nicky Morgan needs to denounce the Left's shameful record and speak up for Conservative principles

Let's make no bones about it; the Left's unrepentant fingerprints are all over the scarred, lifeless body. It lies face down, riven by ignorance, indolence and poverty, desperate but unable to escape the torpor and abject misery in which it finds itself. Council estates which housed the existing poor were the most vulnerable limbs. These, in the name of equality, were mauled and left broken by well-meaning Leftists only too willing to expose their credulous inhabitants to new, unproven experiments which, alas, went horribly, catastrophically wrong. In short, over several decades - and in the name of egalitarian principles which failed to achieve their stated aims - the Left destroyed the education thus life chances of generations of school children and, in pig-headed contravention of all the evidence available, blithely continues to do so.

So when will Nicky Morgan take the fight to Labour and say so? She should be adding, moreover, that these failed policies were, and still are, inimical to the defining tenets of Conservative thought and, as a consequence, can only be expunged by a Conservative administration.

Let's take the liberal doctrine - a doctrine adopted wholesale by the Labour party - of moral relativism as a starting point. With the decline of the traditional family, the demur withdrawal of Christianity from public life, the post-war increase in immigration and with it, the proliferation of different religious, ethnic and cultural mores, the Left's politicians, cheerleaders and myriad agents of the state - including teachers - began to impose a doctrine which forbade the application of judgement and decried the occidental moral certainties of the past. Instead, this view intolerantly insisted that we have to accept the fact that positions of right or wrong are socially, economically and culturally determined therefore subject to a person's individual choice. So there you have it: there is no longer a dominant moral code to be followed in Britain, apparently.

But how does this affect our schools? I hear you ask. Well, according to this position - which is widespread by the way - how can you possibly sanction two pupils from completely different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds in the same way? They may have vastly different conceptions of what's right and what's wrong, after all. 

Let's consider this scenario as a not untypical example: Child X comes from a middle class, Catholic household in which both parents remain married. Child Y, on the other hand, has an alcoholic mother, absent father and a revolving door which greets and often violently bids farewell to a different stepfather every few months. One afternoon, Child X and Child Y both threaten to hit a member of staff - again, a not uncommon occurrence in many of our schools. However, Child Y is treated more leniently than Child X - Child X being the one, of course, who should know better, coming, as he does, from a relatively descent household.

Now, to access the reality - which is, alas, far worse - imagine this scenario being multiplied by an indefinite number to accommodate the myriad different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds of pupils in schools up and down the country. You end up with confusion as kids no longer know which rules apply to them; resentment as some discover that their peers are being treated differently; and ultimately, an intensely damaging moral vacuum in which right and wrong no longer exist, so open to question thus clouded they've become. Of course, it is surely obvious that in such an environment, low expectations and poor behaviour find sustenance, and, where they find sustenance, so too does educational failure. Moral relativism is indeed the scourge of our education system, responsible for ill-discipline, expectations which barely manage to get off the ground and truly appalling standards, especially among the poor.

It is also a doctrine beloved of the Left and scorned by true Conservatives. But no Tory, not even Michael Gove, has been courageous enough to challenge it. Through a reformed school inspectorate Nicky Morgan needs to emerge from her predecessor's shadow, throw down the gauntlet and finally extinguish this cancerous growth. Only then will we see the behaviour and expectations necessary to close the gap between rich and poor.

The Left's opposition to the explicit teaching of facts is another failed approach yet to be highlighted and challenged. As the 7 per cent of privately educated children continue to enjoy the multitude of opportunities offered by a knowledge rich curriculum, their state school counterparts are reduced to ignorance and disadvantage, deprived of the common terms of reference that would enable them to access power and the knowledge to stimulate the higher order thinking skills so crucial to future success (an outcome brilliantly explained by Daisy Christodoulou in her recent study, The Seven Myths About Education). 

The impartation of knowledge, or so the Leftist position goes, is an act of subjugation used to maintain existing social structures and the hegemony of the West. A traditional, knowledge rich curriculum is deeply discriminatory, it claims, affirms the host nation's cultural superiority and, as a consequence, runs counter to the current moral relativist zeitgeist discussed earlier. One has to ask oneself: why else has Tristram Hunt - a man who incidentally received a knowledge rich education himself in one of the world's leading private schools - promised to deprive state run schools of subject specialists on account of their failure to go to teacher training college? Is it possibly because he views subject expertise as secondary to a college-taught pedagogy that explicitly proscribes the teaching of facts?

Why hasn't this been highlighted and challenged? We now know, thanks to various cognitive studies, the importance of facts to the development of thinking skills - something that should go without saying, really (you can't think with nothing to think about, after all). Bearing this in mind, again, I reiterate, why has Nicky Morgan not highlighted the Left's insidious hand in this deeply un-Conservative trend that eschews tradition and results in the endemic ignorance of our children - ignorance responsible for scuppering the life chances of so many? 

Okay, I recognise Michael Gove's attempts to address the problem with, inter alia, reforms to the National Curriculum, but these don't go far enough. Academies can opt out and, take it from me, many do, enabling them to continue inflicting child centred learning on yet another generation of unsuspecting schoolchildren and parents. Morgan needs to go one step further, in my opinion. She must make the National Curriculum compulsory, even for academies and free schools, and, again, through a reformed Ofsted, insist on the teaching of facts in our schools. This should be non-negotiable. Indeed, school freedoms should be determined within these very parameters. 

In the Left's misguided rush to realise equality through such measures - and others which include the pervasive 'all must have prizes' culture and ill-conceived Inclusion policy -, it has further entrenched disadvantage as private schools and good state schools - often in the best areas with the highest house prices and wealthiest children - continue to enjoy the benefits of moral certitude and a knowledge rich curriculum.


With the General Election approaching, Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, recently issued yet another headline grabbing initiative which will do absolutely nothing to improve our schools. Another test, another resit, this time sat during Year 7, will simply, yet again, highlight the system's failings rather than boost the standard of its provision. Nicky, you can test our kids until the cows come home but, unless you speak up for Conservative principles, denounce the Left's shameful commitment to moral relativism and its aversion to the teaching of facts, we'll still be talking about the corpse of educational failure and the socioeconomic decay that accompanies it in 2050. In truth, only the Conservatives can resuscitate the scarred, lifeless body that represents our most underprivileged children.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Schools should direct boys’ natural aggression and competitiveness, not just accept misbehaviour

Several years ago, a Guardian columnist – whose name escapes me – argued that, as a consequence of an evolutionary anomaly, whereby the peculiarities of male instincts, immanent skills and inherited abilities have yet to evolve to suit our altered socioeconomic and environmental circumstances, it is not surprising that some boys behave badly. Far from being equipped for the modern world of sedentary indolence, where tapping a keyboard is the closest thing you’ll get to the kind of intense activity existent on the steppes of central Asia some twenty thousand years ago, they remain, at heart, ferocious hunter-gatherers, genetically predisposed to sporadic bouts of aggression and gifted with the spatial awareness to successfully pursue, kill, gather and ultimately survive to live another day. No wonder, then, given this reality, they find it difficult to sit still and learn Pythagoras’ Theorem and quadratic equations.
It is indeed a convincing argument that, unfortunately, lets itself down by proffering a pessimistic non-remedy. Apparently we’ve just got to lump it; we’ve got to accept the fact that boys will naturally be aggressive and, by implication, violent and abusive at school; we’ve got to accept that, literally speaking, “boys will be boys”. Well I don’t buy it.
If boys are genetically inclined to evince such behaviours, we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and wait for evolution to work its magic – a phenomenon that could, no doubt, take tens of thousands, if not millions, of years to bear fruit. Instead we should accommodate them, as they do in many excellent schools around the country. Why not direct their natural aggression, competitiveness and hone their spacial awareness through sport, for example? Would that be too masculine for our fluffy Guardian columnist, perhaps?
I was lucky enough to go to an excellent school that encouraged competitive sports, music, drama and, of course, both academic and artistic excellence. In the winter we played rugby every Saturday afternoon; in the summer it was athletics and cricket; in music, we had various bands according to instrumental competency and our lessons were equally competitive and strictly stratified according to one’s ability.
The point is here that the educational philosophy espoused by my alma mater accepted our inherent masculinity. Aggression was controlled through sports; our competitive spirit was accommodated through academic, sporting and artistic selection, inter-house cross-country, debating and chess tournaments not to mention regular competitive fixtures against other schools. As a result, abuse of our teachers was unheard of. Away from the rugby pitch, acts of aggression were indeed non-existent, and, let me make this clear, this was a comprehensive school that included ordinary kids, including me, from the local area, some relatively wealthy, some living in abject penury.
In contrast, in my view, today’s education system has been feminised and, as a sad consequence, aggression, abuse and violence are rife, particularly among boys. There are mixed ability classes, little to no competitive sports, an overweening, suffocating “all must have prizes” culture and interminable classroom discussions about feelings – four features that contrive to inhibit and frustrate a boy’s natural instincts. No wonder they misbehave, especially when Left-wing, moral relativist, non-judgementalist, misguided senior leaders refuse to discipline them, too.
If we want our boys to behave and get the best out of school, we must accept reality, accommodate and control their natural instincts, and reverse the dangerous feminisation of our education system. It’s no good, Mr Guardian Columnist, irresponsibly asserting, “We’ve just got to put up with it!”

First published on www.conservativehome.com on 10th April 2015

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Father, forgive the jihadists, for they know not what they do

Okay, perhaps the headline's a little sacrilegious, even extreme, but with Easter weekend fast approaching, it seemed a remarkably apposite way to describe the all too predictable responses of two London Head teachers when confronted with the revelations that several of their pupils were considering an odyssey to Syria in the perverse hope of becoming sex slaves to a bunch of grubby, bearded, masturbating and, I suspect, incredibly smelly jihadi mentalists.

According to yesterday's Times, on hearing the parents' fears, both Head teachers were reluctant to inform police lest the would-be concubines found themselves criminalised. Bless 'em! Not one thought was given to the wider population of the school, or that of the country at large. These adolescents have obviously been seduced by a malign, fascistic ideology that abhors western society and, in particular, British, yes British, values. They are potentially an existential threat to us all, including the peace-loving majority within the Muslim community. So why not notify the police and allow them to investigate?

The simple truth is that these Head teachers, and many Heads in general, have embraced non-judgementalism and with it, a strange inversion of utilitarian principles whereby the narrow, self-centred, short term interests of the recalcitrant minority override those of the law-abiding, rule-following majority. This, in general, leads to the appeasement of poor behaviour - a relatively recent phenomenon that destroys the education thus life chances of the majority - and, in this case, the appeasement of terroristic activities that threaten our very existence.

When are we going to wake up to the moral vacuum created by these deranged fools and sack the lot of 'em?!

And before you ask, no, I don't believe in the abdication of responsibility that Jesus' famous words imply. They do know what they're doing and, once more, they must be stopped.