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.

1 comment:

  1. One of the problems was using the Academies process to give a lot of autonomy and power to individual heads and chains. In some cases (OK... a lot of cases...), that has given powers to people who are completely opposed to the government's agenda since 2010. While I understand why that was done- in the long term, comparing a range of approaches will improve standards- it's caused some nasty short-term effects.