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Why it’s time to abolish schools Education has been reduced to childcare

Happiest days of their lives. Credit: Maurice Ambler/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty

Happiest days of their lives. Credit: Maurice Ambler/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty


February 23, 2021   6 mins

For centuries, the English were renowned for their brutal treatment of children. This inglorious national love affair with floggings and canings applied to punishing the young as well as criminal offenders. It bewildered French observers, who called it le vice anglais. Physical punishments for children had far more staying power in England than in many of the states we enjoy comparing ourselves to. In the early 20th century, other European countries set up gulags, while the English continued to birch crying schoolboys.

The French — as they always do — believed this was masochism at work. Le vice anglais was the perverted and twitchy consequence of bringing up the English elite in violent boarding schools, where they learned to love illicit drubbings. The historian Clive Emsley’s view that beatings in all schools were “understood as a tried and tested means of discipling and civilising the unruly boy, and to a much lesser extent, the unruly girl” rings truer, because it is a far less imaginative explanation.

Finally, in 1987 the licence teachers had to beat schoolchildren was withdrawn. Le vice anglais was no more, just like bear-baiting, absolute monarchy and the Empire. Are England’s schools any less cruel for it?

That, on the face of it, is a ridiculous question. But given that schools have effectively been abolished for almost a year now, it is worth thinking about what they are for, and what they actually do to the children under their care.

The pandemic revealed that the first purpose of school was not to educate children, but to hold them in place while their parents worked. Labour markets and schools are not distinct things. The British government closed schools later than its European counterparts, and was reluctant to do so for most of March 2020. When schools are shut, they take a bite out of the economy, too. Whether children actually want to go to school is secondary to their parents needing to go to work.

But why wouldn’t children want to go to school? Le vice anglais, cold showers and spam fritters no longer exist, do they? Well, sexual harassment, revenge porn, and garden-variety bullying is pretty routine today in English schools. In particular, sexual harassment in mixed-sex schools keeps getting worse. Charities, think tanks and the Guardian say that the solution is more sex education — more school, even though this is a problem that exists largely because of school. Outside of prison, which most of us manage to avoid, school might be the only place where many people will experience physical violence, or torture.

Then there are the more mundane forms of cruelty, like boredom. If you have ever worked in a school — if you haven’t but you manage to combine the attributes of a High Court Judge, a Welfare Officer, and a Prison Guard, then you ought to apply now — you will know that many, if not all, pupils are bored to the marrow. At the school I worked in, it was not uncommon for some of them to simply fall asleep at their desks. The teaching profession is obsessed with the idea of “engagement”. If only teachers can produce the right tasks, develop the most involving activities, then pupils will pay attention. But for a good number of pupils, it is not the activity, the lesson, or the teacher that fails to engage them — it is the fact they are being forced to go to school against their will.

They are forced to do tedious tasks, watch tedious videos, and listen to tedious teachers. Huge cliff-sized chunks of irrelevant material are dropped on them from a great height, for obscure purposes. Once they have learned to read, and learned basic mathematics, and learned how to stand in a line without starting a brawl, what exactly are most of them there for? To learn about the water cycle? To learn how to read a map? They can google the water cycle, and they have GPS on their phones. Children are technology-literate in ways that their parents and teachers don’t really grasp at all. The educational system — like so many others in the last decade — has been outflanked by technology to the point where it looks obsolete.

As a result, pupils report becoming more and more bored with secondary school as it grinds on. Up to a third of Year Nine pupils in 2016, for instance, said they felt bored at school. Experts have long recognised this, but they blame it on hormones, rather than the fact that for many children, school work is irrelevant to their interests and unsuited to their abilities. No wonder. If I were locked in a room and forced to watch someone I wasn’t wild about — say Paul Mason — blather on about something I found boring — like the life and thought of Rosa Luxemburg — I would begin to seethe a bit.

If you then told me that I had to ask Paul for permission to go to the toilet, or that the person behind me would begin to start prodding me with a broken ruler sharpened to a fine, stabby point, I would start to feel seriously frustrated. That’s precisely what school is for millions of children. Institutionalised, legally-mandated, financially wasteful frustration, overseen by teachers who are, politically at least, just like Paul Mason.

And then we tell these Year Nines they have to endure it for four more years after the point they have given up on school entirely. The English used to flog children’s bodies, now we flog their minds instead and call it progress.

The writer Scott Alexander understands, calling it “child prison”. School, he argues, “forces children to be confined in an uninhabitable environment, restrained from moving… in a state of profound sleep deprivation, under pain of imprisoning their parents if they refuse.” Recently, the critic Lorna Finlayson wrote that “the real purpose and priority of the school system was to instil the habit of obedience, of deference to our superiors.” Finlayson left school at 13 and never looked back.

I do not know if Finlayson or Alexander are right. But their arguments resonated with me. At school, I spent most of my time daydreaming, or arguing with teachers, or turning up late for lessons, or walking during the once-a-term cross-country race, or doodling in my exercise book, or watching the clock.

And I had it good: I wasn’t being bullied and I managed to gouge far more sick days out of my sympathetic parents than most of my peers could. There was real, unaddressed misery around me, and like all the worst misery it was completely pointless. It happened because it happened.

When I went back to work at a school before the pandemic, I saw that little had changed, except that Facebook had been swapped for TikTok. The routine cruelty with which children treat each other is punished when teachers discover it, but impossible for them to stop. Getting used to cruelty is the point, and considered by adults, even if they wouldn’t admit openly, a sad part of what it means to “grow up”.

Abolishing schools is, it’s fair to say, a fringe position. Still, the facts-don’t-care-about-your-feelings rebuke to abolishing schools, or even significantly rethinking the way they operate, is obvious. What are you going to do with all the free-range children you’ve created? In reality, most of them could go to work. The idea of children at work conjures an unfortunate image of David Copperfield weeping in a bottle factory. But it is sentimentality to think that to send them out into employment is crueller than keeping them locked up in school. I taught many pupils, boys in particular, who would have been far better off earning money and carving out a role for themselves in the world. Children who actually wanted to learn about the periodic table and read (urgh) Carol Ann Duffy could, of course, stay in school, and benefit from the enormously reduced class sizes.

Conservatives will naturally object to this most of all, because it sounds radical. Abolish schools? What next? Abolish prisons? Abolish the monarchy? As Emsley relates it, underneath the English practice of beating up schoolchildren lay an assumption that our ways were best, and the unique characteristics of our punishments were “part of the successful arrangement of the British constitution”. It was pure Burke in defence of pure stupidity, and a similar logic is in play with schools today.

Let’s take one example. Why do schools start early in the morning, even though teenagers have a different circadian rhythm to older people? Because that’s the way we do things. No more questions.

I do think, though, that it’s much more radical to entrust childcare to the average teacher than to abolish schools. Maybe the most flouted piece of legislation in this country — other than the one that says electric scooters can’t be used on public roads — is the part of the 1996 Education Act stating that governors and councils must ensure that the promotion “of partisan political views” is forbidden in schools. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

Over the past 11 months, parents have seen far more of their children’s education than ever before. The stuck-in-the-dark-ages lessons, packed with uninspiring content, led by too many for whom the profession is a last resort. For the first time, parents and children can be on the same page. They can see how much of the education sector is backwards and pointless. They can see how much needless anxiety it is causing children.

Traditionally, problems in the sector are solved by throwing money at them and hoping they go away. In this spirit, the Government announced last month a further £300 million of new money for catch-up summer schools. It doesn’t have to be that way. Give the money directly to parents to cover childcare costs and pay for private tutors, not to teachers who think that Greta Thunberg is a better “role model” than Admiral Nelson. Liberate them. Let a million teenagers go to work, to start filling those places left by the foreign workers who’ve fled the country. Let a million home-schooling cooperatives bloom. Let’s see so much of what we put children through at school for what it really is: cruelty that became invisible. Consign it all to the same dustbin as le vice anglais.


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Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

I agree that state schooling looks a mess. There is far too much taxpayers money spent on higher education now at the obvious cost to investment in schooling up to the age of 16, which is the the most important educational period for society writ large. The claim that more is being spent on education than ever is a lie because the government lump university and state school spending together as if no one knows what’s really happening. The answer is not abolishing schooling, leaving educational investment to parents will only increase the class divide, partly due to time and money and partly because parents who don’t value education as they ought won’t invest in it on their own children’s behalf, to the detriment of their children and the rest of us. Proper investment and a focus on essential subjects with properly trained and well remunerated teachers is the key. Maths, English, Sciences, History (not Woke history, actual history), Art, Music. Also life management skills like personal finances, sex and relationships, open discussion on current affairs in secondary school etc. I’d also like to see techniques like mindfulness being introduced into schools and demystified/destigmatised for young people as it’s value for emotional health is clear and well documented.

A small anecdote: I’m a plumber and was recently doing a small repair job in a local primary school here In Gloucestershire and witnessed a teacher attempting to drum the history of the Atlantic slave trade into a silently bemused class of 7-8 year olds. It was a strange scene. It was followed by a clumsy and scattergun half an hour of relationship education and I was left with the question of whether any of it was the best use of time for children of that age group.

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Your description of what you witnessed in primary school horrifies me. They should be learning about the life cycle of an insect or something far more interesting and NON political.

Anjela Kewell
Anjela Kewell
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

They would get that at home by helping in the garden or creating a terrarium on a windowsill. I have noticed how well informed some of the kids are since their parents are teaching them. I was also told by my daughter that she was able to run her children’s lessons efficiently from 10am to 1pm. She could then concentrate on the life skills and creative joys.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

And you get the privelege of one on one or one on two etc. I know missionaries who homeschooled their children in Africa. The parents are now back in the UK but the academic standard is way above their peers. They are getting bored at state school and are not being challenged enough.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
3 years ago
Reply to  Anjela Kewell

Some would but far too many wouldn’t.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

This doesn’t surprise me because someone close in the family is a primary school teacher and she tells me things like this. We argue all the time.
She says that what they teach can be absolutely stupid and they all know that it is stupid, but what can you do?
Kind of reminds me of that quote about Germany in the pre-war years – all it takes is for millions of people to do nothing.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Wheatley
David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

My son would return home from school furious (aged 6). “Today the teachers asked me to increment by one and starting at 65 and go to 70. I could count when I was three….”

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Hmm, I could count when I was 3 too, but I didn’t know the word “increment” at 6. But yes, I’ve never understood how any child of normal intelligence could not understand counting by the time he started school, unless his parents literally never spoke to him. I remember watching Sesame Street with my younger sisters and we would often laugh at how ridiculously “easy” the “educational” segments were, that there might actually be preschool kids whose parents were so neglectful or incompetent that they needed a TV show to teach them how to count to 10 or to recognize the letters of the alphabet. never crossed our minds.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago

On the train near the Black Forest in 2014, I could hear a very small girl, encouraged by her Mutti, counting in the 20s….in English. Odd that home schooling is banned in Germany under a 1938 law. But even the Nazis could not stop every interaction between parent and child.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

Most could easily count in that they were reciting numbers by rote. That is different from understanding the concepts of fiveness, repeated addition is multiplication etc. (But I agree there is much wrong with the system and was unsurprised by the comment above about the homeschooling missionaries).

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  David Boulding

Probably he is being held up by those not at his level which happens a lot.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Did that history of the Atlantic slave trade include how between 1807 and the 1830s the Royal Navy’s West Africa squadron helped stamp it out (and slavery throughout the Empire)? The war against the slave trade lasted 30 years and cost an estimated 30,000 white British seamen their lives.  

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

“Written” not “wrote”
I imagine the colour of the sailors was mentioned because whites are endlessly accused of racism when they were instrumental in stopping the trade.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

‘Have wrote’ is a grammatically acceptable variation on the more common ‘have written’.

Pablo Soldado
Pablo Soldado
3 years ago

No. It isn’t.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Pablo Soldado

Oh yes it is.

alison rain
alison rain
3 years ago
Reply to  Pablo Soldado

lol!

CYRIL NAMMOCK
CYRIL NAMMOCK
3 years ago
Reply to  Pablo Soldado

No, it isn’t. “I have wrote” is illiterate nonsense.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
3 years ago

Nope

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

Prove it.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

“wrote” is the past tense of ‘to write’, you can say ‘I wrote’, ‘he, she or it wrote’, ‘you (singular) wrote’, ‘we wrote’, ‘they wrote’ or ‘you (plural) wrote’.
In none of these cases is it necessary to insert “have” in front of “wrote”.

However, it is necessary to insert “have”, or “has”, if you use the word “written” rather than “wrote”, eg, ‘I have written’, ‘he, she or it has written’, ‘you have written’ etc etc.

It is not a crime to make a grammatical error, but it sounds clumsy and will make you sound foolish if you insist on doing it.
We all make mistakes, surely it is better to be corrected, be grateful and move on.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
alison rain
alison rain
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

claire you know something i dont really care as its completely irrelevant to my point, by which i stand by.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  alison rain

I agree, it is irrelevant to your point.

Mike Miller
Mike Miller
3 years ago
Reply to  alison rain

I suppose most of the sailors would have been caucasian and probably all the slaves would have been negroid. Aren’t you being a bit of a perfectionist, Alison ?

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

That’s just an opinion, not proof. Present perfect = Subject + have/has + past participle.
But that is just the accepted version. It is not a rule. English grammar has no rules. What’s considered correct in English grammar is just what most people usually do. There is no institution that has authority.
Subject + have/has + past simple = a grammatically correct alternative.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jonathan Ellman
Kevin R
Kevin R
1 year ago

Up with such nonsense we must not put.

alison rain
alison rain
3 years ago
Reply to  Mangle Tangle

lol

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago

I wrote. We have written? Or is there a tense difference between I wrote and have written.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tony Conrad
LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

Not strictly correct, the Royal Navy’s and the UK’s broader campaign lasted until at least 1870 – not a mere 30 years. There was also an operation off Africa’s east coast.
Post Waterloo the UK used it predominant status to ‘bully’ other countries into giving up the slave trade, and accepting UK boats stopping slavers flying that nations flag. This was always a sticking point with the US, who also banned the slave trade around the same time – but didnt’ enforce it as well (navy size and politics), and opposed British ships stopping American slavers. At the start of the US Civil war Lincoln finally consented for the Royal Navy to stop US slavers.
This approach didn’t gain the UK a lot of friends and cost a huge amount of direct money, and lost trade. Portuguese and Brazil were particularly not keen on stopping, as well as African slave traders. In the end Brazil was also blockaded and the UK took unilateral action against it’s ships.
Does this change the many mediocre, bad and outright evil things the British Empire did? No, but it certainly paints a much more complex picture. The whole history of the Empire is a story of greed and moralism – some evil, some misplaced, but some good.
The relatively interesting thing about slavery is not that it happened – sadly it’s near univeral. It’s who stopped it, and even more so why? The answer is part moral and mainly capitalism. Capitalism and free labour is far more productive, easier and profitable. Your free worker doesn’t run away, keeping a job motivated people well enough, if your free worker died, then it’s pain – but not a direct cost, if there’s no work – lay them off. The slave economy of the US south was much poorer than the North.

Last edited 3 years ago by LUKE LOZE
Mike Miller
Mike Miller
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Very nicely put. Your last paragraph makes me proud to be British !

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

Probably not. It probably also didn’t teach how the British imperative for ending the slave trade was financial competition from the Netherlands and Spain in the sugar industry supplying the Prussian and Russian markets. Schools don’t teach much of anything, ultimate you have to find out for yourself.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

I think the point is that slavery is constantly framed as an exclusive sin of white people, and it gets very boring.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Just because the woke deny that slavery has existed since pre-historic times in all cultures and amongst all races, doesn’t mean the exclusive, racialised nature of colonial era slavery and its legacy should be denied.

alison rain
alison rain
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

lmao! look at the unherd herd all downvote me, cancel culture at its finest i see:D

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  alison rain

People disagreeing with you does not mean you have been cancelled.
Cancelling you would be more like some people putting pressure on unherd to ban you from commenting. I think as long as you abide by unherd’s comments rules you can carry on commenting and putting across your views as much as you like, go for it.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  alison rain

Not all of us! The old voting system was better in that regard.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

Actually, a lot of seamen in those days were not white. Freed slaves, and others who never were, fought at Trafalgar and many other battles. The idea that they were is just a glib assumption.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

They still want revenge on us though. Repentance is not enough although they let the Arabs off though as they will get nothing from them.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

It’s just a fact.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Thank goodness for your calm common sense response, I was about to go off the deep end, but have decided to uptick your comment instead.

Daisy D
Daisy D
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

And as a ( supposedly) ‘undereducated’ plumber, I’m betting that your income is higher than that of the teachers drumming stupid and useless nonsense into the heads of children held hostage.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago
Reply to  Daisy D

You’d think so, I have a degree too, although its only 3rd 🙂 I retrained 5 years after entering the workplace and it was the best career decision I’ve ever made. I earn an entirely reasonable income and I’m my own boss, so no-one tells me what to do. I was like most young people, sheparded up through higher education without any real direction. Excellent, challenging and (most importantly) useful careers, such as the Trades were never put to me or my piers. I suppose they were seen as options for the kids who did badly at school. We need to open up better routes into more career options. University is not right for everyone and coupled with the extortionate cost I firmly believe that many would do better elsewhere if our careers advice and apprenticeship schemes across all sectors were improved.

Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Prayer works better than mindfulness. It involves the heart as well as the mind. And interestingly, it’s a legal requirement of schools to include it on a regular basis.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

The advantage of meditation/mindfulness education is that because it is a practical set of skills that doesn’t require adopting any cultural affectations or unjustified beliefs it can be happily taught even in multicultural classrooms without the worry that the school might step on toes of individual family faith, or lack there of.

Last edited 3 years ago by Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago

I’m afraid the assertion that mindfulness isn’t for the heart as well as the mind is not true. Compassion for yourself and others is a real world benefit from learning to pay better attention to your own mind and the world and spending less time lost in thought.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago

Doesn’t it involve the strength and soul as well? My son’s prayerfully Christian school enjoys a community social education where loving teachers impart a wisdom enhancing experience. Ask any of the children. Mind you, Ofsted closed a similar school (Durham Free) ostensibly for bullying, poor student attitude etc: more nuanced than that but in reality, a euphemism for not imparting enough British values to prepare the students for life in modern Britain.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

I mean, I didn’t really recognise this depiction of school at all. For me secondary school was far more intellectually rewards and character building experience than uni – one of my great regrets in live was going to the red brick hell that is the University of Birmingham, too many students, too much a graduate mill, but then again it was 2005, and there wasn’t anywhere else with spaces for me, even with 3 As at A level, thanks Mr. Blair – with many fond memories. But then again I went to a grammar school Kent one of the few counties with the sense to have retained them, where I had many inspiring teachers and especially in the 6th form, a good cohort of peers.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Leave out sex relationship and I agree with you every word. Teaching of sex is the parent’s job not Stonewall.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I think sex education has value in schools, just the biology is good enough for me personally. On the broader relationships issue things get a bit more sticky (ahem..). I haven’t thought about it much but my instinct is that human relationships are a difficult thing to proscribe in a classroom. In addition to that, children who grow up in a home without a positive relationship between their parents as the primary example of romantic relationship are likely to struggle regardless of what a teacher tells them. That’s the kind of thing that takes years to unpick.

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

The author is saying let parents educate their children and pay them to do it.
The top liked comment says state schooling is a mess.
The implication here is that Public Schools, Eton, Harrow etc, are getting it right.
So, pay Boris Johnson’s Dad to send his son to Eton?
Boris Johnson knows Eton worked for him. Then why doesn’t he and his Public School educated chums, try and make the state education system, like the Public Schools?
Is it because it would cost too much? Maybe if the Public Schools weren’t charities, then the gain to the public purse from killing this tax break, would help to fund fixing education. Might not be enough, and anyway, the overall inclination might be not to fix it, as how it is now, suits.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Dean

There are some free schools that are doing better than quite a few private schools.
I don’t understand why state schools do not follow Katherine Birbalsingh significant success. Instead she has been demonised by many.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  Glyn Reed

’There are some free schools that are doing better than..’ …until ofsted get to them.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

I think it was Schopenhauer who said something like education is bad for children because they have no experience of life and all they should be taught is the 3Rs. He history could be used to develop their memory of dates. The problem today seem to be that the teachers have no experience of life.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

No doubt the article is a little OTT for effect, but there is probably a lot in what the writer says. We have all known for many years that British schools teach little that is useful and are, effectively, nothing more than left-wing indoctrination camps.
Funnily enough I have just this week read a relatively recent book called ‘Clever Lands’ by Lucy Crehan. A qualified British teacher, she went around the world investigating schools and teaching methods in those countries that do particularly well in the PISA rankings (Finland, Japan, China etc). There was a very interesting quote from a Chinese maths teacher who had also taught in the US and/or the UK:
‘If a Chinese child gets the maths problem wrong we tell them they’ve got it wrong. If a western child gets the problem wrong we tell them they’re creative’.
This goes to the heart of the ongoing collapse of the West.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“Left-wing indoctrination camps” You can say that again.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Thumbs up.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

Not many years ago my son left school. As he packed his school books in a box and reflected on the experience he commented, “I have just realized I’ve just been through 7 years of very expensive child care”
More recently, when BLM kicked off, he ordered a copy of his old history text book online. I was shocked by the anti-white, anti-British and anti-male content. Reflecting on it now, it dawns on me that, at the time, I failed to appreciate that he had, on more than one occasion, been at loggerheads with the school over the left-wing, anti-white, anti-British and anti-male curriculum

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

The head of Britians second largert teaching union said We Have Nothing To Learn From Dead White Men. She was referencing literature specifically, and de-Colonizing Education, but it made me wonder what could be taught under her guidance.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Thanks for this Fraser. My daughter is a teacher and we argue and argue… So I just ordered the book.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I hope you value your daughter for the work she does.

crawfordwright
crawfordwright
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

‘If a Chinese child gets the maths problem wrong we tell them they’ve got it wrong. If a western child gets the problem wrong we tell them they’re creative”

If someone post something as verifiably silly as this statement should we talked anything else they say seriously?

Last edited 3 years ago by crawfordwright
Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  crawfordwright

Please tell me how you will verify its silliness.
Friend of ours who used to be a schoolteacher said she’d been stopped using red ink in highlighting mistakes in red ink because other children could see a mistake had been made.
Want me to pass your details on to her so she can verify its a non-silly statement?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  crawfordwright

This is a direct quote by a Chinese teacher, from a book that I have just read. The book is called ‘Clever Lands’ by Lucy Crehan and it is quite good.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  crawfordwright

I’d give this reply 0/10 for logic but 1/10 for creativity. With such astounding insight i am sure a very highly paid job in the BBC or other civil service awaits – or how about the judiciary – perfect for those who judge facts without evidence. And DW about getting 1/10 there are no losers, only winners in this game.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  crawfordwright

Unfortunate but true. If a child can explain how they arrived at an answer it can be marked as correct.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Some of the more fanatical SJW influenced maths teachers in the west would tell them that 2 + 2 = 5…

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Where there is indoctrination i think its mostly left wing, though the post modern race and sex stuff is more like Nationalist Odinism or Primo De Rivera’s messianic Catholicism so extreme is its denial of reason. Either one leads to economic and social collapse. Where there is no indoctrination there is ignorance and stupidity. I was amazed at the appalling ignorance and lack of interpersonal or life skills with staff in our kids’ state primary schools. This largely disappeared in secondary school because they left the state for the private sector via selective entrance exams. As parents we were happy to put some hours teaching them how to pass these exams and it exposed how little is actually taught in UK compared to the 50s and 60s.

Last edited 3 years ago by mike otter
alison rain
alison rain
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

‘left wing indoctrination camps’ quite an ironic statement considering youre later quote from a chinese maths teacher criticising our system to that of communist china.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  alison rain

The left-wingery and waker taught in British schools and universities is totally unconnected to the current practices of the CCP.

alison rain
alison rain
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

i guess you dont get irony, but hey ho…

jeanette bell
jeanette bell
2 years ago
Reply to  alison rain

Chinese children are way ahead in Maths. I watched a documentary where Chinese kids did the British ‘O’ level Maths paper in 15 mins. Some British kids couldn’t finish the paper in the allotted time.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Worse than that…we tell them they are correct!

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Collapse of the West? Well, at least in the West, some of us have been able to use our education to question lockdowns. They don‘t seem to be able to do that in China, education or no education.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I haven‘t been taught maths for a long time now but I remember very clearly that even 40 years ago, before the west was ‚collapsing‘, we were given marks for using the correct method even if we got the answer wrong. Does your bitterness against the west extend back that far, Fraser?

Alastair Herd
Alastair Herd
3 years ago

To preface this, I hated my schooling, so I have no personal bias in favour of it.
While I think this article has some good points it seems to start from a fundamentally flawed premise. That children shouldn’t have to do things that they don’t like. The fact that this seems to be catching on in more recent years is possibly one of the greatest indictments of our society…
Yes education needs serious reform. We should not have a system of education designed around a pre-internet age, just as other countries like Finland have shown that constant examination is not the best way to actually get students to learn things. But just because we need to fix our schools doesn’t mean we should get rid of them.
For many inner-city children schools are the only things that keep them out of gangs. Schools are also one of the major avenues for picking up child abuse in the home. For a great many children school is actually a place to escape their homes. Even if we were to wholly concede that school is just place to store children, those are important things to consider.
But the greatest flaw I see with this article is how it comes across as so unself-aware and ridiculously middle-class-centric. My Grandad was illiterate. My Dad went to university and would be a prime example of upwards social mobility. That was not because he was told when growing up that education was useful. It was because he had to go. How are we to figure out who those “Children who actually [want] to learn” are? Is that children of the middle class?
It is often said that the modern woke movement wants to tear down without having any idea of what would replace it. Getting rid of schools fits firmly in that position. They need reform, not abolition.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alastair Herd
Saul D
Saul D
3 years ago
Reply to  Alastair Herd

Constant examination is to check the teachers are actually working, not the children…

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
3 years ago
Reply to  Alastair Herd

As someone who had to spend my 20s in evening study to make up for bad choices of A level and degree, I agree. And I was a good student who did well at both, but discovered that a) careers linked to humanities regard a level of social skills I don’t have and b) there just aren’t careers for history graduate. My school mainly sent me down that route because of course I was lazy and didn’t apply myself to science and maths, but also because it helped their league table results. And I didn’t have the knowledge or expectations of people who studied maths and science. And yet, I got into IT, studied computer science in the evening and found a world of difference. More than that I actually found it fascinating, once it was taught by people who actually knew what they were doing and not the pitiful off cuttings of 2:2 graduates that make up most of maths and science teachers at school.
I think that in somewhere like India or China, with demanding parents and greater expectations I would have gone and done something useful a lot earlier. We have huge shortages of skilled people in engineering and technical roles – I know for a fact that someone who is an electrical engineer and owns an engineering company was unable to find a suitably qualified British candidate for a graduate scheme as the small numbers who are produced by our universities get snapped up by other companies – that are just not being filled because of working class apathy and middle class snobbery towards STEM and we are and will continue to lose out against other countries. So many people nostalgically pine for a return to industry but seem to be unable to see that any realistic plan to do so requires and necessitates that we force kids to start working harder in more demanding and useful subjects to be competitive. The idea that mathematics is some kind of useless intellectual adornment like poetry is itself an indictment of the abysmal state of scientific and engineering knowledge in the UK. The ability to think logically and solve problems methodologically is hard, but any decent job in technology is going to require you to have it one way or another.
Probably the approach mentioned in the article would work somewhere like those places, where families and parents have high expectations and people would end up not bettering themselves only because they truly have no options. But I suspect in the UK, where there is a huge premium on not being too good at anything, where the mediocre and unintelligent are prized as ‘salt of the earth’ instead of as failures in life, then it would be a complete disaster with large numbers of people regretting their fate in life.
As a 16 year old, or younger, you have zero knowledge of the world, or life, and you rely a lot on the good advice of parents and other authority figures to guide you correctly.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

What a great story. I was one of the lucky ones, studied sciences, got an engineering degree and then my career developed. I can’t say enough about how difficult it is to study in your spare time, as you did – it is truly an awesome thing to do.
Everything you say is true. I have two nephews who have been working in Morrisons for years – one has a degree in Computer Animation and the other in Fine Arts. In terms of usefulness to society these degrees aren’t worth very much but they are still very popular.
As an Engineering Consultant, I worked with a company for three years and then helped them to replace myself. We chose a graduate from Poland.
But I can remember when I was doing my degree and people asked about the subject -“Engineering”. Then a silence before somebody started to talk about the weather. But if I had studied Social Sciences everybody would have been very interested in what I was doing.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I don’t see why a degree in Computer Animation wouldn’t be useful, if you’re good at it. I am currently working with a very successful gaming company that is hiring.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

School was hell for me, and because by nature I am exceedingly rebellious, I basically did nothing of the work, not any studying and little going to class, and left with virtually no education. I did high school as an adult years later.

My life never caught up from that though. I ended up doing manual work and drifting all my life wile all my family, extended too, hold graduate degrees and are very successful.

I know I am at the core of the blame, but at a particularly bad time at a new school at 13 I had a couple teachers who never should have been near youths, they used sarcasm and be-littling as a tool of controll, and I went wild and never calmed down for a decade. I wasted so much opportunity, but then what is is what is, and I managed to lead an exceptionally weird and wide ranging life as a person who dropped out of society for the next 3 decades, and that also had some value in that we all cannot be engineers and normals. I often do think back and imagine me having been a wealthy professional with trophy wife and a couple well adjusted children and ski holidays… as I was supposed to become if only I had not run amok in school and dropped out.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Like you I hated school and did no work there. I officially left at age fifteen but hardly attended in the last year. I worked in a print shop and stationers for a couple of years then joined the army, later training as an electrician before getting O levels and A levels in my thirties. I eventually did professional accountancy exams at age thirty nine. I was sitting in a hall with kids young enough to be my children. Education is something you have to be ready for. At thirteen I wasn’t. At thirty I was.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

I agree. Also, it is *never* too late to learn brand new domains from scratch, STEM or anything, all the way to expertise. Age is just a number. Something though, stops most people (me included). I am interested in pinning down what that something exactly is. It’s not standard laziness, it’s a kind of involuntary inertia. There seems to be a silent doppelganger inside each of us that is somehow running the show, pushing us down paths that other parts of ourselves can see are not the best, but are helpless to prevent. The only point we seem capable of pushing aside this doppelganger is when we have the rocket of some binary imperative at our back.

Last edited 3 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Alastair Herd

“Not joining a gang” is not the purpose of school. Social mobility is not the purpose of school. Education is the purpose of school. If you have no need of the education beyond basic maths and literacy, you shouldn’t be in a school.

Robin Banks
Robin Banks
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Harris

School taught me how to learn. Once I had that skill then going to school was a waste of my time. I don’t for a moment suggest that it’s the same for everyone. Everything useful I know was learned after I left. I’m self taught in music, poetry, songwriting, calligraphy and building computers.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Alastair Herd

If they were made to do stuff they disliked but was useful it would be worthwhile but much of it is not useful.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago
Reply to  Alastair Herd

Schools have been reformed for the last 50 years. Each variant seems to be worse.
fundamentally two things need to happen
Education needs to be an opportunity not an entitlement
Parents need to have control of the money. Not a choice of school, but a choice of how to spend their 5K per child per year. Homeschool, top up to make private education affordable, or indeed if they are really don’t care about education, the local comp….

Richard Lord
Richard Lord
3 years ago

You make a few good points, in-between the mindless drivel. Education has become about getting children into University rather than individuals reaching their potential. Not going to University is seen as a failure. Universities are nothing more than big businesses preying on the young. Let’s get back to the situation where the academically gifted go to Universities to gain a degree that is worth something. The vocational route can, for others, be more rewarding – educationally, socially and financially (have you seen what it costs to hire a tradesperson these days). Let’s get away from the factory schools and treat children with the respect they deserve.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Lord
Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

agreed

Mark Goodge
Mark Goodge
3 years ago

The article makes a common assertion, that teaching children facts is unnecessary because they can simply use Google to find them out later if they ever need them. It sounds plausible. But is it?
Well, no. In reality, it doesn’t work. Why not? Because the ability to learn is itself something that needs to be learned. It doesn’t come naturally to most people. You only have to read a typical social media debate to see how incapable most people are of doing even basic research into the topic they are discussing.
But if learning needs to be learned, where will people learn it? The answer is, in school. So what if everything you need to know about the water cycle can be found via Google? You still need to understand the basic principles of how knowledge is structured. The best way to learn how to learn is the same as the best way to learn anything. That is, by actually doing it.
And that’s where schools come in. They aren’t just a mechanism for instilling Gradgrind-like facts into unwilling minds. They’re a place where the act of learning is learned, where an appreciation of the art of discovery is honed and where an understanding of the structure of knowledge is founded. And these are skills that have lifelong application, even if you never need to know any more about the water cycle.
Now, to be sure, not all schools are particularly good at this. But the solution is not to abolish schools, or make them optional. The solution is to fix the broken schools, to make sure that children learn the importance of basing their beliefs and actions on evidence and research rather than prejudice and emotion. And, above all, to learn that learning isn’t something you only do in school.

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

agreed, make it optional.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Goodge

Re. the point the author made about teaching map reading, I would argue that it’s still an important skill, unless we want our children to become completely dependent on a form of technology that could be made unavailable to them for any number of reasons, and usually at times and in situations when they need old-fashioned skills like map-reading the most. For that matter, I’ve always felt that public education should include the whole range of basic survival skills, not just map reading, but using a compass, first aid, avoiding things like heatstroke or hypothermia, safely starting a fire (with matches or without), boiling water, using basic tools safely, even foraging for safe edibles (who learned in school that dandelions, from the roots to the petals, are 100 percent safe to eat?) that could, in a hypothetical survival situation, literally save their lives. These are the kinds of things, of course, that kids used to learn in groups like the Scouts or Girl Guides, and the bonus is that most kids actually love learning this stuff.

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
3 years ago

We are constantly told how damaging lockdown is for young people, so it is interesting that a study of Year Nines in 2020 by the University of Bristol, Young People’s Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic, found that anxiety levels had fallen and their wellbeing had increased during lockdown.
No doubt their anxiety has gone back up again in recent months, as ‘experts’ and the media bombard us with stories of how children and young people will never make up for the education they’ve lost. What complete nonsense, they have got a whole lifetime to make up for it given the chance, but no, we have to keep them stressed and make them feel guilty for having some time out. We have created artificial deadlines whereby children must attain a certain level by a given age. Why, what does it matter if they attain that level a year later or a year earlier or as an adult? As Will Lloyd says, provided they can read and write and have a grasp of basic mathematics, they can learn throughout their life. Surely they will study better if less anxious and have a desire to learn? I missed three whole years of formal school education aged 12-14 but went to college part-time at the age of 15 and took 4 ‘O’ Levels successfully; so returned the following year and passed 4 more part-time. Next year I took 2 ‘A’ Levels leaving me with a university place at the age of 17. The part-time study provided plenty of time for the course work, sport, some paid work and a social life. It seemed balanced and, as such, good for mental wellbeing.
Young people’s education does not have to be as difficult and stressed as we make it. I can almost hear people saying, “but life is stressful and we are preparing them for life”. Does life really have to be that way?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Poor students rarely catch up after missed school. You are exceptional so it is very unfair to think others can fallow your experience.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Maybe their stress level reduced because they were out of an environment where every second question, regardless of academic subject, is manipulated horribly to fit the narrative that we’re all going to die soon because of climate change. Teens were ever anxious, school now just massively compound it.

Last edited 3 years ago by Alex Mitchell
Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

I had a horrible time all through school. My parents and teachers constantly told me that school was heaven compared to adult life, which only served to make me want to jump off a bridge…I mean, how bad could adult life be, when childhood was THIS bad? It’s just a variation on the old, “This is the best time of your life!” line miserable square-peg children are admonished with by adults, giving them so very much to look forward to. School as it is serves some children very well, and is toxic for some other children. I think the last useful thing I learned in school was how to read, and I had that down pat by age 6.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

“…Children who actually wanted to learn about the periodic table and read Carol Ann Duffy could, of course, stay in school, and benefit from the enormously reduced class sizes…”

Nononono. Just no. So you would free all the children who want out, but happily allow us geeks, with now no means to put our heads down and hide in the crowd, to remain in the clutches of Paul Mason?? Who would now have infinitely more time to turn his attention fully on us? How is that not spite driven cruelty?? No, I think all the kids best remain in school – us nerds and geeks need the cover.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

🙂

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Why don’t we just give you the option to learn at home or at school?

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago

This article puts its finger on the basic problem – that over the last 50 years we have created a society where it takes two full time wages to support even the smallest and most spartan of homes.
Our children, the most helpless and vulnerable among us, now pay the price for our drive to place all women into the workforce, with 12 hour days in childcare, empty homes and poor nutrition and lack of attention to their education and happiness.
Paradoxically it is the children of single parents supported by the state, who have the most attention and encouragement from their parent. Simply because they are present in the child’s life.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Although I think you’d be hard pressed to find any objective measure that indicated children in one parent families did better in life – educational achievement, drugs, crime, relationship stability etc.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

The statistics hide the individual stories that show the elements contributing towards successful single parenting – living with friends for the 1st 2 years (bc the RAF threw me out of married quarters and the council said I’d made myself voluntarily homeless after my husband left me at 6 months pregnant for a slimmer model) enabled me to fund a deposit: working part time to fund a mortgage.The child’s father contributed nothing for 7 years and I didn’t have the spare energy to pursue it. I had to put my son into a bursaried boarding school whilst I earned a nursing degree to advance my career bc I didn’t want a latch-key kid on our estate. Labour closed that avenue in 2002. Support is the key, quality education is the route. My son is one of the most stable, kind, generous, achieving human beings I know (no bias here). Learnt a trade, no drugs (doesn’t even smoke), no crime; happily married.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

We should not abolish schools because they teach children how to manage interactions with other children. When I was young I was bullied and this taught me how to deal with bullies – appeasement and even fighting back. All of these interactions are valuable training for later life.
So, the question is can the curriculum be improved?

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Children will still interact with other children… mostly their siblings. It’s a recent phenomenon to have so many only children. As a mother, I can also say that as much as I love my children, I do need a break sometimes, so will happily leave them with other parents or at some kind of childcare facility occasionally where they can interact with other kids. If they’re at work during their teenage years (not a bad idea for many kids who do not find school interesting) they will interact with other teenagers there, as well as adults who they probably respect more than the teachers they might be stuck with at school. Finally, I’m sure clubs and sports teams such as Scouts, Cadets and Football teams will fulfill a very important role.

My concerns are how to pay for all this. Parents will have to work less as the (rather efficient) role of a teacher is distributed amongst them. Do we then end up back at square one with so.e parents choosing to put their kids into schools? Does a parent get a budget per child (say £6000 which I think is the cost of a year of school) and then they can choose to homeschool and not work or privately educate and work?

The part of this idea which appeals to me most is being able to just take my kids sailing because the weather is nice and leave maths for a rainy day. They’ll learn as much doing activities like that as they would in a class room.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

Good reply. I would also counsel that you are a thinker. For every one of you there will be 99 who don’t think and have to be told what to do. I shudder when I think of some people getting an extra £6000pa for training their children.
School is convenient because it is there.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

Excellent point about bullying not being a phenomenon exclusive to schools. The worst bullying, by far, I was subjected to as a child was not by classmates but by members of my own family. Going to school didn’t help me a damn bit at learning to deal with that.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So, if it’s ok for you it’s ok for everyone?
Bit shortsighted/narrow minded, yes?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

This is called a discussion. People have their own opinions and are narrow-minded. Yes.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Thumbs up.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago

How refreshing. I agree with most of that save for Conservatives naturally objecting. Given that most kids are only taught to be left wing revolutionaries by the “paul masons” and that schools are the worst of both unions and nationalised industries I think you will find many right behind you. At the very least it would be wise to privatise schools and hand parents £8,000 a year per child until they are 18 which I believe parents would deploy better than any teacher or education authority.
It is interesting to note that the Queen did not go to school which is probably why she is so much better “adjusted” than her progeny.
Given that when home schooling only about 6 hours a week “formal” education is required it gives some insight as to the proportion of school that is child minding.
Some claim the socialisation argument. However it occurs to me that school just provides an opportunity for semi feral people to learn things they should not from kids with older brothers and sisters. Surly they would be better off in the company of pre socialised individuals from which they could learn? The teachers are outnumbered so each school is in fact a slightly less egregious version of Lord of the Flies.
We should also do away with the office which lets face it is just school for big people.

Pp Pppp
Pp Pppp
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

Hmmm. Not quite true. For reception aged children, zero hours formal education per week is equally productive, in my experience. And by mid teens, it’s hard to tell (I’m adding it up in my head now). Maybe something like 2 hours a day on curriculum type stuff, much of it self directed, and then about another 4 or 5 hours a day completely self directed on the child’s special interests, which are unlikely to coincide with things a school would ever teach, but they are definitely learning useful things all the way.

I agree with every other word you wrote except the financial bit. I strongly oppose the idea that all home educators should take money from the state. Him as pays the Piper calls the tune. There are many home educators now who cheerfully would take that money but I think it’s terribly dangerous.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

I grew up in West Africa. My Mother taught me to read and write. I read a lot. When I was ten I went to school in the UK . I left school at 17.
Only made it to CEO -I suspect exposure to more state schooling would have reduced my career results.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

They have not trained our young working classes in the trades for decades because middle class people insisted that they all go to universities.
Then you force them to stay untill they are 18 but yes give money to the working classes and say educate your child with tutors? What a load of Rubbish.
Not enough tutors not enough child care, of course working class people use schools for places to send their kids to while they work and hopefully to learn, that’s life.
School is to learn that life is crap and people tell you what to do, don’t want to start work at 8am don’t worry come in when you want your a teen?
Life does not work like that.
Your class destroyed our chances and lunacy like this will not help us

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Totally agree. It’s not patronising. I can’t fix a boiler.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Agree with you. I admire educators such as Katherine Birbalsingh and the no-excuses approach to education. Her school is a happy one for both staff and pupils.

Pete Marsh
Pete Marsh
3 years ago

“not to teachers who think that Greta Thunberg is a better “role model” than Admiral Nelson.”
It may be worth pointing out to such teachers that Thunberg quit her top notch private school ASAP at 16! But not before helping to mess up other state educated kid’s education by organising ‘school strikes’ and walkouts…

David Boulding
David Boulding
3 years ago
Reply to  Pete Marsh

And Nelson joined the Navy at 13 so learned on the job.

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago

I would just like to say that this article communicates exactly what I have been thinking for most of my career. I have been a Teacher for 25 years and it took me at most 6 months to realise the bleeding obvious. I believe that most of the teaching profession realises it too. Those not blinkered by inclusion ideology – “true believers” are either pragmatically cynical – anti inclusion viewpoints are heresy for career progression – or scared of being witch hunted by progressive zealots, which is where I was when I started I guess. Teachers should be shouting from the rooftops that they aren’t a catch all solution for societies problems. Most children are disaffected by school and have no need to be there beyond a minimal educational standard. They should be at home, helping domestically, or as they get older, out at work. I think a big factor is competition with adults – the powers that be know that the bottom can’t be made more combative without major social unrest, and schools are riot control devices. I believe, however, that as the century progresses we will see a shift to a more humane and sensible debate about this. Here’s hoping. I am currently trying to finish a book on this very subject and this has inspired me to keep going. I feel like Darwin reading Alfred Russell Wallace’s notes. someone else is out there. Keep up the good work.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Philip Harris

Read ‘Little House On The Prairie’, a once great TV series whose like will never be made again. The real Laura Ingalls Wilder became a school teacher two months before her 16th birthday! And my guess is she was 10 times the teacher 90% of modern ones are. Check out wiki, and read the books, they are great, witten from her real life as a settler in the late 1800s.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago

The author is factually wrong when he says that year 9 pupils face 4 more years. School leaving age is still 16, as it has been for decades. To be pedantic, you can leave school on the last Friday in June of the school year when you turn 16. So, as many pupils turn 16 in July and August, they leave school at 15. Labour’s ludicrous plan to extend compulsory participation in education until 18 was effectively abandoned before it was implemented.

Is the illiteracy rate among school leavers still around 10%, thus laying the foundation for more misery and criminality? Seems like a much more urgent target for remedial work while the Government is splashing cash in all directions.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

Charities, think tanks and the Guardian say

The exact opposite of the truth, at all times.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

For the most part, I agree.
I suppose the history of humankind is a story of missed opportunities.
One of the million of these was when the alternative to Grammar Schools, in the otherwise excellent Education Act of 1944, was the unhappy unsuccessful Secondary Modern.
Instead it should have been schools where late developers could do well at academic courses, but which emphasised vocational activities; everything from farming, horticulture, management of horses, to auto-mechanic workshops, carpentry, plumbing, pottery, you name it.
I am sure that the consequence would have been (a) no bored youngsters. If someone is wild about crafting leatherwork he or she is going to run to such a school and will need to be dragged away from it at the close of business each day. They would also effectually serve a fine apprenticeship before entering such activity professionally.
(b) Furthermore they would put up with learning to read and write PROPERLY, likewise acquiring real numeracy; as part of the deal.
“Sammy and Ellen, you can go out to see to the horses if you do your writing task carefully and well.”

Last edited 3 years ago by Peter Scott
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

I don’t know about abolish, but educrats have not acquitted themselves well during this time. Some certainly view schools as a combination of day care and day prison, depending on location, but the job of education is too large to do on an exclusively private basis.
This, of course, means nothing will change, not in the US where unions hold far too much sway. There will be more homeschooling, there will be those who move their kids to private or parochial schools, but the masses are stuck, especially those for whom education can be a lifeline. That lifeline is essentially cut off by the same govt officials who posture about how much they care for the kiddies, especially the disadvantaged ones. They don’t. Those kids are props and nothing more.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
3 years ago

Well I’m a conservative, but I think this is one of the most thought provoking articles I’ve read for some time.
Schools have to a large extent especially in “areas of deprivation”, become factories for the production of woke automatons and little to do with the preparation of children to cope with or engage in real life.
The world is in a mess aided by technology with no regard to its effect on young lives. Something radical needs to be done a perhaps schools are the place to start.
Is there such a thing as a “Radical conservative”?

Last edited 3 years ago by Alex Tickell
David J
David J
3 years ago

This article reads like a different planet to the state schools that my daughters attended.
Apart from the standard lessons, our girls learned about public speaking, interaction with their peers and other adults, and attending a range of after-school activities.
They also learned social behaviour through being paired as helpers with fellow-pupils who were having difficulties of one sort or another.
As parents, we wouldn’t have been able to match those opportunities, however much time, money, or willingness we had available.

Last edited 3 years ago by David J
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Whilst I think this article means well and covers some good criticisms of education, I think it misses a key point about what can motivate people. It also goes overboard on how it sees the children as virtually under attack. Children today arguably have it too easy. There is little cost or benefit for failure or success.
Where is the motivation for the majority of children in a modern society? A lot of children already have most of the creature comforts they need (phones, playstations, fashionable clothes etc.) Doing well in exams requires a certain amount of abstract motivation as there is not an immediate benefit from working hard, and no immediate loss either for doing badly.
There will always be some (even many) who have a natural drive to excel, or have it drummed into them by proactive parents or a combination of both. But for many it’s just going through the motions.
I say this as agnostically as possible – it’s not the children’s fault per se. And nor do I think that there is an easy or sensible solution to make it hard for them just to try and motivate. It’s just an unfortunate by-product of modern existence.
Where this article is wrong is by saying it’s the education system’s fault for not motivating them, and that it’s causing anxiety (a classic over-exaggerated illness not seen in societies with real tangible struggles). I don’t see a better solution.

Last edited 3 years ago by A Spetzari
Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

OFSTED say it is Teachers fault. So do school management. They all drink the same Kool-aid. If students aren’t motivated to get educated than they shouldn’t be there. They aren’t going to be educated if they aren’t motivated.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
3 years ago

Homeschooled all 4 – much better all round

Susie E
Susie E
3 years ago

I’m considering this… but it’s daunting. Eldest should be starting school in September…

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Susie E

One of the things people are forgetting is the fact that when you get to school, you also have to mix with other children. Your children will really miss out on this if they don‘t go to school. Not always easy, of course, particularly if your child is very sensitive, but it is an important life skill which they won‘t get if Mummy (or Daddy but let‘s face it, it‘s usually Mummy) is always around watching their backs. Also, think of your own sanity, yes you may be a parent who can think of nothing better than being full-time with their offspring, but most of us need a break.

Pp Pppp
Pp Pppp
3 years ago
Reply to  Fiona Cordy

Of course. I’ve kept my home educated children in the cupboard under the stairs for the last decade or more. No socialising for them, no sirree.

Back on planet reality, so many people home educate nowadays that the challenge is actually to keep everyone’s diaries clear enough that they have enough time quietly at home.

Also in my experience, the square pegs (socially) will be square pegs wherever they are, but at least if they are home educated, they can learn to socialize at their own pace, with much older or younger people if appropriate, and with enough adult support (not just from their own parents) that they maximise their skills and confidence as they go along.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Small children, by and large, love school and love learning. But somehow, by the age of 9 or 10, our wonderful education system seems to have turned off a significant proportion of them, making them resentful, unruly, disruptive and bored. I’m not sure what causes this to happen, it’s a while since my children left school and my grandchildren are still at the”loving it” stage, but we need to figure out what it is.
To return to the theme of the article, it’s very obvious that the trend towards starting schooling at a younger and younger age is very much about providing state-subsidised childcare for the chattering classes who initiated it. The notion of curricula and learning objectives for nurseries is ridiculous. Small children need socialisation, not education.
One damaging side-effect has been to kill off the Playgroup movement, which was a wonderful thing that served both my children and their parents well.

Mike Ferro
Mike Ferro
3 years ago

Never mind ‘combine the attributes of a High Court Judge, a Welfare Officer, and a Prison Guard’, a teacher I knew said the key work experience would be to have been a lion tamer. The children hold all the power but you have to make them believe otherwise

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

This article is spot on and first rate. But may I suggest one or two refinements of “school” which could mitigate a policy of total abolition? First, school should be a place of safety. When the law has no teeth, then criminals grow fangs. It is no accident that bullying has increased as discipline has collapsed. One teacher I know was routinely kicked by her pupils. This doesn’t mean the strap or the birch – or even the cane. It means swift justice meted out in the absence of parental judgement – lines, detention and miserable tasks. Second, school should be a place of learning, which means selection. To cultivate talent you must first identify it; and to cultivate it intensively you must isolate it. This means selection and setting. It means vocational training for those with manual or practical gifts. It means a restoration of special schools for those with “special needs”. In short, it means the crushing of Crosland and a return to the conditions of 44 to 65. Of course, this brings us back to bullying, too. For the comprehensive dump – there is no other appropriate word – which corrals a mob of undifferentiated young in vast, impersonal modernist dungeons for the purpose of ingesting an increasingly bastardised version of the academic curriculum, will naturally lead to boredom, envy and resentment – seed beds of violence. The so-called experiment has failed and failed repeatedly. Only the entrenchment of a now quite lunatic elite prevents genuine reform. On schools and on health, on law and on the economy, the Right is right and always has been; the centre cowardly and the left insane. Only in rare flashes does our allegedly “conservative” party recognise this.

Angela Clough
Angela Clough
3 years ago

This article started promising but then veered off into what I feel can only be described as a wish list for middle class teen boys.

Learning is a social process, home learning at a screen all day is not the best way for people to learn. It is not impossible to teach oneself, but for many embedding new skills comes from a range of pedagogical approaches which have been supported by evidence based research.

Thomas Laird
Thomas Laird
3 years ago

I’ve been looking forward to the prospect of teachers going on strike….and staying on strike…permanently. They are in fact largely superfluous overpaid child care assistants and it’s time that fact sunk in.
The academic industrial complex could do with being ripped down.
“Oh but kids need to be socialised.” What? You don’t allow your kids any kind of socialisation outside of the schoolyard?
If an adult doesn’t like their job they can always quit and get another. Pity the poor child who has to go to an open prison for 11 years. They are stuck.

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Laird

It would actually force me to go out and get a proper job, yes. Socialisation agenda is nonsense, but the lie has been told long enough and loud enough. The agenda is to basically move the goalposts quietly away from any form of academic rigour to extended childcare. There are many who are completely comfortable with this, as has been repeated endlessly throughout lockdown commentaries by heads and other “big beasts” (who don’t actually have to do the childminding)…

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

It is easy to list the faults with Uk education. Starting at the top. Polytechnics were excellent places teaching vocational subjects. People often went at day release or night school while working and sponsored by employers. Germany still does a lot of this and their economy benefits.
Sadly academic snobbery resulted into good polytechnics morning into bad universities. Teaching non vocational degrees at a huge price .
Secondary schooling in the Uk also has a major problem. Its very uniformity means it is hugely prescribed- teachers are ludicrously overworked -often working all day and marking most evenings. So we have tired teachers plodding down a prescriptive system – sadly of a uniform political hue – vaguely left -teaching oversized classes -many of whom do not want to be there.
The cause of this costly mess is due to two different organisations – The spectacularly useless Department of Education at the top and the Similarly useless Teachers union at the bottom.
No one speaks for the customers.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago

It isn’t just in the UK, it is certainly everywhere in the Anglozone.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

The central thesis that schools primary role is to allow parents to go to work is true.
The fault here lies with banks. Banks lend on houses and the more they lend the more house prices rise. Increase demand (ie lending) prices rise.
Banks have deliberately lent more and more on houses to push house prices up -because this is how they get bigger mortgage payments – requiring both parents to work. The Banks lend more- improve their debt to asset ratio – security – and get more of the nations wages.
The fact that it forces women into work and deprives children is a bad byproduct.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Bravo! Well said! Radical indeed … But what would all the teachers do?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

Work!

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

They could look after all the beagles that have been unemployed since they can’t smoke or hunt foxes anymore.

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago

something more useful with our lives?

Ian Standingford
Ian Standingford
3 years ago

Some of them spend all day reading Unherd and “The Spectator”

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Attend BLM marches? Decolonialize the National Trust and the National Gallery? Go through Libraries to monitor which books are wrong? So much they could be doing to save us from ourselves.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

I recall reading an article written, I think in the 1950s by an American, who suggested that free, compulsory state provided education was merely a way of indoctrinating people into being compliant and obedient citizens, subject to the whims of government. Pretty much what your quote from Lorna Finlayson.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

some years later, a comedian said the purpose of schools was to produce people just smart enough to run the machines and process the paperwork, but not smart enough to question things. And that has since been compounded by an anti-American drumbeat that starts in kindergarten and does not stop. The result has been an angry generation with less reason to be angry than any in our history.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

I don’t know about abolish, but educrats have not acquitted themselves well during this time. The job of education is too large to do on an exclusively private basis which mostly means that nothing major will change, at least not in the US.
There will be more homeschooling, there will be those who move their kids to private or parochial schools, but the masses are stuck, especially those for whom education can be a lifeline. That lifeline is essentially cut off by the same govt officials who posture about how much they care for the kiddies, especially the disadvantaged ones. They don’t. Those kids are props and nothing more.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago

Very good article. Maybe it’s that I’m searching using the wrong terms, but it seems very hard to find any decent data about schooling before, say, 1939 – literacy rates, what questions were asked in school leaving exams and the standard achieved etc. My impression is that literacy rates were broadly similar to today’s even in the late 19th century and children were generally achieving the same standards in English and maths then at 14/15 as their counterparts are today with two years additional schooling. If anyone has any facts on this, though, I stand to be corrected and would be very interested to see them.

Robin BLAKE
Robin BLAKE
3 years ago

De-schooling ideas are attractive. They were forcefully put forward in the 1970s by Ivan Illich a well known Marxist. You are on the right sort of lines when you suggest school (after about 14) could become voluntary, with really good opportunities for adults to come back to free education — even to Carol Ann Duffy’s poems, bless her — at an age when the money wouldn’t be as wasted as so much of it is now.

Shyam Mehta
Shyam Mehta
3 years ago

What a wonderful article. It really gells with me and the absurdity of schooling/uni in my case. What on earth does one need to compel people to learn history or English lit or poetry? If they want to learn something they will, as I did, on my own. Consider Imperial College who one day says there will be 500,000 deaths and a few days later says 20,000. What common sense did this group learn when they were 5? What did they learn? It is the same in my fields of economics and finance. One needs common sense, practicality, not nonsensical theorising. For me the only use of uni was as a meal ticket as employers are impressed with ‘Cambridge’ degree. The nonsense I was taught at Cambridge is beyond belief.
Actually, in the 1970s when I first became interested in libertarianism, there was a lot of research into free market vs socialist education and schooling systems.
Maybe these will be interesting to some of your readers:
http://www.manhattan-institute.org/on-the-ground/miracle-east-harlem
https://danieljmitchell.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/education-week-part-ii-the-case-for-school-choice/

Edward Noble
Edward Noble
3 years ago

My wife taught French in a Comprehensive. She had to teach even those at the very bottom of the academic pile who were not even capable of copying something from the blackboard. All in the name of equality. However, all it succeeded in doing was to give these poor children something else to fail at and feel bad about themselves.

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
3 years ago

I have been a teacher for thirty years and now teach in a famous independent school. I like my students and colleagues and I try hard to interest them in my subjects. They generally are responsive and seem interested much of the time.
However, this article is right. Once children have got beyond basic skills sitting in a classroom is unproductive. They can learn what they find useful and interesting more productively outside schools as long as they have some support and encouragement.

However the most criminal thing we do is push so many of them to be bored and indebted at university.

Greg Greg
Greg Greg
3 years ago

It is telling that homeschoolers report that their children can accomplish, and learn, more in 2 hours than the public schools do in 8. Not to mention that homeschooling is the final safeguard against the Totalitarian Left which commands the heights of most culture shaping institutions, public education being near the top.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

Children should be queuing up for Eton as it is about to go completely Woke.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

For persons like Will Lloyd for whom learning “the life and thought of Rosa Luxemburg” is the moral equivalent of caning, education is a waste at best, …probably the entire canon from Homer and the Bible to Shakespeare and Eliot, the whole project of enculturation. As it is the system is producing too many Trumps, Blairs, and Bezos, …and certainly science has proved “the god that failed”. Perhaps we’d all be better off with “free range children.”

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago

 In reality, most of them could go to work.
Well, you’d really be getting your money’s worth out of any HR department that had to adjudicate workplace disputes between 8 year-olds, that much is clear.

Last edited 3 years ago by M Spahn
Anjela Kewell
Anjela Kewell
3 years ago

I agree totally. We are being told by the teaching unions that there is much hidden cruelty at home whilst children cannot get to school.
I do not believe this. Most parents live their kids and want the best for them. I live in an area where there are lots of families and our front doors open directly onto the street. This pandemic has seen those families walking out together, shopping for elderly neighbours and enjoying games in the garden.
The youngsters themselves have not been hanging around street corners or drinking stolen beer in the car parks. They have been meeting their friends and talking on the doorsteps but we have all noticed how the hoodies have gone, the earphones have gone and the kids all seem much more relaxed.
There is of course mental issues with children locked in high rise flats. There is of course isolation and sadness but this is not due to lack of schooling. It’s due to State cruelty that will return in the schools when the children are forced to return. If you can read, write and do your sums everything else can be self taught.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
3 years ago

I thought that children had to go to school to be indoctrinated by the left on such subjects as transgender and other sexual things which are unmentionable, including Mermaids who go in in drag to seduce children’s minds backed up by the government. Abolishing schools would be a wonderful way of releasing our children from this corruption. I know lots of people who would love to home school their children and other children, but I suspect that the government would call us bigots and want us to do the required corruption lessons.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tony Conrad
Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

The author makes a basic mistakes. He says that school is child care (and I agree; I am in Scotland and here primary school is indeed child-care), but then goes on talking about secondary. Secondary pupils don’t need child care any more, do they.
I have seen my primary kids bored out of their wits with this endless slew of worksheets on decimal sums, angles and so on. They got the concept alright, what is the point of torturing them with more of the same? What boxes must the teacher tick?
And don’t get me started with the health and wellbeing which usually is met with scorn (by everyone in the household).
There again, what could they do differently?
And once back in the classroom, what could they do differently (except ditching the health and wellbeing nonsense)?

Philip Harris
Philip Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Set a minimum educational standard that can be completed at school or home and then make mass schooling optional from that point. The revolution is starting…

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

They might not need it(childcare) but they will certainly be forced to get it!

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

Great caption photograph. Young Empire builders ‘under training’.
Well chosen.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Using a French opinion about the English, eg, le vice anglais, and accepting it as accurate is not very sensible. Certainly corporal punishment in schools was unpopular in France from the 19th century onwards, perhaps as a result of the French Revolution (it was banned in Russia and China after both their revolutions), but in most European countries it was commonplace until different times during the 20th century, from 1928 in Italy to 1985 in Spain. Corporal punishment is still used in India and Japan, but like everywhere else will probably come to an end soon.
I am not denying that there were/are some peculiar teachers historically, and today (and always will be), but let’s not forget that one of the most notorious advocates of S and M vices was a frenchman, the Marquis de Sade.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago

Its not the idea of learning, or even school based learning that is the problem. In the UK all main political parties believe that better education will mean fewer votes for them. The irony being they can’t all be right. They have misused the powers they take to damage the minds of the young. For the Tories this takes the form of instilling greed, bullying and contempt for learning in the name of economic growth. For Labour its envy, bullying and contempt for people with different skin color or heritage in the name of utopian socialism. In either case this has nothing to do with learning, as the relatively benign and effective education systems in Scandinavia or even the Far East show us. (Note most of the latter still uses corporal punishment) Try explaining to someone from Spain or Italy that the person in charge of the UK curriculum has never been a teacher, until they see the evidence they don’t believe it.

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago

I’m past the child-rearing stage, so I have a question for anyone who cares to answer and who is still raising school-age children. Do the kids believe the woke agenda being thrust upon them by schools? Do they see through it or swallow it hook line and sinker?

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

An interesting article, thanks Will. There is hard kernel at the centre of this area that I think most can feel but it is neverless hard to perceive the shape of it. Are many teachers at best mediocre, possibly. Is all the bureaucratic testing a causing a problem, yep I think it is. Should we abolish the whole institution effectivley creating new under class of those never educated. Where the only qualification that really matters is being able to rapidly call up anger and violence. Probably not the best way to prepare our children to take part and contribute to a 21st century high tech society.

Last edited 3 years ago by Steve Craddock
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago