January 02, 2003
Will the collapse of compulsory education also be Soviet?

From the invaluable Michael Peach, further evidence of the Sovietisation of State Education, as experienced by the teachers:

SO, OVERWORKED AND UNDERFUNDED, bullied, blamed and finally, inspected, fast track dismissal could be a blessed release. But, why should I hand an easy victory to knee-jerk, macho management? When I’m not quite so tired, I can hear the seductive voice of that other reality, whispering, “Why take risks? If you don’t try to tell them like it is then they can’t subvert your warnings into recommendations. Play safe and sell them short. Intone the mantra ‘Just say No’. They’ll all switch off and you’ll get your tick in the Great Ofsted Book of Competence”.

This stuff reads like the best of the Soviet dissident literature of the seventies and eighties.

Mike worries that as home-education spreads the System will react with laws to compel attendance for all. I wonder. I don't just hope he's wrong, I actually think he could be wrong also, as I'm sure he hopes he is. There will be an ever more voluble debate, as the number of home-educators grows and as many more parents think about doing it also, and as the home-education support industry gets into its stride. But I can't see any government wanting to stick red-hot pokers into the lives of some of the most intellectually self-confident and mouthy people in the country.

And think of all those Christian home-schoolers. Does anyone fancy making martyrs out of them? Christians love being martyred. And all those hyper-well-educated home-schooled kids themselves, trading conversational grenades with the compulsion freaks? Tabloid TV will love that.

No, I think it just as likely that home-education will do a boil-the-frog job on the state system. By the time the frog gets the danger, too many will be doing the other stuff, and, politically, it will be too late.

Again, the comparison that suggests itself is the USSR, in this case the collapse of the USSR. How many people prophecied how limp, abject and downright peaceful that would be? Not me. I thought that at least some mad (but stylishly dressed) tank commanders would be screaming defiance, and some unreconstructed Stalinoid politbureaucrats would try to stitch together some kind of damn-you-all Stalinoid government. At least as the ship sank, I thought there'd be some bands playing and some officers saluting.

Actually, a few Stalinoids did attempt something like this. It lasted one day. On the Monday Bernard Levin was saying in the Times that it wouldn't last more than about five years. On the Tuesday he wrote another piece saying: I told you so.

Might not the dream of compulsory state education for all wither away like the old USSR did, not with a bang but with hardly a whimper?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:41 PM
Category: Home education