14th May 2020 In their rush to get the profits going again the ‘Government’ seems intent on easing Lockdown. They are proposing amongst other things to open schools again in what they call a phased kind of way. If/when the Plague starts up again and if/when little kids suffer because it’s impossible to have them maintain ‘social distancing’, the decision may be reversed, so they say.
It’s interesting that a ‘phased’ re-opening of pleb-schools will start from June 1st while Eton, will not resume its Big Nob Brainwashing till September – we must not expose the rich to the threat of the Plague. It really is Class Warfare but not so you’d notice.
And MP’s are worried about going back to sit in the House of [whatever one cares to call it…] – they don’t want to be exposed to the Plague either. But pleb-schools will re-open on 1st June.
On the 13th May a joint statement from the teaching and other unions urged the Government to ‘step back’ from its June 1st plan and ‘work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out’. They accused ministers of not understanding that when there are fifteen very young children in a class classrooms could become sources of Covid-19 transmission and spread. It was admitted that children generally have mild symptoms but there’s no knowing whether they can transmit the disease to adults.
Lord Blunkett, former Labour education secretary, said he had been ‘really surprised’ by the attitude of teaching unions to the lockdown lifting plan, declaring that those opposed to it are ‘working against the interests of children’. He said that school closures were hitting ‘the children of the most disadvantaged’ hardest, with well-off parents able to afford catch-up tutoring and help their kids with online studies. I suppose this is disgustingly true but when he blames the unions for causing parents to be ‘frightened about putting their children back into schools’ he is talking crap.
Osama Rahman, DfE chief scientist made the absurd comment that though he had not assessed the effectiveness of government guidance on reopening schools, they’d been ‘led by the science’ – he had ‘full confidence’ in the proposals. This is not a scientific standpoint.
It strikes me that though parents might find it very difficult to manage, a year off school would probably make no difference to a child’s education. The question for everybody should be – how do we teach for self-disciplined independent learning? I know that much of my own learning took place outside school – there was something inside me that just kept at it; what on earth was it?
There are many questions that are never even asked. For example – What is Education for? Not for the sake of working till you drop, and certainly not to satisfy the demands of politicians or profiteers.
The Lockdown has prompted me to do a bit of clearing up, garden fiddling and reminiscing. Something that seemed relevant was this old essay I wrote during the first term at James Graham College of Education, out in the country between Leeds & Bradford. The prose does creak a bit but I’ve done a very small amount of tweaking, getting rid of a few references to ‘man’ – notice how one reacts to the word whenever it occurs where I’ve left it! – and swishing out a few awkward expressions but this is substantially what I wrote then with a few square-bracketed comments. Meta-I asserts that the ‘I’ that wrote the following in 1964 is the same ‘I’ that has produced this Glob.
A Concept of the Educated Man [or ‘Person’ as it would have been better to say even then!]
15th November 1964
The abstraction ‘The Educated Man’ has no real use in discourse unless it is first fully analysed and is then understood in its extended sense: ‘there cannot be one prototypic model of the ‘educated man…’ (GHBantock) The usual and idealistic connotation of the phrase suggests that it is possible to draw distinctions between ‘men’ who have received different kinds of education and say that a particular ‘man’ after a particular course of education is qualitatively ‘better’ educated when in fact he has only received a different kind of education, has had his mind stretched in a different direction. Thus, for example, the arguments of those who put forward, the claims of exclusively ‘scientific’, ‘arts’, or ‘vocationally biassed’ educations distort the concept of the ‘educated man’ if they suggest that he is the result of only one of these methods; they make misleading and artificial distinctions as to the importance of a total knowledge of the world; they fail to consider the full man. Education is concerned with the development of a total being which has to respond in a holistic way to its environment in order to function fully and adequately in it.
Any conclusion about the relative merits of those who have been educated rests in the comparison itself and not in an ideal product. There are levels of consciousness and degrees of proficiency; depending on the development of these factors in any individual together with an increasing awareness of the world we may make general comparative statements about a level of education. Above all education cannot be said to be complete unless we are living the kind of life which time and circumstances demand of us. (The Education of Good Men – MLJacks)
We cannot, then, begin to consider ‘the educated man’ without looking at his relationship with the world or without some consideration of the aims and purposes of education. People who fulfil such aims and respond to the world in a human and integrated way could be said to have been fully ‘educated’.
It must be emphasised however that decisions about even the degree to which an individual has benefited from an educational process rest on value judgments and are relative to one’s own politico-religious background or bias.
For a reasonably objective, full but undeveloped statement of the aims of education, we need go no further than the Newsom Report. Through a consideration of these aims we may define the kind of education which will produce ‘good’ men and this will in turn involve saying whom we regard as the ‘educated’ ones!
[15th May 2020: ‘In 1963 John Newsom’s report, Half Our Future, showed that we were in fact running an education system that effectively excluded those whose attainments were below average…’ Guardian report 11th Feb 2013 – the writer was responding to Brother Gove’s suggestion that attempts to enhance the education of the ‘below average’ had resulted in ‘dumbing down’ the entire education system…]
I quote paragraph 76 of the Report in full:-
Most teachers and parents would agree with us about general objectives. Skills, qualities of character, knowledge, physical well-being, are all to be desired. Boys and girls need to be helped to develop certain skills of communication in speech and in writing, in reading with understanding, and in calculations involving numbers and measurement: these skills are basic, in that they are tools to other learning and without some mastery of them the pupils will be cut off from whole areas of human thought and experience. But they do not by themselves represent an adequate minimum education at which to aim. All boys and girls need to develop, as well as skills, capacities for thought, judgment, enjoyment, curiosity. They need to develop a sense of responsibility for their work and towards other people, and to begin to arrive at some code of moral and social behaviour which is self-imposed. It is important that they should have some understanding of the physical world and of the human society in which they are growing up.
This paragraph is important because it sums up the basic ingredients of what makes a person ‘educated’ – possessed of basic skills but also capable of sensitive communication with their fellows with social awareness and an awareness of the physical world.
The Report goes on to enumerate various aspects of the modern world which education must take into account. A person cannot be considered to be fully educated without awareness of these ‘public events and fields of ideas and of knowledge which have a significance for everyone…’ There must be ‘at least the vocabulary for discussion of such topics as the impact of science and technology on our everyday lives, automation and the reduction of the working week, the threat of nuclear war, the economic interdependence of the nations of the world, economic and social conditions in other countries, new concepts of partnership between men and women at work and in marriage and the effects of the mass media.
[15th May 2020: 1964 saw the publication of Sir Leon Bagrit’s Reith Lectures during which he proposed that the introduction of electronic gadgetry of one kind and another would entail a big reduction in work ‘slavery’ (my word!) and a corresponding increase in opportunities for leisure. Oh, where are you now, Newsom & Bagrit? The Capitalist class had other ideas…]
The Report makes the point that the separate subjects at which children become proficient are not in themselves important [15th May 2020: repeat… the separate subjects at which children become proficient are not in themselves important] but that the value to be derived from formal education as a whole is in the pattern of awareness which it conveys to the child. It advocates discussion ‘…to develop judgment and discrimination…’
[15th May 2020: Stap me, gentlemen! as my old Greek master, Bunter Brown, used to say… As somebody in The Lords in1808 was honest enough to say, “…we can’t have people judging & discriminating… They’ll see through us…” Whatever next?]
‘…This [viz, developing judgment and discrimination] may apply to enjoyment in music or art or literature; to taste and craftsmanship in the workshop; to a sense of what is appropriate behaviour in a particular situation, which will generally involve some consideration of other people’s feelings and points of view; or to an appreciation of what is relevant to the immediate task in hand…’ Thus educated people would have the spontaneous capacity for discussion of this kind and would be able to develop themselves in relation to opinions put forward in discussion.
Recommendation (c) resulting from Chapter 4 of the Report is as follows:- ‘The value of the educational experience should be assessed in terms of its total impact on the pupil’s skills, qualities and personal development, not by basic attainments alone’. Accept this and it follows that the degree to which a person is educated depends largely on non-examinable, immeasurable qualities. This has important implications for those who would regard ‘the educated man’ as being the one who has obtained the maximum number of educational certificates.
The Report implies ANWhitehead’s statement that ‘…we should banish the idea of a mythical far-off end of education’. His general thesis in Aims of Education (1929) is that we should aim at producing people who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction . The relationship between education and working life requires some examination… [15th May 2020: especially these days when the ‘end of education’ has become fixed at shaping people for wage slavery…]
In my opinion it is not important to educate directly for an individual’s working life. Existence is much more than becoming a slave to an economic machine. Through acquisition of basic skills the individual becomes automatically capable of performing most of the [pretty mundane] tasks required to be performed in the industrial and commercial world. Moral and aesthetic decisions have to be made in addition to these work tasks.
There is nothing especially outstanding about those who are able to attain a high degree of competence at a specialism of some kind. While being a useful functionary, the specialist is not necessarily an ‘educated man’ in the sense of being able to make integrated responses to the total environment.
There is no absolute value in what’s called ‘work’. The spheres of work activity are largely determined by the temporary socio-economic set-up and not necessarily by real human needs. We require individuals with free minds who will be capable of assessing the actual requirements of a community. In The Fear of Freedom Erich Fromm points out that ‘…the subordination of the individual as a means to economic ends is based on the peculiarities of the capitalistic mode of production, which makes the accumulation of capital the purpose and aim of economic activity…’ At least before we insist that education is an ‘investment’ for the future, before we say that education is to fit people for a work-role, we ought to examine precisely what we are investing in and, for example, study what possibilities there are of abolishing the tedium of office routine and factory automatism which can hardly be called a proper fulfilment of the educational process.
I have briefly sketched the Newsom Report’s findings on the objectives of education. Before going on to some personal elaborations, I think it is necessary to point out that education is much wider in scope than the terms of the Report permit it to discuss.
Education is a life-long process; it is wrong to think that it something which just happens to occur between the ages of five and fifteen or twenty as I suppose most people do. Education is concurrent with life and can be a measure of the individual’s development through life. This being so, a discussion of what it is to be educated must include a consideration of the foundations of formal education.
The first educator is the mother. Bertrand Russell writes that ‘one generation of fearless women could transform the world by bringing into it a generation of fearless children, not contorted into unnatural shapes, but straight and candid, generous, affectionate and free…’ If women are to be mothers of this kind they will require education tn such subjects as Child Psychology, child rearing, and house management; but there is no reason why men should not also cover these subjects.
The awareness and capacity for uninhibited discussion which the Newsom Report advocates can only develop in children who have been exposed to a non-authoritarian, child-centred up-bringing; one in which natural curiosity has not been stifled by the priorities of adult convenience and which encourages free self-regulated development of the faculties. The desire to understand things for oneself and to question conventional assumptions can only develop in an atmosphere of freedom.
I take it that imposition of adult authority either inspires rebellion or kills a child’s natural zest for life forcing it to adopt stereotypical responses to situations.
To have any useful effect, discipline must come from the child as a self-imposed awareness of the surrounding world with all its possibilities. The parents’ task is to order the child’s environment to offer the maximum amount of experience while protecting him from coming to real harm. If his progressive curiosity is interrupted then he is denied a composite experience of his small world. [15th May 2020: I was thinking of my son, aged 1, at this point!] These conditions should exist throughout school life and should lead to self-confidence.
The need for the free development of the curiosity is emphasised by Homer Lane. ‘Curiosity is dynamic. .. disciplined curiosity is interest… [The child] will gradually become ‘educated’ or self-governing as he acquires knowledge of facts and of their relation to one another… Every act, conscious or unconscious is the manifestation of some desire of the child-mind for knowledge…’
From this point of view education is the emergence of the individual from its state of initial absolute dependence on its mother into self-regulation, a state of self-conscious, self-willed and disinterested awareness of the world – an awareness capable of avoiding ANWhitehead’s ‘inert ideas’.
The child who is self aware will develop an integrated personalty with infinite possibilities of development. There is a bias against this kind of freedom. Bertrand Russell has pointed out that ‘…thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible…’. The reactionary Colm Brogan (The Nature of Education) warns ‘…when any country has a large number of unemployed intellectuals it contains an exceedingly volatile and dangerous social element. These dangers must threaten any country which embarks on an educational programme far more ambitious than is needed for the time being and far more expensive than the country can afford…’ [15th May 2020: I would not be surprised if those who consider themselves to be our current masters have Brogan’s book on their shelves…]
In The Fear of Freedom, Eric Fromm discusses the reasons for these fears; they have their roots in the fragmentation of life in our society, the way in which the individual is blinded to humanity by economic and political struggles irrelevant to normal human life. ‘Modern man’s feeling of isolation and powerlessness is increased still further by the character which all his human relationships have assumed. The concrete relationship of one individual to another has lost its direct and human character and has assumed a spirit of manipulation and instrumentality. In all social and personal relationships the laws of the market are the rule. It is obvious that the relationship between competitors has to be based on mutual human indifference…’
Fromm endorses the importance of self- awareness and freedom. ‘If the individual realises his self by spontaneous activity and thus relates himself to the world, he ceases to be an isolated atom; he and the world become part of one structuralised whole… [15th May 2020: That would be good!] He can be aware of himself as an active and creative individual and recognises that there is only one meaning of life – the act of living itself…’
As I pointed out earlier, the capacity to respond to the needs of one’s place in time and space is one of the essential characteristics of the totally integrated (educated) personality. Fromm: ‘Only if man masters society and subordinates the economic machine to the purposes of human happiness, and only if he actively participates in the social process, can he overcome what now drives him into despair – his aloneness and the feeling of powerlessness…’
Educated men will transcend the barriers which have been set up in the world and break down the unnatural groupings in society. This is a statement for the future; but education is about the future; the educative process has the potential to reshape the future entirely.
[15th May 2020: Unless of course it’s taken over by the New World Order for its own evil purposes…]
I have already quoted ANWhitehead’s term ‘inert ideas’. I wish now to put it into its context. He wrote [15th May 2020: something I’ve never tired of quoting since I first read it in 1958]: ‘In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call ‘inert ideas’ – that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilised, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.’ He goes on to say that the result of much teaching is the ‘passive reception of disconnected ideas… Let the main ideas which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination possible. The child should make them his own, and should understand their application here and now in the circumstances of his actual life.’ (My emphasis). Men educated in the avoidance of inert ideas will be aware of the limitations of language, they will easily discard the emotive suggestive forces of modern techniques of persuasion, including the directly political , and they will constantly be examining their ideas to see that thev develop…’
Finally, to be called educated, we must be emotionally, intellectually and socially mature. We must have grown out of absolute dependence on others. To the extent to which humans can ‘make the transition from the narrowness of a love-interest centred on their own most intimate circle to a concern with the world outside…’ they may be said to be mature. Education is a progression towards maturity which is in itself a developing relationship with one’s total environment. ‘Encouragement to growth is implicit in social life, in literature and in art; and capacity for growth is the counterpart of the individual’s need for fresh experiences and fresh conquests…’ (CMFleming: The Social Psychology of Education)
I would only use the phrase ‘An Educated Man’ to describe one who is self-governing, free, aware and mature. [15th May 2020: …and able to learn for itself…]
The Education of Good Men: MLJacks
The Newsom Report
Aims of Education: ANWhitehead
The Fear of Freedom: Eric Fromm
Education: Bertrand Russell
Talks to Parents & Teachers: Homer Lane
The Nature of Education: Colm Brogan
The Social Psychology of Education: CMFleming