L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

08 January 2007 Blog Home : January 2007 : Permalink

Educating Ministers

The Englishman read it first in the Torygraph albeit rather anonymously, then there were comments in the Wapping Liar's blog as well as ones by Guido and Stephen Pollard. All of them concern Ruth Kelly who has decided to take her kid out of state education because her local schools are crap. Various newspapers are claiming that she is therefore a hypocrite, a charge that the latter 3 blog reject. Well I'm going to partially reject their rejection. She is a hypocrite not for her actions in choosing a scholl for her child but because as cabinet minister for eddikashun she has thereby presided over the steady dumbing down of state education combined with centralized micromanagement and thesteadfast denail of the same. Not forgetting coddling the ideologically muddled "teachers" who seem to prefer to keep their charges in ignorance of things such as the unfairness of life and the fact that we are all different. As evidence for the prosecution I present the report fisked admirably by Haddock BDA.

Fortunately, and unlike the usual "progressive" critic, I am able to suggest a way that Ruth Kelly and her fellow ZANU labour colleagues to avoid this kind of embarrassment.

Firstly if they simply provided every child with a voucher for education that could be used anywhere then they would immediately side-step most of the hypocrisy charge. If they then took on the bolshies in the teacher's unions and fired a few of the more obvious Marxist morons, paid salaries based on subject taught and so on then they could happily send their children to Eton or Harrow with no fear of being called a hypocrite. Of course at that point the probably wouldn't need to send their kiddies to independent schools because the state schools would now be of a high enough standard. I regret to say that neither ZANU labour nor the Nouveaux Conservatives will adopt such a policy despite the fact that it is used in such paragons of egalitarianism such as Sweden.

Somewhat coincidentally I was reading (again) some Kipling over at the excellent Whitewolf site this weekend and I cannot help noting the description of Rudyard Kipling's school days in Stalky & Co., not to mention the more biographical essay in Land & Sea Tales Land And Sea Tales, whence these extracts of wisdom:

OF ALL things in the world there is nothing, always excepting a good mother, so worthy of honour as a good school. Our School was created for the sons of officers in the Army and Navy, and filled with boys who meant to follow their father’s calling.

...But I come back to the School that he made and put his mark upon. The boys said that those with whom Cheltenham could do nothing, whom Sherbourne found too tough, and whom even Marlborough had politely asked to leave, had been sent to the School at the beginning of things and turned into men. They were, perhaps, a shade rough sometimes. One very curious detail, which I have never seen or heard of in any school before or since, was that the Army Class, which meant the Prefects, and was generally made up of boys from seventeen and a half to nineteen or thereabouts, was allowed to smoke pipes (cigarettes were then reckoned the direct invention of the Evil One) in the country outside the College. One result of this was that, though these great men talked a good deal about the grain of their pipes, the beauty of their pouches, and the flavour of their tobacco, they did not smoke to any ferocious extent. The other, which concerned me more directly, was that it went much harder with a junior whom they caught smoking than if he had been caught by a master, because the action was flagrant invasion of their privilege, and, therefore, rank insolence—to be punished as such. Years later, the Head admitted that he thought something of this kind would happen when he gave the permission. If any Head-master is anxious to put down smoking nowadays, he might do worse than give this scheme a trial.

... Our masters, luckily, were never gushing. They did not call us Dickie or Johnnie or Tommy, but Smith or Thompson; and when we were undoubtedly bad we were actually and painfully beaten with an indubitable cane on a veritable back till we wept unfeigned tears. Nobody seemed to think that it brutalized our finer feelings, but everybody was relieved when the trouble was over.

Canes, especially when they are brought down with a drawing stroke, sting like hornets; but they are a sound cure for certain offences; and a cut or two, given with no malice, but as a reminder, can correct and keep corrected a false quantity or a wandering mind, more completely than any amount of explanation.

There was one boy, however, to whom every Latin quantity was an arbitrary mystery, and he wound up his crimes by suggesting that he could do better if Latin verse rhymed as decent verse should. He was given an afternoon’s reflection to purge himself of his contempt; and feeling certain that he was in for something rather warm, he turned “Donec gratus eram” into pure Devonshire dialect, rhymed, and showed it up as his contribution to the study of Horace.

He was let off, and his master gave him the run of a big library, where he found as much verse and prose as he wanted; but that ruined his Latin verses and made him write verses of his own. There he found all the English poets from Chaucer to Matthew Arnold, and a book called Imaginary Conversations which he did not understand, but it seemed to be a good thing to imitate. So he imitated and was handed up to the Head, who said that he had better learn Russian under his own eye, so that if ever he were sent to Siberia for lampooning the authorities he might be able to ask for things.

That meant the run of another library—English Dramatists this time; hundreds of old plays; as well as thick brown books of voyages told in language like the ringing of bells. And the Head would sometimes tell him about the manners and customs of the Russians, and sometimes about his own early days at college, when several people who afterwards became great, were all young, and the Head was young with them, and they wrote wonderful things in college magazines.

It was beautiful and cheap—dirt cheap, at the price of a permanent load of impositions, for neglecting mathematics and algebra.

I have no doubt that as is stated somewhere in Stalky that the corporal punishment handed out could be misconstrued as common assault but I am sure that the boys who received it learned what they were taught in class "and a few other things which did not appear in the bills". I also suspect that employers of today would prefer employees educated in such a manner - even including a concentration on Latin and Greek and a total lack of computer skills - over the media studies graduates they actually get from the UK state education system.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin