The Real Problem is “The Snob”, Not “The Blob”, Mr. Gove.Andreas Schleicher, Common Core, Daniel Willingham, EdReform, In The News, Michael Barber, Schools, Standards, Teach First, Teacher Bashing, Testing, Tories, Unions Monday, February 3rd, 2014
The Snob, n.
– A person who admires and seeks to imitate, or associate with, those of higher social status or greater wealth; one who wishes to be regarded as a person of social importance.
– A person who despises those whom he or she considers to be inferior in rank, attainment, or taste.
First some quick background context. “The Blob” is England’s Education Secretary Michael Gove’s unpleasant name for the so-called educational establishment.
Of course, being labelled so doesn’t endear Gove to the teachers, heads, academics, union activists, charity workers, parents, young people and others who might be regarded as part of “The Blob” and who quite reasonably believe they know more about what England’s education system does or does not need than the ex-News International journalist that is the current Secretary of State for Education.
Why then does Gove insult “The Blob”? Apparently, “The Blob” is inspired by a 1950s film about an amoeba-like alien mass which nothing has been able to stop. Gove sees himself as a revolutionary fighting the Blob’s “progressive” grip over teacher training, classroom standards and qualifications.
But is “The Blob” insult not also tinged with a degree of snobbery? Isn’t it that Gove and his chums are what “The Blob” in retaliation might label “The Snob”?
Take Gove’s trips to the US to hobnob with the great and the good (e.g. ExcelinEd, Oct 23, 2013), his platform-sharing with seemingly like-minded but equally divisive figures (e.g. Michelle Rhee) or the constant name-dropping (e.g. E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Daniel Willingham, Andreas Schleicher, Michael Barber) in his speeches.
Might all of this not be because Gove is a person who admires and seeks to imitate, or associate with, those of higher social status or greater wealth; one who wishes to be regarded as a person of social importance?
Or consider his refusal to meet with teaching union representatives unless they meet his conditions, his avoidance of teaching conferences, his appointment of special advisors with little or no teaching experience, or of course his insulting of “The Blob”, “The Trots” and “the enemies of promise”.
Might this not be because Gove is a person who despises those whom he or she considers to be inferior in rank, attainment, or taste?
Today (3rd Feb 2014) Gove was effectively saying state schools weren’t as good as private, fee-paying ones, and that the former ought to be more like the latter. Given that among other things comparing state schools and fee-paying schools isn’t a fair comparison and given that Gove went to a very exclusive fee-paying school, isn’t this also further demonstration of “The Snob”? Do we think Gove would be so fulsome in praise for private schools if he, and his chums, hadn’t been to private school themselves?
It is not only in the words and actions of Gove, however, where we might see “The Snob”. Other public figures in education in England have apparently sided with “The Snob”. In recent years, we have had fee-paying school heads referring to state schools as exam factories, for example, and a Tory government minister claiming other schools than his very exclusive one lack a commitment to public service. Several other public figures have for some time now also backed an alternative teacher training route, which Gove publicly supports, driven by the mantra that current teachers aren’t up to scratch, and what young people really need are high-fliers, many private school educated, because they will set the ‘proper’ example.
Aren’t these attitudes, too, characteristic of “The Snob”?
There’s nothing wrong with private schools per se. We would want parents to invest their time and support in improving the local state school, rather than going down the fee-paying route, but it is their choice ultimately.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for other people’s children. This is also what we want.
There’s nothing wrong with broadening the teacher pool to include those who wouldn’t traditionally consider the teaching profession (even if it’s only a short-term commitment). This too is something to largely welcome.
There’s nothing wrong either with higher expectations, higher standards, music, drama, art, or even the odd test or two.
But there is something very wrong, and plainly counter-productive, in promoting these things, as it seems, by undermining the hard work of “The Blob”, and made all the worse by the suspicion that this is all being underpinned and orchestrated by what we might regard as “The Snob”.