Posts Tagged ‘education’

To become the person you would like to be, you must begin by pretending to be that person.  If you are poor, but would like to be rich, you must first pretend to have those qualities and abilities that will lead you to riches.  If you are meek, but would like to be powerful, you must first pretend to have those qualities and abilities that will lead you to power.  If you would like to have particular new skills, you must first pretend to have those skills.

It is rather obvious where this line of thinking is leading.  For, as you repeatedly pretend and practise, pretend and rehearse, so you get better at what you’re doing.  By degrees, you become the person you would like to be.  And, as you progress, so you can raise your sights to higher levels of achievement.  And, as you gain confidence in the method, you can even change your aims.  In fact, you will almost certainly change your aims ; but this realization need not interfere with your initial purposes.

But you have to prepare yourself for disappointments, because there will be many.  And what better preparation than to pretend that you can handle setbacks almost effortlessly.  With practice, setbacks become simply parts of the process ; and they are necessary parts, for there is much uncertainty in the world.  Few indeed have the gift of foresight.

Perhaps the big question is, What kind of person would you like to be?  The answer will depend on your immediate needs, but also on your world-view ; and these two things must be reconciled.  For those of a particular (and deep-rooted) persuasion, perhaps the words of Evelyn Underhill have a resonance.  “For it is not what you are nor what you have been that God regards with his most merciful eyes, but what you would like to be.”


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In this modern world, where almost an entire population contrives to deceive itself on  life’s more important matters, the ‘news’  tends to be boring and repetitive – not to say, predictable.  We have grown accustomed to reading a headline that announces “Advanced Technology Centre for Leamington Spa” – and to click the spot only to discover that yet another ‘internet awareness’ course for three-year-olds has opened ; or spotting another headline, “Government Crackdown on Hard Drugs” – and then to read that again the pensioners of Nether Wiltington are to be discouraged from making nettle tea (on health grounds, of course).  As if computing were the only kind of advanced technology, and as if the pensioners of Nether Wiltington were the only people to be hooked on nettles.

I wonder that anybody takes the trouble to buy a newspaper nowadays.  But things are improving.  There is real news in the air today.  Something we never knew before.  The Great British People really have been deceived ; and now, thanks to the Institute of Education they really know it.  And they are bound to be angry.

The august Institute has, it seems, unearthed the disturbing fact that some faith schools are religiously exclusive. Believe it or not, in some Roman Catholic schools, more than 90 per cent of children were found to be Christian and in some Jewish schools all pupils were Jewish.

Just how disturbing can a news story get?  What does it say of the state of the nation when schools begin to practise what their titles and charters advertise?  What kind of a mess are we in when the beer is as described on the bottle?

The teachers’ unions and the socialist government are right now acting to put a stop to this untidy arrangement.  Should we be worried?  Would we worry if we had another Cromwell?

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Like everyone else, I’ve read much polemic against the admittedly offensive propaganda being pushed out by some Middle-easterners.  But what impressed me was the way that it is becoming common for people to steer close to rage against what they term the ‘religious indoctrination’ of children in Middle-Eastern places.  People even rage against ‘religious indoctrination’ in our own schools ; and that is worrying.

The general complaint seems to be that children ought to be told nothing whatever about their parents’ religion, but ought be left to ‘make up their own minds when they reach adulthood – or at least reach the age of reason.  So children should decide on matters of truth.  But surely this is silly. Have we forgotten what indoctrination really is?

What is indoctrination?  it’s nothing more sinister than the teaching of doctrines.  At school, I well remember being indoctrinated in the Times Table : in Mental Arithmetic : in parsing sentences : in the Kings and Queens of Britain : in Geography : and in how to use a knife and fork.   Later I was indoctrinated in the laws of Physics and Chemistry, and so on.   And then having to learn by rote about fifty Trigonometrical Identities (few of which I understood).

I do not remember, ever, being invited to give my own opinions on these matters.  I do remember being gently punished once or twice for failing to apply Newton’s Doctrine on Gravitation or Avogadro’s Hypothesis, or some such.  And had to re-write a whole essay once because I made a single spelling mistake.

On the other hand, I received very little by way of indoctrination in religion.  I don’t recall ever being even mildly chastised for failing to list the Ten Commandments correctly, and nobody ever required me to memorise even half of the 198 Laws of Leviticus.

We were examined rigorously on the doctrines of maths, physics, English Language, and so on ; but nobody obliged us to be examined on religion.  But they did oblige us to live by the second Commandment ; thus in a sense, we were subject to continuous assessment on that topic.  If they had not done this to us, I am pretty sure we would have remained the little savages that we were.  We would, in fact, never have reached the stage of reason.

So it is undoubtedly true that in the Middle East, from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Bengal, children generally are educated to believe and obey certain doctrines.  And it is also true that this policy has had some baneful consequences.  But the fault does not lie in the principle of doctrine itself ; it lies in the false principles of false doctrines.  And even then, not all that is taught is false.  And even then, not all that is false is directly harmful.

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    In Henry Cave-Devine’s excellent blog on education, I couldn’t suppress a wave of emotion when I read one of Pseudonym’s comments.  I’m sure she will not mind my repeating it, even though I was critical of the general idea :-

    “There are so many good teachers out there frustrated by the system, and worn out by it, they need support and adequate working conditions.”

    I have no doubt that there are many good teachers ‘out there’ ; but, really, if they are frustrated by the system, they ought to remember that it is their system.  So why don’t they change it?  Why don’t they simply refuse to comply, particularly with directives that have only a marginal relation to education and teaching?  Why aren’t they all writing rude letters to their PC tyrants in HQ?  Tyrants always back down when challenged in a determined way.

    Teachers are ‘worn out’ by the system?  Then any fool can see that the system must be wrong.  All the more reason for a rebellion.

    Teachers need support?  But why should anyone support them if they are complicit in running a shoddy system? a system that consumes ever greater sums of tax-payers’ money while producing results that only get worse year by year.  Teachers will get all the support they need (and more) when they cease enthusing about social engineering and take up the cause for simple academic/practical excellence in basic  knowledge and skills – which are all that children need.

    Working conditions?  We could begin with the school buildings themselves.  They have never been bigger, brighter, cleaner and more boring and bland than they are now.  I managed to dig out a couple of photos of my old Primary/Junior school.  It had the rare distinction of being housed in the relics of an old Army Camp in Kent.  I doubt if the insides had ever been painted since built ; our chief distraction in class was not the teacher wittering on about ‘inclusivity’ and ‘opportunity’ – it was counting the spiders munching away among the roof trusses and listening for rodents under the floors.

    Class photo

    I’m indebted to John Turner for these photographs.

    The thirty-six children in the top photo represent a typical class size ; the room they are in was the poshest we had (for PR purposes!)  I won’t say that the bottom photo was typical of the dinner queue …

    Fancy dress

    Fancy dress day

    What seems to be forgotten is that the material environment of a school is of little account – spiders, rats and creaking roofs are merely character-building.  It is the environment that the teachers create that matters, and this is hard to describe with justice ; for teaching is an art and is not reducible to mere words and numbers.  Suffice to say that we never once heard a teacher complain of how hard their life was ; they never once complained of their environment ; they only ever complained of the foolishness of their pupils (and they had remedies for that).

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Civilizations are built upon habits ; and it is has been traditionally agreed that the earlier those habits are taught, the better it is for the general good.  And those habits really do have to be taught, because men and women are not naturally inclined to act for the general good ; they are naturally inclined to be self-serving (observe the behaviour of babies).

So, the question arises, Which are the habits that are to be taught?  And what is the fundamental principle that underpins them?  Observation suggests that one principle which all seem agreed upon is the goodness of life ; or the goodness of living, in itself.  We abhor death.

But, of course, an abhorrence of death might be a purely selfish attitude ; so we must also abhor the deaths of others.  But it would be fruitless to begin the moral education of a child with this fact, for what does a toddler know of death?  Is it a good idea to risk encouraging morbidity of thought?

So, to avoid getting too analytical on this point, we might consider that the starting point of a moral education is to instil a respect for the well-being of other people ; and a respect for their dignity.  But here, the teacher must (sooner or later) face some uncomfortable questions.  Given that there are some pretty obnoxious people around, we might ask, Who is worthy of respect?  Are there some people whose well-being and dignity we ought to ignore?  Are there some civilizations (social habits) which rank lower than our own?  and in what way ought we to respect them, if at all?  Are we morally entitled to show disrespect to certain classes of people?

Where does the teaching of respect begin?  and does it have an end?

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We all of us have our heroes.   But, more than that, each of us has certain personal favourites ; men and women who really live in our memories, and not as abstractions under a category somewhere.  From my own disordered childhood I can name several.  I have already written a bit about Mr & Mrs Adams and Uncle Jack ; both towering figures whose heads stand above the mists of time.  I have many heroes I knew personally, some old, some young ; and heroes I knew only from the pages of books but who are lively nevertheless.

If education is to be seen properly, it must be understood as the passing-on of the culture from which the child derives its intellectual life.  And this means, to cut a long story short, the passing-on of the lives of heroes ; for culture is not a thing that ‘happens’ ; rather it is a thing that has sprung from the minds of men and women down the ages.  And, out of the multitude of ideas that spring from human minds, what make culture is the enduring ideas ; the ideas of value.  Ideas that can be put to practical use so as to make the world a better place.

Thus it is that our list of heroes contains not just Perseus and Theseus, not just Moses and David, not just Alexander and Caesar, not just Alfred and Victoria.  Our list must also include Socrates and Aquinas, Pythagoras and Newton, Chaucer and Shakespeare, and Bach and Beethoven.

Heroes make manifest the seeds of greatness.  Whether it was only Time and Chance which made the manifestation possible, or whether it was a rare genius, is not a matter which need concern us here.  What matters is that those seeds of greatness are within each of us.  Or so Thomas Gray thought.  And I think he was right :

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear :
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Now I know that modern educationalists, teachers and politicians find the idea of heroism abhorrent (unless such heroism is of a purely utilitarian value or unless it serves a particular political purpose) ; but, if we value our freedoms, we must resist the blandishments of the ‘social engineers’ who desire the destruction of our culture.  If we value our freedoms we must pass on to our children the culture of real heroism and heroes – and not omitting Gray’s ploughmen.

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Precious lives

I am broadly in favour of sex education for older children provided it is taught in a proper and truly responsible way.  What I am against is teaching children to become a part of the growing promiscuous and nihilistic section of society.  In other words, I am against the social engineering being implemented by this thoroughly immoral government led by the ghastly Gordon Brown.

So, no surprise then that I am alarmed and dismayed by what I read on Damian Thompson’s blog on the Daily Telegraph website.

It seems that a body uncannily known as the Catholic Education Service (CES) has endorsed government plans to corrupt the minds of our children ; it has actually endorsed and approved the teaching of blatantly un-Catholic teaching in all Catholic schools.  It even approves of catholic schools teaching children of the government-approved ways of securing abortions ; of officially-approved ways of killing unborn, unwanted and unloved children.

The CES is gutless and unprincipled, yes.  But where is the leadership in the Church as a whole?  Where is the standard-bearer of Christian principles?  Where are his aides?  Why is nobody protesting?  I am tempted to ask, “Who is afraid of whom?”

Did a thousand saints and martyrs die so that we should be reduced to this?

Jamie MacNab

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