Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gove v. Wert: Miseducation

Who would be an education minister? It's a thankless task. Before you even introduce whatever mad idea you have dreamt up, you should know that it will bring down on top of you an entire curriculum's worth of extremely brown, yucky, stinky opprobrium stuff. But politicians like becoming education ministers. Education is one thing they can all claim to have experienced, if only the receiving end. It was, for example, pointed out that the new Balearics education minister, lacking any other credential, had at least been to school. And as politicians have all had an education, they all reckon they know best, and their best is usually at variance to what everyone else thinks.

It wouldn't be so bad if education ministers weren't supercilious, dismissive, two-brained geeks, but, because being so appears to be a qualification for the job, such geekery only serves to reinforce an impression of self-centred, ideologically-driven aloofness. Take Michael Gove, for instance. The two giant brains do not prevent him from displaying a chronic lack of intelligence. Actually, it isn't a lack of intelligence, it is the malaise of men from the ministry of education; meddle a bit, meddle some more and, just to be sure, go into meddle overdrive.

Gove's retro-modernism isn't all totally stupid. Turning the clock back to the days of the O Level exam seems fair enough, if only to put a stop to Professor Google's takeover of GCSE coursework. His taking on of the "blob", the amorphous, self-interested leviathan of the universities, local authorities and unions, is all good, handing-education-over-to-parents, Tory knockabout stuff, but unfortunately for Gove, the blob is significantly larger than his own vast intellect. "He Was Consumed By The Blob" will be his ministerial obituary, if the blob hasn't been beaten to it by the historati, who have forced him to abandon his perfectly ludicrous insistence on teaching the manic-depressive, sociopathic opium addict who was Clive of India to small, impressionable children, some of whom, one imagines, are of Indian origin.

Gove does, though, have support, unlike Spain's education minister. José Ignacio Wert has achieved the remarkable for education politics: a consensus. The only trouble is that it is a consensus based on more or less everyone disagreeing with him, and the objectors include considerable numbers within the ranks of his own party. Wert's Law, as the new education bill isn't known (and it of course wouldn't be, despite the drive towards English as part of a trilingual system), is so toxic that not even other senior PP figures dare utter its Castilian name - Ley Wert. And it does indeed sound toxic, like some poisonous weed lurking among the nettles in the back garden.

Wert, who divides his ministerial time with culture as well, was invited along the other evening to the Teatro Real. He accompanied Queen Sofia in the royal box. The Queen, who has enough on her plate as it is with the various embarrassments regarding members of the family, could have done without Wert being there to add to her embarrassment. Imagine this, Madrid society is out in its tuxedo and tiara best, and when it comes to Wert being welcomed by the theatre's director, this society turns on him, boos him, demands his resignation and calls for public education for all.

The minister has thus far managed to inspire two general strikes in education since he became minister. He has antagonised the Catalan-speaking population by a programme of "castellanisation" in Catalonia in order to make students there feel greater national (i.e. Spanish) pride. He has even antagonised staunch Catholic supporters of the PP by the importance he is placing on religious education. Now, and this was really what got the booing classes of Madrid agitated, he's refusing to budge on minimum academic attainment levels that will qualify students for university grants. This is considered to be discriminatory against families with fewer resources.

In a wider context, it goes against ambitions to improve Spain's educational performance (which isn't anything like as good as it might be), as it may well lead to a fall in those entering higher education and so reduce chances of Spain improving its competitiveness (which is also not as good as it might be).

While Wert appears to be following a course to make the nation's young - including the Catalans - good, Catholic, not-so-well educated Spaniards, Gove has been agonising over Clive of India. Gove versus Wert? Well, at least some people think Gove is right.

Any comments to please.

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