March 09, 2010
“Is Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead simply glib and superficial?”
Some thirty years ago now, it was one of the English essay questions put to me in my final year at high school. My written answer””Yes””was perhaps itself a little glib and superficial and deserving of its low mark. But I was eighteen years old and going for the laugh. I suspect they would not ask such questions these days, for it would be deemed too demanding, too excluding, too elitist, too unfair. After all, it would require a pupil to read, comprehend, think, and write. Heaven forbid. In the eyes of the liberal-left that simply will not do.
To elevate or dumb down, this is the issue. And given the grey and spoon-fed nature of our age”in which no-one may excel or do better than the rest”it will be presented in a bite-sized and multiple-choice format with reference books allowed. Nothing too challenging, you understand. That would be to infringe individual rights, to raise the sight too high. It is all part of the liberal-left agenda. They claim to want everyone to start from the same point. What in fact they desire is for everyone to end there. How bleak and dull. How uninspiring. Small wonder our students prefer to sniff solvent.
Over the past fifty years or so in which it has dominated the British education establishment, the Left has created a system where ability is neutered and success despised, where the brightest are not stretched and the stupid become dumber. None are permitted to thrive; none are allowed to fail. Few benefit. At each stage and at every level of the talent spectrum, there is a hemorrhaging of standards that leaks from the schools to infect society as a whole. The liberal-left claims to be anti-elitist. In reality, it is against all forms of excellence. All get their lollipop and their A-starred grade, are patted on the back and told that though they cannot spell and can scarcely speak English there is ever welfare or a media-studies degree to scoop them up. Then we are surprised to find almost 900,000 young Neets (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) living in our midst. This is what soft leftism has done. We cannot produce competent individuals to so much as work in a coffee shop let alone provide the entrepreneurs, skilled laborers, and economic-drivers of the future. Just ask yourself if you would prefer to be served by a pretty and engaging Slovakian or Kiwi girl or by an indigenous and bun-faced troll coaxed from a nearby housing-estate. We used to have an education system that provided a ladder from the ghetto. Now we have an education secretary named Balls. Funny that.
I sometimes think it is because they themselves are often third-rate and disappointed (and are products of their own flawed education process), left-wing educationalists resent success in their students. But then, their time is taken up with fire-fighting and crisis-management, with shouting to be heard above the multi-cultural classroom babble, with struggling to hold together the collapsing structures their ideology has helped to create. A culture of mediocrity and a creed of inclusivity prevail. Pupils are not motivated or stretched or measured by ability; pupils are told weak grades are a symptom of disadvantage and that allowance will be made. It has consigned generations to the trash. From the lack of competitive sports on the playing-fields to the lack of discipline in the schoolroom, the leaden effects of the liberal-left can be seen. A vicious circle (our illiterate young would probably spell it “viscous”).
We need electricians and plumbers; what we get are hard-working Poles. We require scientists and engineers; we receive from the British education system youngsters whose opposable thumbs can just about master an X-Box. We are crying out for savvy and articulate go-getters in the financial markets and wider industry; instead, we are infested with simians who mangle their words and can barely chew their burgers. Meantime, the state-employed servants continue to work their vacuous magic on the state-designed curriculum in order to churn out state-supported rejects. There is a limited market for semi-trained bird-scarers.
I was privileged enough to be educated at what the media would describe as “top private schools”. Left-wingers would consider this disgraceful. They are right. It is disgraceful my parents were obliged to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to educate me (and save money for the state) whilst simultaneously paying in taxes for the supposed education of others, disgraceful I was schooled privately because state-funded education is so lousy, disgraceful the mass of the population cannot benefit from the kind of education I enjoyed on account of political dogma and interference by the Left. Look closely. You will find it has little to do with wealth and everything to do with attitude. If the state encouraged excellence, there would be excellence. If the state allowed the best to thrive, the best would thrive. Common sense”and spite and narrow minds have killed it.
When I was young, exams were testing, academic rigor existed and we left junior school being able to read and write and do arithmetic. That would seem impossible today. Indeed, summer classes are required to raise pupils to even a basic standard. Many of the pampered, spoilt and undisciplined pupils from the state sector would simply not survive the boundaries and apparent privations to be found in the private sphere. They would be wetting their beds and crying for their mothers within days of arriving at boarding-school. Those who, like me, attended such establishments in the early Seventies “ sleeping on horsehair mattresses, surviving on a diet of spam luncheon meat, and occasionally being beaten by the headmaster for our misdemeanors “ learnt independence of mind and spirit and the value of learning. I loved the place (apparently Prince Charles did not). It is an era and philosophy that are vanished. The ageing cook at my prep school had in his earliest years survived a maritime disaster in mid-Atlantic. When eating his execrable cuisine I on occasion wished he had not. The incident involved a little-known vessel named the RMS Titanic.