Britain’s schools must be “more than just exam factories”, a cross-party parliamentary group says. Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the report “tackles one of the most pressing questions currently facing our education system: how do we educate resilient young people who have a sense of moral purpose and character, that will grow up to get good jobs and pay taxes, and commit themselves to shafting poor people?”
its report argues that more importance should be given to the development of “character and resilience”. In the current economic climate, there is a concern that some schools may foster attributes such as compassion and inquisitiveness which could prove disastrous.“we have massive inequality and unemployment and it takes massive levels of denial and delusion to maintain this”.
This relates to the situation abroad as well as at home. “There is a very real danger, that should we educate children in such a way as that they value qualities like playfulness and creativity, they might reject wearing clothes produced by children their own age in sweatshops on the other side of the world” one minister warned. In some ways changing methods of production have made it easier to be in denial, he says, as we are no longer face the Dickensian scenario whereby the Dirty Hands of production are clearly visible in the streets and factories of our towns. But “we are exploiting distant Others who we cannot see more than ever, and demanding that they form not just Hands, but Voices, Wombs, and Vaginas. All this demands a lack of scruple on a grotesque scale.”
Health experts have also contributed to the debate. “we are going to be facing cancer in ever-increasing numbers, so we desperately need to be raising up generations with no compassion or empathy or else the situation will be unbearable. And as we prostitute ourselves to corporations who spray our food with poison, and push forward plans to pump carcinogens into the earth and water all over the country as a nation we will have to face the challenge of making sure we can blame fat people for cancer instead. This is all going to take powers of manipulation and a widespread lack of integrity which the current state schools are simply not in a position to provide”
Environmental issues also pose a great challenge for schools. One headteacher pointed out that “we are knee-deep in flood water. Its is going to take an unprecedented amount of burying our heads in the sand to ignore this one. We have to work together to teach children to make sure they take no responsibility, and keep them rabidly consumerist and producing waste in vast quantities.”
Michael Gove has added his views, reflecting on how a focus on resilience and discipline will ultimately aid social mobility: “ for too long there has been an educational Berlin wall which educates only a tiny minority in the ways of selfishness, repression and lack of empathy, and so we have been drawing our arseholes from wealthy elites, we need to act together to ensure that we can raise arseholes from all levels of society, and create a Britain where the wealth you are born with is no obstacle to how big of an arsehole you can become”.