“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go, Downton”
On the evidence of his recent outspoken address to the Social Market Foundation (Tuesday 5th February), Michael Gove seems to be showing signs of getting desperate. It’s been a difficult couple of months for him, with plenty of criticism of his proposed EBaccs and EBC coming at him from all sides – indeed it’s hard to think of anyone who has recently come out in support of his plans. He does not seem to realise that in order to establish any meaningful reform in education (or any other complex system), you really do need to have the workforce on your side.
In his cheap and unconvincing accusation of Labour denying working-class children the opportunity to study academic subjects, Gove seems to be descending into doing little more than delivering a jumbled tirade of bite-sized quotes that he hopes will spin a good headline in the Daily Mail. These are not the words of a confident commander-in-chief, but the ramblings of someone so firmly fixed in his own ideology that he simply cannot conceive that he just might be wrong, and that he will be victorious simply because he has some sort of divine right. When a crisis occurs and the going gets tough, a leader who is in control remains calm: while still defending his position he carefully leaves room for manoevure and compromise, should it be needed. Simply digging a deeper and deeper hole and providing even more ammunition for the opposition is not the way forward.
Meanwhile in his reference to Rutherford, Dawkins, and a number of great intellectuals of the past (most of whom few have ever heard of), his speech simply confirms his complete lack of understanding of what creativity is and actually involves. Of course there is no mention of any contemporary artists, designers and performers, as this might spoil his argument, but at the same time it suggests that Gove really does not live in this world, but the last one, as exemplified by his populist-seeking references to Downton Abbey (not to mention Jade Goody, which I won’t). Perhaps it is just him alone who does not seem to have noticed that we no longer live in the Edwardian era, but a whole century later? Gove appears intent on simply replacing station in life due to social class with station in life due to academic ability, whilst somehow failing to recognise that not everyone’s goal in life is political power via an Oxbridge education.
And there is his long-ago retired reference defining non-academics as being ‘good with their hands’ – as if somehow their hands are in someway disconnected from their ears, eyes and brain – surely revealing more about his own limited understanding of the way the world works today.
As regards the revised National Curriculum, despite his assertions, no-one to the knowledge of All Change Please! has ever seriously suggested that children should never, ever be taught any facts. Indeed there is perhaps little to argue about in the new basic requirements, providing teachers remember they do not define any facts that can’t be taught. Except for the fact that we are heading towards a society in which we know everything, but can do nothing.
The sensible thing for Mr Cameron to do now would be to relieve Gove of his post, and let someone else sort out the mess in a more conciliatory manner. “Congratulate him for his effort and dedication in raising important issues”, as Sir Humphrey might say. “As a reward, move him to another department where he can make a crucial impact in the run-up to the next election”, and where “he can do less omni-f****** damage”, as Malcolm Tucker might put it. Unfortunately though I’m not sure that Mr Cameron is that sensible.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zen-whisk/7671515842 Glen Whisk
*** BREAKING NEWS
Michael Gove forced into humiliating U-turn over exam reform