I, Govebot

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Metal Mickey was a popular children’s TV show from the 1970s.

I, ROBOT is a science fiction story written by Issac Asimov in 1939 about a robot that confesses to murdering its creator and then wisely switches itself off to protect humanity. One can only hope that in the near future Metal Mickey Gove does the honourable thing and admits it has similarly murdered education and wisely resigns to protect humanity…

But until that day happens we will need to continue to read Metal Mickey’s special-advisor generated political science fantasy inspired roborage spin. The latest gobbledegove nonsense nostalgically predicts the early 20th century coming of the futuristic ‘Second Industrial Revolution – a New Machine Age’ in which robots do all the making and everyone in the country has a Russell Group University Degree.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/michael-gove-speaks-about-the-future-of-vocational-education

In some ways it is a remarkable speech in that it identifies and acknowledges the scale of the changes ahead. But unfortunately the more Gove says, the more obvious it becomes he has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. His  current reforms of the curriculum, examinations and eBacc-led league tables are  in the process of producing a generation of children unable and unwilling to face the challenges of developing the new ways of thinking and doing that will be needed if the country is to flourish in meeting the threats and opportunities of whatever the next ‘age’ actually turns out to be. Simply making vocational courses more academic in content and in examination is not going to work.

“To ensure we lead the world in the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial thinking required to design and create the new and emerging products and services of the Information Age, we need to completely abandon the notion that the memorisation of academic, out-dated knowledge is the way forward. As a result we shall be completely changing the eBacc to fully reflect the new requirements for teaching and learning in the 21st Century. All students, however academic, will therefore be required to study the Creative Arts, Design and Technology until the age of 18”  – Gove somehow completely omitted to say.

Instead he simply perpetuated the myth that in order to create anything worthwhile you have to first spend the vast majority of your time in school and college studying theory, absorbing knowledge and not daring to ask any awkward questions, such as Why? And at the same time he unwittingly consigned those who learn, succeed and grow best through practical and creative subjects to the growing numbers of NEETS.

Other things he said ranged from the ridiculous:

“….curricula and exams are more rigorous – with a proper emphasis on the centrality of academic knowledge in the education available to all.”

“Giving all children access to high-quality teaching in maths, English, physics, chemistry, biology, languages and the humanities to the age of 16 provides every child with the opportunity to flourish whichever path they subsequently choose.”

To the highly questionable:

“And more than giving children choices, that academic core also trains our minds to be critical and creative.”

“The work of cognitive scientists…..has shown that the best way to develop critical thinking skills is to ensure all children have a firm grounding in a traditional knowledge-based curriculum.”

“You actually need to have knowledge in your head to think well. So a knowledge-based curriculum is the best way to get young people ‘ready for the world of work”

And to the quite outrageous:

“…factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning. So, the more knowledge students accumulate, the smarter they become.”

“And it’s demonstrably the case that the higher order thinking skills we need – even and especially, in the sphere of technology – can be and are successfully cultivated through traditional intellectual disciplines.”

He even managed to equate Design & Technology with little more than the development of skills of traditional craftsmanship (although to be fair, that’s what it still is in many schools).

“In the existing design and technology curriculum students have had the opportunity to work with traditional products – wood and metal in resistant materials, wool and silk in textiles – to learn traditional methods of production. There is – and always will be – a demand for skilled artisanship of this kind.”

Meanwhile All Change Please! has recently been making a first hand study of the works, words and wisdom of Walt Disney, the creator of the educationally maligned but commercially and culturally highly successful Mickey Mouse. Perhaps Metal Mickey Gove should listen more to what he had to say:

“Our greatest national resource is the minds of our children.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

“Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it”

“It‘s a mistake not to give people a chance to learn to depend on themselves while they are young.”

It’s just a great shame that Walt Disney is not our current secretary of state for education.

2 comments on “I, Govebot

  1. I attended a cluster meeting for Primary school Linguists on Wednesday, out of interest and because we are willing to help. It’s quite breathtaking just how stupid the Gove proposals are. “Children will study a modern language for 4 years and make substantial progress”. Time available, probably 30 minutes for Y3&4, perhaps 45 minutes for Y5&6 a week. Age of audience – 7-10/11. I thought we would hear that in Y3 they would be introduced to one european MFL for songs and cluture, then in year 4 move to perhaps a non-european script such as Faris, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian and look further at language and stories. in Year 5 pehaps look at a germanic or classic language and fall in love with the Goths and Romans, befoe going back to the Language of Y3 and make a decent start in Y6. Oh no. It’s going to be linear. The same language for 30 minutes for 4 years in PPA time with a teacher who does not have the language as mother tongue, and you could see the teachers face go white when they learned there was not a magic computer programme but they would be inspected by OfSTED. a 4 page assessment chart covering 20+ areas of study to be completed over the 4 year period was suggested. PPA time – that’s the time the normal teacher, with the relationship built with the teacher will be out of the class. As one teacher nearby said – “I have 40 children in that slot, because the LSAs leave too so they can PPA with the teacher.
    And it will be the same for ‘Coding’ of course – instead of having a really good look around the houses at what you can do and create with computers, in the next day’s PPA time, non-specialist staff will provide a linear approach to something abstract that won’t make any sense, decontextualised as it will be because of course “this would create young people able to work at the forefront of technological change”.
    Repeat after me 3 times “Box, Box, Box”. Now try slapping your mouth midst “Box”. Ask someone to tell you what you have said. Quite.

  2. Creativity?
    Grandson has just been given an IEP because,”he is too creative” (sic). Example? “How many doors are there in this room?” “Well there are 2 but I have special x-Ray eyes and I know that there is one round the corner, so that makes 3”.
    He is 5 years old.

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