Back to the Future, starring Micky Gove, is the retro-movie of the week, as we are whipped back to the golden age of selective education and “tough” exams. Except it all looks like just another round in the Great ConDem coalition break-up.
Malcolm, who “passed” GCE General Science back around 1956, and was teaching English as early as the mid-’60s, doesn’t remember GCE with quite Govian enthusiasm. Then, as now, 16+ examinations were little more than barking at text: many routine questions were taught, and answered by rote. Intelligence and insight were not required.
So Malcolm is wholly cynical about the whole business.
The boy farm
Academic schooling does us proud (even more so when government leaves teachers to get on with it). The chronic failure is with technical education: when will government do something about that?
Technical education is hard work, very expensive and the changes and improvements are only seen in tiny, tiny steps.
All sorts of SoSs have ‘looked into’ technical education and most of the time it comes down to the difficulty (and it is a real difficulty) of getting decent instructors, full facilities and a mechanism to judge the ability of the students.
I’ve long argued that for TE to be truly effective the various Chartered Institutes must set the the standards as they know what employers and industry in general needs e.g. the IEEE, IoM3, IMechE and so on.
Such a move would mean handing real control to a non-political body. The institutes under the UK-SPEC / Eng. Council umbrella would be difficult for a politician to browbeat when it came to awarding grades and such like. Naturally, this adds to the politicians distaste for proper thus expensive technical education.
Perhaps as well, the terms Engineer and Technican should be legally protected just like the title Doctor and Solicitor is so that if you want to be an Engineer or Technician you have to be a member of an approved Chartered Institute.
All true and worthy.
Now let us refer to “Man and Superman”:
TANNER. … this chap has been educated. What’s more, he knows that we haven’t. What was that board school of yours, Straker?
STRAKER. Sherbrooke Road.
TANNER. Sherbrooke Road! Would any of us say Rugby! Harrow! Eton! in that tone of intellectual snobbery? Sherbrooke Road is a place where boys learn something; Eton is a boy farm where we are sent because we are nuisances at home, and because in after life, whenever a Duke is mentioned, we can claim him as an old schoolfellow.
STRAKER. You don’t know nothing about it, Mr. Tanner. It’s not the Board School that does it: it’s the Polytechnic.
TANNER. His university, Octavius. Not Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Dublin or Glasgow. Not even those Nonconformist holes in Wales. No, Tavy. Regent Street, Chelsea, the Borough—I don’t know half their confounded names: these are his universities, not mere shops for selling class limitations like ours. You despise Oxford, Enry, don’t you?
STRAKER. No, I don’t. Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should think, for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there. In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like. See?
TANNER. Sarcasm, Tavy, sarcasm! Oh, if you could only see into Enry’s soul, the depth of his contempt for a gentleman, the arrogance of his pride in being an engineer, would appal you. He positively likes the car to break down because it brings out my gentlemanly helplessness and his workmanlike skill and resource.
We are no further forward than 1903.