Thursday, 26 July 2012

Any Questions, a Responsibilty to entertain or properly debate?

If ever there was an argument againt grammar schools it is David Starkey - full of himself, full of his own importance, blinkered, unable to see the other point of view. Somebody let David loose on Any Questions last week, and the quality of the debate sunk. I used not to bother with the programme when he and his ilk were on, but I plod on now,  aware of the damage that someone like this can do with an audience of millions [is it millions, I don't know?].  And get it all down on this trusty blog, presumably only read by the converted.

That it [ultimate success] happens to one person, in this case,  David S, does not mean that every council-house girl or boy, could become a professor or Prime Minister or whatever.  People, from all over are different in their intellectual potential, just as they are in their sporting potential. But brain size and ability is not as clearly on display  as are body shape and ability. And so the Starkeys of this world continue with the slogan that anybody can, can be whatever they want. No David, idiot, they can't.

Not everyone can, or wants to be the leader. Tony Blair famously criticised schools for being "bog-standard. " And then begins and merges into the Cult of Celebrity wherein you all must aspire to be the best, but only one can, So disatisfaction is built in from the start. Thanks Tony. And the road to X Factor stardom is littered with the corpses of those who didn't win.

We should celebrate bog-standard, love the people wo are happy to play their part, be a cog in the wheel, be the ones who make things tick over - well, not celebrate really. Cos that's the last thing they want!

Well, a week went by and they asked somebody with a clue onto the programme, and afterwards I wrote thus to sister programme, Any Answers:

Helena Kennedy and Owen Jones were right: that public services should be publicly run.

Owen Jones was right about the corrupt and inefficient practices of PFI [Private Finance Initiative]. They have sucked up public money in exchange for substandard and over-priced public buildings [with their grand sweeping entrances and their pokey little offices and classrooms]. 

Kelvin asked was state sector teaching poor. Hardly! It's the ability of successive education secretaries to have any clue that is poor. It is time that they realised that teaching highly-motivated rich kids and teaching children from disadvantaged backgrounds requires different techniques and expectations. [And of course, teaching subversive or disaffected rich kids is another technique again!]
For example I would expect that a recent Polish immigrant to be concentrating on getting their English language skills up to standard, and not be being shoe-horned into getting GCSEs before they are ready.

What am I talking about! Expect a sensible child-centered approach? Never. I expect Michael [and if ever there was an argument against Oxford University it is Michael, and also David] to be saying "Ah, I see that Olga and Piotr are failing GCSE English. It must be that their school is rubbish. I cannot believe that the fact they are Eastern Eurpean Romany  children, who were persecuted and didn't even go to school in their country of origin, and are not even literate in their mother tongue, let alone speak English, has anything to do with their underachievement."]

Hey ho. The secretaries of state haven't changed or improved,  but at least the Any Questions panellists have.

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