Thursday, February 12, 2009

Time Travel and Education

It was the thought having to send our children to pre-prison in Islington, that prompted our move to Lewes .My eldest son,( how I love to write that …) , is coming up to “Reception”, so recently I got an opportunity to see a school in action .On open day ,we followed the headmaster , peering around doors like curious Alice , armed with offsted data, and trying not to stick our hands up to speak..
This is the school, we hope fils Newmania will attend .
Much had changed ,shorter periods of concentration , the use of computer aids to teaching , less formality and …bum bum baaaaa , the use of the legendary Phonics . Now bear with me because I am coming back to this by a circuitous route ....but prepare for a lurch

I have just watched the last of that rare thing ,a Television programme I do not detest .In fact I loved
“ Victorian Farm ".There was the dreaded reality element ,in that the protagonists lived the life of Victorian farmers, but it was not silly or overwrought.It had the solidity of real research . The participants actually possessed relevant qualifications and glowed with delight at experiencing their subject made flesh corn and pig. Just for once , people on the box were not saying, “Like me like me” ,they were saying ,“Isn’t this absolutely fascinating” , .It was
.The nobility of the heavy horses and the timelessness of the harvest where there; but also the whirl of change that swept the Victorians countryside into the 20th century . Such beautiful details .The strange formality of farm work in in bowler hats waistcoats, the practised arm of the wheelwright and basket maker, and then the food . This was the province of my new heroine ,Ruth Goodman . She of jams breads , puddings , straw hats , beekeeping ,and every kind of period craft , gave you the historical context ,but more than this , almost the smell and taste of other lives .
So getting back to the school , if you look out at the media sea , a gathering storm approaches for the teaching profession .A review of our £500,000,000 literacy programme concluded standards had hardly improved since the 50s .England has slithered from 3rd to 15th place but £186 billion extra has been spent that we would still have in our empty coffers if was had spent at 97 levels We have seen the headlines, and we know the fat years are gone .Even if the economy picks up in 2010 it cannot help us now .We have to cut services and increase taxes . I anticipate that eyes will turn with increasing malevolence on the featherbedded over paid ultra funded failure that is much of our educational system . Like a true Conservative I fear that in our reforming zeal we will throw the baby out with the bath water
Looking at good modern school in action you could see that while we have lost discipline and competition we have gained imagination , involvement, and much good practice if it was only applied .
Take history .There is growing frustration that children emerge knowing what it feels like to be a 14th century minstrel ,but with no clear idea that King John predated Queen Elizabeth 1 . I understand the fury with much of the Teaching college junk but not all.Perhaps we need to rebalance but lets not give up on the taste and smell of the past. Lets find time for projects on, how it felt to be press ganged in Portsmouth one foggy night and wake up in the British Navy , let them make their own Legionnaire’s uniforms and shiver in Romans shsips as they nosed up the Thames , into new savage forests . Let them discover what it was like to work on a Victorian Farm......Thanks to Ruth and the chaps for letting the adults play too.


Auntie Flo' said...

"Perhaps we need to rebalance but lets not give up on the taste and smell of the past. Lets find time for projects on, how it felt to be press ganged in Portsmouth one foggy night and wake up in the British Navy"

Trouble is, newms, they don't teach children how it feels to be Nelson or any of our hundreds of other individualist heroes any longer. All the modernists teach now is how it feels to be one of the oppressed masses...and how the EU has allegedly put all of that right.

And God help a child who dares ask about Jesus, that's practically a hanging offence for 5 year olds in today's non-faith schools.

Raedwald said...

Yes, applaud the sentiment. I'm utterly fed up with the assumption that our ancestors' experiences are somehow of less worth than a Somali nomad's.

The photo doesn't demonstrate much skill, though; if you've ever owned geese you'll know they crap every 30 seconds, night and day, from hatching to dispatch. They're just mobile manure factories. The very last thing anyone would do is perch one on your lap. Unless you want your dress covered in noxious green slime, of course, in the name of authenticity ...

Newmania said...

Thats a good point Flo and I meant to say not that it was all good but that there is good int it to be kept

Raeders , you have not a shred of romance about you ...sigh.

Philipa said...

Oh FFS how I agree with you. I'm sorry not to be disagreeing with you as I like being lectured by you, I do, Newms. But hey, can't this time.

You know, there are times when I really miss PH. Oh I don't miss the stupid row we had over nothing really, two arrogant heads convinced of their being in the right butting against each other (and even then he was never boring. Infuriating but never boring) But I do miss the way he describes such wonderful things, even when they are romanticised a bit. The way he describes a steam train or the smell and sounds of a city. Great stuff. And what is more pertinent here is the way he remembers the past and that there was good in it that shouldn't be forgotton. I don't agree that we should go back to shunning single mothers (and here he would ask me for a quote which I haven't got) or to deference where a working man is not represented in parliament. But he describes things that we've lost that you can't see in a museum. Things that those people on Victoria farm felt and lived and enjoyed. The man said that farming was a lifestyle not a job. What a profound comment.

And Flo you are so right; being a Christian is now quite difficult.

Newmania said...

The child was talking about heaven .Its a child and you do not want or expect an adult approach but this child seemed to me to have preoccupations that many of her peers would be much much better for sharing

Auntie Flo' said...

"Raeders , you have not a shred of romance about you ...sigh."

You're right, newms, my post wasn't a very romantic one for Valentine's Day. What on earth has happened to my sense of romance during the past decade?

Is the only sight that can set my heart fluttering these days really just a tantalising glimpse of ancient, dusty steps to a flinty, 13th century church tower? Are the only souls that now move mine those exquisitely encased in carved purbeck marble these past 600 years?

Not quite.

For in the spirit of the unrequited love of that "gentle flower of the aristocracy who has so aggressively embraced the working classes" for dapper Alan Duncan, I will confess that there is one who makes my pulses race faster than even the heady climb to one of my beloved Blackwater estuary churches.

Don't laugh, Newms, for as you know there's no rhyme or reason to the object of a heart's desire and this pilgrim soul is a good deal older than me. Indeed, he told me I am just a child.

This brave heart and pilgrim soul is one of our country's greatest defenders of democracy and parliament. His perverse non-verbal signalling and noble countenance is enough to set any deaf woman's heart aflame.

Yet there's an even more compelling reason for my secret crush. He lives just a stone's throw from a stunning Blackwater estuary church.

Auntie Flo' said...

It's all too obvious who my secret crush is, however, one more clue: his Will stipulates that he is to be buried beneath a London park bench.

Newmania said...

I fea Flo that you are unlikely to score with Mr. Duncan whose tastes run in other directions

I fancy Ruthy Henshaw, not so mysterious really

( I will find your secret out by the way)

Auntie Flo' said...

Newmania said...
I fea Flo that you are unlikely to score with Mr. Duncan whose tastes run in other directions

Oh, Nemwms, I've made it so bloody obvious who my secret crush is - and it is not Alan Duncan, lovely though he is. When did Duncan ever say he wanted to be buried under a London park bench?

It's so obvious who it must be. Think again.

Auntie Flo' said...

Can you believe what the BBC just did to my Have Your Say Valentine's message?

"I wish there was an Anti-Valentines Day. Gordon Brown would have received millions of cards.

Brown, we can't stand you. So, resign and call an election! xxx COMMENT STATUS:Rejected "

Anonymous said...

Flo - Simon Heffer?

Don't know about the park bench but he lives overlooking the Blackwater estuary I think.

Auntie Flo' said...

Anon: Flo - Simon Heffer?

Oh, please... no, definitely not him.

Ok, I'll give you another clue. That park bench is no longer in London, it now sits in a garden overlooking the Blackwater estuary.

Auntie Flo' said...

Come on, anon and Newms, it's so obvious, you don't need Miss Marple to work it out.

Philipa said...

Flo I think you must have guessed it was me (my login wouldn't work) but I shall peruse the situation..

Anonymous said...

Think about it, Philipa: a politician, older one, eccentric and romantic enough to want to be buried under a significant park bench, has had that bench moved to his garden, one of our country's greatest defenders of democracy and parliament, has perverse non-verbal signalling (quirky hand movements) and lives on the Blackwater estuary. I've met him and believe I may have mentioned that here.

There aren't many politicians who meet all of those criteria.

Auntie Flo' said...

Oh, I forgot the Miss Marple association

Newmania said...

Got me Flo

Auntie Flo' said...

Ok, I'll spell it out. The most famous Miss Marple of all was Margaret Rutherford. She has a famous cousin.

He's such an incurable romantic that he bought the park bench where he proposed to his wife and put it in their garden. He and his wife agreed some years ago that they would be buried together under that bench on the stunning Dengie peninsular, overlooking the river Blackwater.

What a lovely man, a democracy and freedom loving. romantic intellectual, loves old church towers, fights for what he believes in, tall and skinny, lives in my favourite place on earth. He would be my valentine of choice.


Newmania said...

God no ....not surely you cannot mean Flo it cannot be !!!!


Auntie Flo' said...

Indeed I do, newms.

Margaret Rutherford's surname - prior to her father murdering her and this man's mutual grandfather - was Margaret Benn.

And don't be horrible, newms, he gave his personal support to my town's IWAR Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and came to lobby with us at Parliament. He isn't at all how is misrepresented in the press...he's lovely.

Auntie Flo' said...

Natasha Kaplinska likes him too!

Anonymous said...


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