Wednesday, 22 April 2015



What then is good? The knowledge of things. What is evil? The lack of knowledge of things.
Seneca - Epistulae morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

One thing I notice about web commentary is how professionals can be somewhat reserved about their professions. It is far from being universal, but I often sense a degree of caution or reticence when it comes to matters closely linked to professional background.

Teachers for example. There must be a vast amount they could say about a centralised curriculum, bureaucracy, political correctness, inspections, paperwork, parents, politics and child welfare. Teachers are hardly silent on these issues, but somehow I feel that this most central profession doesn’t say what needs to be said.

As a grandparent I have the impression that all is not well with education. The supposed problems are not news to anyone, but political froth and partiality muddy the waters for those of us on the sidelines.

No doubt part of the problem is a need to protect the identity of individuals, but I’m sure there is still much to say and I’m not convinced we hear it.


Sam Vega said...

Well, I'm due to retire from Further Education (I'm a manager rather than a teacher) in a couple of months. There are so many problems, and the system is so compromised and unfit for purpose, that one hardly knows where to begin.

I think the reticence is often because the educational issues are merely one aspect of bigger trends that afflict all of society. My "political correctness rant" would only differ in the detail from that expressed by a doctor or civil servant.

There is also the point expressed pithily by one of your contributors here some weeks ago. Once you have the mortgage and the school fees, much more can and will be asked...

Macheath said...

If I may offer a worm's-eye view of the profession, much of what you describe is because of the hierarchy peculiar to teaching.

It is difficult for anyone in industry or an office environment (I've worked in both) to appreciate in full the power wielded by the Senior Management.

In most schools, the Head's word is law; he or she will decide on working conditions, make internal appointments, approve (or change) duties and timetabling arrangements, sign off annual appraisals and provide references for staff wishing to move on.

Unless unions become involved - which can be professional suicide in the long term - the only route of appeal against the Head's decisions is to the governors or authority who appointed the Head in the first place and are unlikely to regard a complaint with sympathy.

While some are fair-minded and wise individuals, the appointment system tends to favour the ambitious and power-hungry who can spout sufficient management-speak and jargon to bedazzle a non-specialist interviewing panel. In addition, the increase of IT in school management has sidelined many older staff who are perceived as being behind the technological times.

An insecure Head, often much younger than many of the teaching staff, may try to rule by fear. In such a climate, few experienced staff are willing to speak up or be identified as troublemakers and younger ones are reluctant to jeopardise their careers.

Add to this the fact that teacher training colleges are doing their best to weed out all but those who either wholeheartedly accept their progressive ideology or are prepared to keep their heads down and shut up whatever happens and - despite the loud gripes about general conditions - you have a recipe for the kind of silence you describe.

(Apologies for ranting at such length given a chance...)

Edward Spalton said...

From a friend in the teaching profession

" as the consequences of speaking out can be loss of livelihood, most teachers prefer to remain silent."

A K Haart said...

Sam - I'm sure you will enjoy your retirement though. You could start a blog and get some things off your chest.

Mac - very interesting and no apology needed. What you say does seep into the outside world in all kinds of ways, but only as anecdote and hearsay.

Edward - I think that applies to many professions, but for some reason teaching seems to be particularly badly affected.

Edward Spalton said...

CIB ( Campaign for an Independent Britain) will shortly publish a pamphlet on the new National,Curriculum for History. It is by an expert and not happy reading.

We are researching the extent of EU propaganda in school which was recently the subject of complaint by the eminent group " Historians for Britain" ( including David Starkey)

Publication is planned for early June after election fever has subsided. Keep a look out on

A K Haart said...

Edward - I'll look out for it. I already have CIB in my browser bookmarks.

James Higham said...

As a grandparent I have the impression that all is not well with education.

You're excellent at the understatement. But then again, I'm one of those reticent teachers [ex].

A K Haart said...

James - I think teachers are more reticent than they imagine when it comes to the problems. Most professions too probably.