Product reviews for Bad Education

Gerald Haigh
Has Phil Beadle been writing his column for 'The Guardian' for only six years? It seems as if he's always been there, ready to comment on or more likely drive a coach and horses through the latest back-of-an-envelope government solution to the nation's educational deficiencies.

Here, just in case you missed any of them, or simply to recapture and dip into at leisure is a Beadle anthology. The pieces deal with just about all of the staffroom coffee-break, anger-management, you-couldn't-make-it-up issues that came up during the period covering the long twilight of New Labour and the dawn of the multi-coloured swapshop that is the Coalition.

Right at the outset he has the measure of what drives the Cameron-Gove approach to education. It's 'entirely concerned with lucre and its redistribution away from the pockets of school teachers.'

This they will achieve, he explains, by sidelining local authorities and in the process diminishing the power of the teacher unions.

It's that straight cut to the chase that makes Beadle essential reading. His swipes are widely distributed. He's bothered at the way 'teaching' is being pushed out by 'learning', for example 'whilst teaching will often cause learning, learning will only in very sad circumstances cause teaching.'

That doesn't mean he's always in favour of the way teachers work or are persuaded to work. He has a go at the tyranny of the 'four part lesson', and the writing of lesson objectives on the board.

Of course he can annoy us along the way he shouldn't forget that it was the very ICT enthusiasts he has a pop at who were the first to cry out against the abuse of PowerPoint and interactive whiteboards. That, though, is part of the relationship between Beadle and his readers. He isn't handing out comfort blankets.

Part of that edginess is seen in some of the more serious and much needed challenges you'll find here. Every teacher knows, for example, that, in Beadle's words,

'British schools are the final, blithe bastions of homophobia, which is, and has always been, at epidemic proportions in them.'

His use of 'blithe' here is appropriate because, he goes on,

'Homophobia, in British schools, is the last remaining acceptable prejudice.'

Every teacher needs to read this book. More importantly, every head teacher and governor needs to read it. And even more importantly still, every administrator and politician needs to read it too. And when they encounter, as some members of all those groups surely will, passages that make them throw the book across the room, let me appeal to them to pick it up and read that bit again, this time with a bit of thought and a lot of humility. Because they'll find that Beadle`s great strength lies in the fact that behind the ire and the feisty polemic lies a lot of thought and humility of his own, and plenty of humanity too.
Guest | 27/06/2011 01:00
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