Sensible Laws: Politicians should not frame teaching priorities


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The schools minister, David Laws, has told us he thinks there has been a “corrosive impact” from political interference in what is  taught to children. Curriculums should not  be set by “the whims of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians”. Who could he possibly have had mind?

Well not just the Secretary of State with whom he worked, Michael Gove – whose literary tastes and views about history soon became very familiar. The first national curriculum was set by Kenneth Baker decades ago, an Education Secretary with equally developed opinions about what the kids should be reading. Prime ministers, too, have declared the desirability of the three Rs and the like.

So one problem with having ministers framing teaching priorities is a lack of consistency apart, that is, from a predictable tendency to small “c” conservatism. Another is that it really is the sort of thing that prevails in totalitarian states, as the many students fascinated by the Third Reich would remind us. Much better, as Mr Laws suggests, to try a more consensual approach and one that draws on the experience of the teachers. Our island story is still a fascinating one, but we don’t need a politician to turn it into a state-approved compulsory truth.