I read with horror this week about the U.S. Senate rejecting background checks for gun owners in the same week the whole country seemed to be focused on the dreadful events in Boston and the capture of the perpetrators. This only a week after the funeral of the most divisive politician of my life time. What becomes clear, when you pause and reflect on these events, is that the polarisation of public discourse results in very little being achieved. When we become so entrenched in our own beliefs that we see any relaxing of our positions as a weakness, we may as well throw up our hands and give up.
It seems to me that Education, in both Scotland and England, is reaching this point, perhaps for different reasons mind you, but we really need to tone it down a little. In England, it seems to me that the Conservatives and Michael Gove are on an irreversible journey back in time. Recent public statements about shortening holidays and lengthening days were met with outrage and ridicule. Newspaper headlines summed up the mood of teachers and that was that. However, I can’t help but feeling that beneath all of that mistrust and finger-pointing there may well be a discussion to be had about changing the shape and form of the school year. That discussion seems a million miles away.
Shouting at each other might feel like the only available tool at the time but it, ultimately, achieves nothing. In Scotland we are forever caught in the maelstrom of Curriculum for Excellence fury. ‘It is dreadful’ one academic shouts from the roof tops. ‘It is wonderful and the way forward’ bellows another. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. We teachers have to deal with the implementation of the Curriculum every day of our lives. We struggle over Experiences and Outcomes, making them work for our students and we will get there. It is not wonderful yet but it could be. What doesn’t help is the polarisation of the argument. Again, beneath the sniping on both sides of the debate, there is a rational conversation about how we can make it work for all. That discussion seems a million miles away.
I’ve spent most Thursdays of my adult life shouting at ‘Question Time’ on the BBC, as one leading political party points the finger at another and that party does the same back. No-one takes responsibility for the real problems, the things we need to deal with now. And very little happens. From year to year. Ultimately point scoring might make us feel like we’ve won an argument but if very little changes then what have we achieved?
And spending your waking hours on Twitter doesn’t often help. When I tweet or blog I am merely expressing an opinion. Whether I like it or not it doesn’t make me right. Shouting one’s opinions really loudly doesn’t make them facts. Just loud opinions. Entrenching yourself at one end of debate, refusing to budge ain’t helpful I’m afraid.
Education has always been a political football; we shouldn’t expect politicians to always have our best interests at heart. However, when we debate the important issues there must be a time when we listen to what is being said by our so-called opponents. It is too important not to. Let’s tone it down a bit, people. And listen