Saturday 19 May 2012

Get into the Gove

I was very interested to hear Michael Gove's views (here) on the dominance of public schoolboys in "every prominent role in British society as being "morally indefensible". The lack of egalitarianism in education in this country bothers me very much. The road to power for public schoolboys starts when they are very young. My eldest went to a state primary school in a 'good' area. There was a boy in this class who is gifted. He is a talented musician who plays by ear, and who possesses an unusual musical memory; he is a brilliant visual artist, excellent actor and debater, a gifted poet and an outstanding writer. He is also academic with an objective and analytical mind, and is the possessor of a cutting wit. This young blade, whom we will call Tom, was also the child of a single mother who lived in social housing. It was a very competitive environment at the school. Some of the playground mums were murderous in their desire to see their kids come first. Black comedy sketches with lots of strangling and buckets of blood tossed around could easily have been written.

Up until year two, Tom easily outshone his peers. Around year two, many of the kids began to be tutored. They began to catch up, quickly. Over the years, Tom, began to get bored and stared out the window a lot. His mother took him abroad for a few months, which enlarged his understanding of the world, but caused him to fall behind in maths and lose confidence. By year 4/5, all of the children (though not the estate kids) were being groomed by their private tutors for the top London schools. This child was not tutored as his mother could not afford him to be. She applied to all the secondary schools in her borough apart from the failing one. It became clear however that the failing one was the only one that would be taking him because of where they lived, so his mother panicked and against her principles, and reasoning that given his high ability, he might crack it, she put him through the exams for two of the private schools.

Tom did not even finish the exam papers as he had not had the training, particularly in timing. He did not get into any of these public schools. A clutch of the tutored boys, none, apart from one (who went to Westminster) were a patch on Tom in terms of raw talent and original thinking. Tom is now in an academy in a borough he has to travel to, and where they are aware of his academic potential. His predicted grades are all A/A* and he is on track to getting them despite the fact that he is in a school where many of the kids are more into music about guns and violence and being cool or 'sick' or whatever the current adjective is, than learning. Were Tom amongst peers who applauded academic achievement he would be flying, his wings being sharpened by coming into contact with others unashamed to fly.

Tom is often bored by the lack of debate or in depth topical discussion at school, but he is often too scared of not appearing acceptable to his peers to spark up a debate. He depends on his photographic memory to get the grades and still fit in. He has already had two trips to Cambridge and his teachers have high hopes for him, despite his 'getting in with the wrong crowd' for a spell (a ghastly one for his mother) and a brief foray into drugs. Tom has been reasonably fortunate, thanks to the support of the school and his mother, and his achievements are all his own, but what of all the other 'Toms' from housing estates and lower income families around the country? What is the country missing out on as these kids lose confidence, pop out of their groove, or use their good brains in ways that may not benefit society? How to make the playing field more even? Comments s'il vous plait. 

Friday 11 May 2012

Honking like a duck in The British Library

In the British library, I am trying not to cough and thereby incite annoyance in the studious and further distraction the not so studious, who are whispering to each other and fidgeting with each other and on their phones. Yes, you over there. I have lost my voice, so I am in the right place. Everyone whispers here. Mostly when they shouldn't. My little daughter is intrigued by non-voice. Where has it gone? Will it return? I see her little mind ticking over. Has it gone shopping? What was its mode of transport? Did it fly to its goneness or take the imaginary pink car (a box) stuffed with Barbies, some headless, some limbless, some who have had their faces chewed by the baby, who are always going to the palace, often early in the morning before I have had my coffee (I am always invited) and frankly, given the state of the Barbies, I would probably fit in quite well because I don't mean to honk on (the only other mode my non-voice does is honk like a duck) but I am more dishevelled than usual, and if my face was chewed off I probably wouldn't notice. The baby regularly gnaws at my face and it is usually not until his new four teeth have touched bone that I cotton on, given that the appearance of those teeth caused a sleep deficit that took me beyond being in the red to total witlessness.

Cinderella has lost her head and doesn't even acknowledge that dishes are necessary at all, neither the ones in the dishwasher, nor the piled ones that are becoming interesting sculptures in the corner. Food can be prised from the fridge and emptied directly into ones face. Prince Charming has become Prince Alarming - he rises at dawn to the sound of an alarm, breakfasts with the nippers, giving me some time in me slippers (thank you my prince! I love you more than the prince I loved that was purple and made doves fly. Do-be-do-be-do! Much, much, more) before bursting out the door and turning into a pumpkin or something. Honestly what he does with those wires is a mystery to me. They do make vast pretty patterns on those boards though and apparently make television studios function. Hardworking Prince and I are not functioning so well, though we are laughing as much as ever, though I suspect our laughter is tinged with lunacy. He is working over time, under time and all around time, to raise a deposit for our house.

Chugging on A40 air at home, I fantasize about this new house and this new life and how we will have a whale of a time in peaceful, lilty, Wales. But am I addicted to The Vortex of Chaos in which I live? What will I do with Peace and Quiet? Who are those two? Will they be two monster fellows that bellow SILENCE! in my ears? Yesterday, the two littlies slept SIMULTANEOUSLY! I literally did not know what to do with myself. Obviously, I should have written more of this very serious, literary and life-changing work of art that I now no longer have before me because I am writing this. No. Overwhelmed by choice, I sat there for a good ten minutes staring into the middle distance before falling asleep on the sofa. And now I am in the British Library. A serious place. For serious stuff. Blogging. It is fast becoming my serious stuff. Oh stuff it. What can I do? It seems its all I can do.