One of the big problems for education in this country was illustrated yet again today with the publication of the report from the Centre for Policy Studies’ on re-training military service people to work as teachers in schools.
First, for clarity, I am not implying there is any reason that people with a background in the military can’t re-train to become wonderful teachers. Secondly, I am commenting less on the substance of the report itself. Rather, what concerns me is the public story that accompanies the report, and some of the response to it from members of the public and politicians.
It is just one more demonstration that the public imagination about school is stuck in destructive notions of the ideal classroom being about silence, acquiesence to authority enforced with the threat of sanction, and absorbing knowledge from one point at the front of the class.
The idea things should be this way is contradicted by the schools we know using Opening Minds, or one of a number of other innovative approaches. These schools are seeking to help young people become creative, independent learners, active citizens, and people who can take the opportunities afforded them in a fast moving economy.
They show the possibility and benefits of actively engaging learners, whatever their background, in buzzing, noisy but focussed classrooms. They create healthy communities which encourage exploration, peer interaction, and most of all excitement about learning.
Disadvantaged young people might ‘respond to raw physical power’ (who doesn’t?!) but they respond better in caring communities of learning.
And that’s the image we need to see in the media, and getting positive responses from politicians. Perhaps we need to shout louder to get that point across?