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Sunday 30 December 2012

He Gove But Also Taketh His Credibility Away

The worst thing to do with current and former journalists is to give them a taste of executive power: if there was ever a lesson from history, it was provided by Max Beaverbrook being made a Government minister and forever after assuming (as did far too many of his friends and readers) that this bestowed a righteous insight onto his every utterance, without exception.

Now we have partial reverse of the concept: a former hack becoming a Cabinet Minister, but as with Beaverbrook using the papers to talk up his favoured policies while laying into his opponents. Today’s unlikely hero – if only in the mind of Himself Personally Now – is Michael “Oiky” Gove, who has enlisted the assistance of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to get his message out there.

Gove faces war with equality activists as he axes Labour’s PC curriculum that dropped greatest figures from history lessons” screams the headline, the article telling readers that those rotten lefties had expunged poor Winshton from the history syllabus and then citing Gove’s unhappiness at undue emphasis being placed on covering the two World Wars. Er, hello, Mail people?

Exactly how do we cover two World Wars and leave out Churchill? The piece is no better on the abolition of slavery: William Wilberforce is “out”, but then it is conceded that “pupils will still have to learn about social changes such as the abolition of slavery”. And then we get “references to cultural, ethnic and religious diversity have been cut, although they will still be taught about immigration”. Yeah, right.

Did anyone at the Mail think for a minute that this is little more than muddle headed drivel as a cover for Gove’s propaganda? Or is this yet another example, coming hot on the heels of Plebgate, of how the country’s best resourced newspaper is no longer capable of decent investigative journalism, being able only to take what is served up to it, whether sourced from partisan politicians or unhappy coppers?

Gove is on a mission which, whether or not it is intended to benefit education, is geared to benefiting his own cause, and to this end, whoever may criticise him is confronted not by anything so arcane as face to face meetings and any kind of direct intellectual engagement, but by being instantly briefed against and otherwise smeared in any number of compliant media outlets.

Such an outcome awaited the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, who Gove upbraided for calling out waste, while of course he and his pals are happy for the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance to do just that, while themselves wasting millions in public funds on their FoI fishing expeditions. It’s only a pity that he can’t put all that effort into a coherent education policy.

After all, if he really cared about that, he’d put it first, and propaganda second.


Hywel Mallett said...

I don't understand the premise of the DM article. I was educated from primary school to GCSE history level under a Conservative government, and I can't tell you anything about any of the figures featured in their infographic, so it's not like the Labour government took this teaching away - it wasn't there in the first place!

Anonymous said...

I also did GCSE history under the last Conservative Government and I was not taught about Cromwell, Nelson, Charles or John.

I don't understand the Mail's graphic either - kids are going to be taught about the abolition of slavery but not about Wilberforce?

Anonymous said...


Up to Standard Grade level, under a Labour government (I think also Labour/Lib Dem at Holyrood) I learned about 3 of the figures in the Daily Mail's graphic. A fourth was covered by a passing interest in local history. 1, total, was of their "social reformers". From a quick straw poll, my younger sister, who just finished her SG History, indicates the same distribution, while English cousins (schooled in Hove, FWIW) don't have much in detail about any of the figures named.

There's limited recollection of a focus on specific figures: individuals are discussed incidentally in coverage of major events, wars and so on. The sole exception to this is Florence Nightingale, when covered at primary school level, with teaching generally more in the style of a narrative.

As such, I can see that teaching about the abolition of slavery but without detail about William Wilberforce is workable, it just doesn't represent any meaningful change to how things have been done anyway over the past 18 years or so.

... Also, happy new year, Mr. Fenton.