With his resident polecats at the @toryeducation Twitter feed only venturing into print occasionally, and stand-ins such as the loathsome Toby Young proving easy to ridicule, Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove needs all the help he can get from the like-minded part of the media, especially after his less than rapturous reception from one Trades Union at the weekend.
Becoming unfair and unbalanced
“Oiky” had attended the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference for a Q&A session on Saturday. He appeared not to be expecting the heckling and jeers, although had he bothered to do his homework, he would have known that the gathering had already passed a motion of no confidence in his policies. And from that point, everything went downhill in short order.
Gove repeated that he wanted to raise standards. The thought that his actions might have exactly the opposite effect was not allowed to enter. Nor was the thought that he conspicuously failed to engage with his audience. But instead of showing concern that a key relationship – between Government and head teachers – was fracturing, one of “Oiky’s” biggest fans could not stop herself applauding his every move.
To no surprise at all, that fan is Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, who asserts at the outset “The more abuse Mr Gove gets from the teachers, the more you know he's right”. That’s right, sheer frustration that someone is hell-bent on not listening to you is abuse. But “Oiky”, she asserts, is “a person of the highest quality ... he is bang on target”.
Children should, she claims, “start learning algebra and geometry by the time they leave primary school”. A word in your shell-like, O mad one: children needed neither algebra nor geometry to pass the eleven plus. I can still remember my maths paper, thank you. So that’s another example of how those wanting to return to some past golden age can’t even remember what it actually involved.
From that point, Mel rapidly descends into ranting incoherence, telling of “Britain’s truly dire and terrifying educational decline ... no one must be seen to fail and that all must have prizes ... ruthlessly enforced orthodoxy could hardly be bettered as a system of keeping children at the bottom of the heap, trapped in ignorance, illiteracy and disadvantage”. And she gets the “Mr Men” story totally wrong.
Then we get EU frighteners, the idea that human rights are A Very Bad Thing, and the flagrantly dishonest “high levels of illiteracy and innumeracy among school leavers”. And, would you know it, the whole of the “educational establishment” now “dances to the ... anti-education tune”. Belief is a wonderful thing to behold. But that does not make it right, whether expressed by “Oiky”, or by his most zealous fans.
And nor does a wilful determination not to listen to inconvenient fact make you right.