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Tuesday 11 June 2013

Return Of The Gove Polecats

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

The almost month-long silence from the @toryeducation Twitter feed was broken last night as Dominic Cummings and Henry de Zoete, still confident that they are beyond being rumbled, went into an almost orgasmic frenzy as news of the very wonderful and far more rigorous examination that would replace the namby-pamby modular GCSE was revealed to an expectant world.
This news was too late for most of the papers, but not to worry, the pundits will have all day to slobber over all the new student-stretching features that will magically propel England to the top of all known league tables and bring Michael “Oiky” Gove riding into Downing Street on a wave of popular gratitude for saving the country’s children from leftist state mediocrity.

So what have the Gove polecats brought us today? Well, for starters, there will be an end to coursework, which is dismissed as “cheated”, so that’s a fail for incorrect tense, then. And English will no longer involve reading only part of a novel: pupils must read not just a whole one, but a whole nineteenth century one. Why? What’s wrong with more recent literature?
A dab of incoherence here ...

And there will have to be a whole Shakespeare play. Now, I’m not going to argue against The Bard’s contribution to the language – there are so many phrases in common use that can be traced back to his plays, for instance – but, once again, did no-one else ever write a play worth studying and acting? Is the path to acceptance from Oxbridge and industry only achieved via Shakespeare?

Otherwise, the usual hectoring is employed: there is serious talk of “grade inflation”, assertions that standards are falling behind, well, any other country that can be cited, and that anyone who utters so much as a peep of dissent is standing in the way of those sunlit uplands that are the new and brighter future for the nation’s children. Not that this is an authoritarian shouting down of opponents, you understand.
... a slice of intolerance there

All that is then left is to feed obedient hacks the news that pass marks will be “pushed higher”, the language carefully selected to demonstrate that the great Gove will make sure all those useless teachers will be forced to work jolly hard and urge their pupils on to the kind of higher plane that would have been unconscionable under rotten lefties, or even his own Tory predecessors.

To finish off, numbers replace letters for grades – but not the way they were with the old “O” level. The superior Gove system will use 8 for top grade and 1 for bottom. This will have the pundits in raptures, but they are not the ones doing the teaching, nor those being taught, and nor in most cases are they and their children affected. Thus another example of the masses being told what’s best for them.

But those that shout loudest will lap it up, so that’s all right, then.

[UPDATE1 1605 hours: just to complete the polecat contingent, the loathsome Toby Young has joined in the fawning praise for "Oiky" Gove's wonderful new exams, and to no surprise at all, he has repeated all the much-repeated talk of "grade inflation" and praised the new grading system.

Under the headline "Chairman Gove's permanent revolution continues", Tobes nonchalantly dismisses the GCSE as "almost completely discredited", so he won't be placing any value on the ones taken by pupils at the West London Free School on the pre-Gove regime, then.

What Tobes does not dwell on is Gove's dodgy use of statistics to advance his cause, such as using the notoriously unreliable 2000 PISA league tables - the sample size is too small - to advance the idea that education standards are slipping in England relative to the rest of the world.

But such criticism cannot be allowed to enter Tobes' world, and so his readers are only told that, whatever "Oiky" is doing, it is unquestionably A Good Thing and anyone saying otherwise is a rotten lefty. So no change there, then]

[UPDATE2 1905 hours: @toryeducation actually replied to a Zelo Street request to provide a link in support of the assertion that the current English syllabus has a requirement to only teach, and examine pupils on, parts of novels. There was even a suggestion that I should issue a "gracious apology" for doubting Messrs Cummings and de Zoete.
Sadly, the link referred to parts of plays, specifically three Shakespeare acts. So @toryeducation won't be getting that apology, but a generously sized raspberry instead - for not knowing the difference between a novel and a play. You can always blame it on the education system, chaps]


Bob said...

Grades should go right up to 11! Sorry!(Apologies to Spinal Tap)

Gonzoland said...

Allegro Postillions by Jonathan Keates.
"This short collection of four short stories is connected by a theme of human littleness, provincialness, and self-deception." - Amazon review.
A 'must read' for the Oiky Team.

Anonymous said...

Are/were there requirements for coursework in English? I haven't seen much mention in media reports of any such thing in any non-technical subject beyond History.

organic cheeseboard said...

The C19th novel idea is probably the silliest of the lot. No room for the C18th? And I have absolutely no doubt that the novel almost everyone in the country will study is Silas Marner - because it's incredibly short. The other one which might get chosen is Hard times - but facts-and-nothing-but-the-facts fan Gove surely wouldn't want that.