Schools and totalitarian systems

I was reading this essay – The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel the Czechoslovakian dissident. And there is lots of good stuff on this kind of thing by George Orwell and Theodore Dalrymlple as well. It struck me the parallels between working in schools and totalitarian regimes.

You can’t say what you think. You have to carefully monitor what you say to other people. Whenever there are discussions on Twitter, the progressives always treat it like it’s a discussion between two roughly equal groups, or if anything, the traditionals are stronger in schools. The reality is that it is very dangerous to speak up in a traditional way in schools. You face being hounded out of your job and sacked.

People have been talking this week about the case of Gillian Scott, who was recently struck off. Some have asked “But what were her results like?” They don’t understand. It was never about her results, it was about making her bend her knee to the current orthodoxy.

I can see her manager David Macluskey now, a party man climbing the greasy pole. Whatever the latest fad, he’ll be bullying all the teachers into using it. And as soon as it becomes clear that this didn’t work, well, we were never at war with Oceania. And, on to whatever is in vogue this week.

There is a big disconnect between reality and the propaganda. For example, the propaganda about how well progressive teaching compared with the reality. Until, quite recent decades, there was very little feedback about how well progressive teaching was actually doing. A bit like the dictator who sits at the top, fat and content, even though millions starve due to his incompetence. Then ways of feeding back and holding people accountable started to arrive, the league tables, SATs, more exams. Screams of outrage every step of the way. They didn’t care if the kids couldn’t read as long as no-one found out about it.

In the essay he points out that everyone is a victim, but also contributes to the atmosphere as well. When I was teaching, I realised that, there is no ‘system’ it is just made up of millions of moral choices made by normal people every day. You have to decide for yourself how much moral compromise you will make. I tried to take a middle ground of not using methods that damaged my pupils chances but keeping my head down and trying not to get myself into trouble. But I met people who would parrot the latest fad with no problem at all. I always wondered to myself if they believed what they were saying or were just saying it to get ahead and which would be worse?