You know that saying, the one that goes “If you need to ask the question then you won’t understand the answer?” Well, its been one of those days.
I do understand the need for politicians to look as if they are busy and “doing good stuff”. I get that. I mean, it must be a very dull life, walking in and out of lobbies doing as you are told all the time. Also, those green benches look really uncomfortable. So I really, really get it. You want to look useful, knowledgeable, informed and informative.
So, you find yourself, as a group, being the education Select Committee. Education has suffered five years of upheaval and is looking forward to a period where the non-stop slalom of reforms can slow down and bed in.
What do you do?
Do you get into the nitty-gritty of policy and see how there can be improvements. Perhaps to critical areas like teacher training? Do you investigate education funding and look to see how policy levers can help scarce resource go further? Or maybe review the admissions system and see how more choice can be brought into the system? You could look further into the link between accountability and workload, and the recursive relationship between the two.
No. You don’t do any of those. They seem like hard work. They require a great deal of knowledge of education. You might even have to invite some (gulp) real teachers in and speak to them. They might require you to come up with a report that has specific ideas in that can be measured and you may be found wanting. Then how would you look?
No. You don’t do any of that. You decide the best thing for you to do is to look into “the purpose of education”.
Let us save everyone loads of time.
It is the year Two Thousand and Fifteen. AD. We used to live in caves and now we fly robots out of the solar system. We didn’t do any of this because we are the biggest, strongest or fastest. We did it because we are the smartest. And because we keep getting smarter.
The purpose of education is so blindingly obvious as to make the question an insult. The purpose of education is to ensure that my children’s generation are at least as smart as mine and smarter than my parents. That’s it. Job done.
Now, there may well be the need for a discussion about what we as a society want to use those smarts to achieve, but that’s not an education question, that’s a question for everyone. There may also be a need for a discussion of how best education can achieve that goal. But frankly, I think that’s a question best left to professionals. Sorry, but it’s the truth.
So my advice the Education Select Committee is to take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and start doing the hard work on the nitty-gritty drudge-work questions..
Or someone smarter will do it for you.