To Miss with Love – education and prevailing culture


Katharine Birbalsingh’s “To Miss with Love” has raised issues with education but the issues are really with wider culture and values.  The problems in our schools are a greater problem than eduction per se and in this post I consider the wider issues.

Birbalsingh makes what I believe are two import things in the opening pages:

Right.  Must remember what Mr Goodheart said [in light of a possible Ofsted inspection].  We cannot have teachers teaching and children listening.  That’s my moto for the week.  Whatever I do…just be sure not to teach. [p37]

“Please Ms Snuffleupagus.  I don’t trust the school.  I don’t trust them people.  But you, Furious says you’re different.  Please, I’m begging you…save him.

I gape at this woman, who is nearly in tears, at her wits’ end, and wonder what can be done.  I wonder what on earth I can do.  “Yes, Ms Desperate, I’ll do my best.  I promise.” I lightly touch the back of her hand.  Then I make the ultimate mistake.  I smile.  “We’ll save him,” I say.

What the bloody hell am I thinking? [p41]

I was walking in the Scottish hills on Sunday with my extended family and asked a teenage member of the clan what he was taught at school about making relationships work.  “Nothing” he said.  So I sat down and drew him a few of the diagrams I’ve posted on TG.  And as we spoke about relationships the problem with education became clearer to me.

The British education system today struggles on like an injured explorer, trying, and failing, to teach children various academic subjects, which is what it is for, in a culture which values entertainment and easy money above learning in the context of social and relational failure.  Our education system is not designed to function in our culture.  It grew up and matured over centuries as the nation matured.  The education system as we know it assumes a prevailing culture like the one in which it was first shaped.

The failure of our educational system is a failure to adapt to the demise of the church and, with it, the loss of some form of Christian culture.  Our education system faces a choice:  first, to adapt education to suit the prevailing culture and so teach entertainment in an entertaining way (bring on the clowns); or, second, to teach those who want to make money the means to make it; or, third, to revert to a biblical worldview in wider society.

In a biblical world, school is for education and the church is where social skills such as restraint, self control, patience, delayed gratification, adherence to the law of God, grace, mercy, forgiveness and so on are learned and encouraged in the home before being carried into school.  When society is biblical then school teachers are not expected to nanny badly behaved, socially inept children, but to teach.  Teachers should not have to save our kids.

The Christian culture of Victorian Britain and the first half of the twentieth century may have been a juvenile one, with lots of growing up still to do, but to have murdered it and returned instead to a pagan culture whilst expecting the education system which grew up in Christendom to carry on producing lots of world class engineers, scientists, lawyers and the like increasingly appears to have been blindly optimistic, naive and really quite infantile.

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