Too much going on and not much time for posting here. Even though by the middle of this month my blog will have had one million hits in two and a half years – how weird is that? Anyway, here are three things to cheer from the last week:
Zoe Williams saying that Emperor Gove is naked. People who have argued about money as the prime incentive for motivating people have often found themselves ridiculed for their naïveté. The mantra of successive governments since Thatcher’s in 1979 seem to have assumed that if you pay people more they will perform better. Or, at least, if you link money/pay to targets, performance will improve.
This might be true in some circumstances, but it takes absolutely no account of altruism, public service or a desire to improve the common good as prime motivators. Apart from the dehumanising triteness of these assumptions, they seem to be based on philosophical anthropologies that are not subject to wide scrutiny.
Zoe Williams nails the blind stupidity of drawing a straight line between financially incentivising teachers to treat their students like tabula rasa commodities. Apparently, some important social policy shapers think that if we link the pay of teachers to the ‘results’ they achieve from their students, standards will improve and young people will be better educated. Let’s just take a minute’s silence to sit, mouths open with incredulity, and reflect on this bit of epic nonsense.
Does anyone know any teacher who goes into a classroom thinking they must squeeze their kids through the exam machine in order to improve the end-of-month salary packet?The really misguided assumption behind all this stuff is the assumption (for that is all it is) that children are commodities who can be squeezed through ‘learning’ regimes, achieve five A-Cs at GCSE, and leave school content that at the very least they helped their teacher earn a higher wage.
Of course, this regime also thinks that every kid starts from the same place. No more room for ‘value added’ in any measurement of school effectiveness. But, then, those who do this live (and were themselves educated) on a different planet. The fact is that an excellent teacher in an excellent educational establishment (a school) who makes massive progress with a child who starts with every conceivable disadvantage in life is still deemed a failure if that child doesn’t tick the five A-C box at the end of the process.
The real mystery is not whether the teacher is good or bad, but why that teacher keeps teaching in a system run by ideologues who have little or no idea of life’s realities for too many of our children. This isn’t bleeding-heart liberalism; it is a question that arises every time I visit a school… which is almost every week. And it isn’t to decry the wonderful facilities and regimes in some of our ‘best’ schools; but it is to ask why all our schools can’t be like them. Read Zoe Williams and weep.
Life carries on. I spent Monday and Tuesday at a retreat house in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales: Parcevall Hall. It is a place of quietness (no mobile signal and almost no wifi) which takes all-comers and creates a space in which we can reconnect with reality, away from the frantic busyness of usual life. Take a step back and the value systems underlying the ‘people are only incentivised or motivated by money’ culture become seen for what they are.
Generosity and forgiveness. What a magnificent last thirty minutes of today’s FA Cup Final! Liverpool really must get out of their captivation to the theologically happy expression of grace. Letting the other clubs have 25 years of glory while Liverpool take a breather is OK to a point, but there must be limits. Not theologically, of course – just in football. With Liverpool. That’s all.
I could add extra cheers for a round table meeting I chaired at Lambeth Palace this week with Muslim leaders, looking at the future of Christian minorities in the post Arab Spring Middle East – honest, frank, realistic, if not entirely hopeful. And I could add a final cheer for the nearly 400 people who came to Skipton to assume responsibility as churchwardens in parishes across the diocese, plugging away in every local community out of love of God and the world he has put us in. (We do another such gig in Bradford on Tuesday.)