One of the few house rules seldom broken is the right of whoever is doing the cooking to listen to the station of their choice on the kitchen radio. This worked fine when the children were younger and so did not cook and only the occasional feast was ruined by a partner who insisted on listening to the unutterable blandness of Radio Two. Now older, the children sometimes prepare a meal to the dreadful cacophony of something called commercial radio. This mindless noise is so dumbed down that a Hollandaise sauce can thicken itself without the need of heat or stirring. When I cook, which is on most days, my kitchen realm is kept free from interference by tuning to Radio Four.
We have developed a family tradition of having a “proper” breakfast on exam days and so, on Tuesday morning, Eggs Benedict and pain au chocolat was on the menu. The shrill, teenage owner of a lusty rabbit was sitting her GCSE in Mathematics…again. Like her father decades before, she “flunked math”, to use the words of Arthur Miller, and like her father before her was allowed to re-sit the paper except in my case it was then called an O-level. Distracted from last minute revision by me swearing loudly at Sarah Montague on the Today programme for allowing a violent, hate-mongering, moronic fascist to go unchallenged, she came into the kitchen to help by toasting the bagels. Then, possibly for the first time ever, she listened intently to a Radio Four news report.
Having failed to re-introduce O-levels and CSEs and having failed to introduce his English Baccalaureate, Michael Andrew Gove, Secretary of State for Re-education, unveiled his latest plan to ruin children and young people. Demanding more “rigour” in education, he has decided that course work and modules will no longer be an indicator of achievement and “rigour” means a single exam at the end of years of study. “Rigour” means memorising lists of stuff to ensure that England will rigorously lead the world when it comes to a pub quiz. A rigorous education has no need of creativity or inquiry or aspiration; a rigorous education requires compliance and there will be no re-sits for failure.
This comes from a man who acted unlawfully over the cancelation of Building Schools for the Future and who misled Parliament by telling statistical lies. He demanded that GCSE results be downgraded because it looked like the lower orders were getting too clever. As a former News International hack, he lectured Leveson as to why it is vital that Murdoch vermin should be allowed to continue to harass and vilify the family of a murdered schoolgirl. He has forced schools to become Academies against their will, overspent one billion pounds on his vanity Free School masturbatory fantasy and transformed Ofsted from an inspectorate into the Gestapo. His department is now notorious for bullying, misinformation, duplicity and negative smears against anyone who dares to criticise this barking mad megalomaniac. For good measure, this disturbed man decided that he was in some way qualified to write a foreword to a re-print of the King James Bible and suggested that a grateful nation should buy the richest woman on the planet a dirty great big yacht. Both the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers have, for the first time ever, voted overwhelmingly in motions of no confidence in this very strange Education Secretary. Gove has described teachers who disagree with him as Marxists. His latest attempt at “rigour” is to deprive the very poorest children in our society of free school meals. Parents and potential parents; is this kind sort of man you want in charge of education? There are some in the teaching profession that think Gove should resign due to his disastrous handling of education but this is just muddled ideological anarchist misunderstanding of competence. Instead, I think Michael Gove should be sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act as amended in 2007. He is a danger to others and a danger to himself especially if he comes within about half a mile from me.
As the eggs poached and the bacon crisped, the BBC had some government spokeswonk slagging off GCSEs as “worthless” and some profiteer from the CBI demanding vocational drones to increase greedy rich people`s share dividends. The corporation reported that the Labour opposition welcomed the “reforms” although some elements of the teaching profession had expressed some slight “misgivings”. Later in the day, the BBC in a fearless crusade for balance and impartiality, rushed to interview Year 7 pupils in Hampstead. Yes Hampstead in London, not Hackney, not Lewisham, not Moss Side, not Handsworth, not Toxteth, but Hampstead. The pupils and the Head Teacher thought the “reforms” were a good idea.
The Eggs Benedict went down well and it was time for the mathematician to leave. I walked her to the front door. “Do your best”, I said. “Answer all the questions, shown your working and if you have time, go back and double check your answers.” She looked back at me and gave me that stunning, familiar smile. “What`s the point?” she said. “The government thinks the qualification is a piece of shit, they think my teachers are piece of shit and they think I`m a piece of shit”.
I went back to my kitchen, switched off the radio and started to cry.