It may be a reliable presumption that if the NUT is against something, then it must be right, but there comes a time when the leftie teaching union has a valid point, such as voicing opposition to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s most recent pronouncement (echoed by his loyal chorus) that schools should run longer working days and shorter summer holidays.
Gove claims that, as children are no longer sent out to work in the fields, then it is no longer permissible that children remain at large for such a long period, if we are to produce a generation of Nietzchean Ubermenschen to compete with the Oriental nations. However, looking closer to home, in the top private schools in England and the state system of the country of Finland, which usually ranks first in results, you find shorter days and longer holidays. Additionally, the school starting age in Finland is seven – considerably older than in England.
From the libertarian point of view, the ideological struggle over state education is a fight between two factions of authoritarians. The fundamental problem is the state system itself. Without the imposition of the state-run quasi-monopoly, schools would run their affairs independently, and no doubt come to different conclusions as to hours of attendance and length of holiday, as well as syllabus and philosophical orientation, and parents would be able to choose a school that most closely fit their own and their children’s requirements.
Today’s teachers, whose mundane work can often be stressful, are having their jobs made more difficult by the impositions of state central-planning, with its reams of bureaucracy and its Stalinesque inspections. No doubt the government’s entrenched enemies in the educational establishment exercise a malign influence over the schools, but the solution to this will not come from Gove attempting to over-ride this influence with his own ideological pedagogy. This will only add burdens. The solution can only come from breaking up the quasi-monopoly.
Speaking from my own recollection, the best thing about school was the long summer holiday, and I pity today’s children, whose every waking hour is being organised and supervised. Let them find their own interests and develop their own personalities. Leave them in peace!