Wednesday, December 07, 2005

On the immutability of skool

I have maintained for a long time now that it would be nigh on impossible to invent the curious system we call formal education from scratch. In one sense this simply reflects the impossibility of reproducing human history in another place/space and obtaining the same or similar outcome. It also reflects my strong view that this is a system that has gone so far past its use by date that it has become some kind of mesmerising theatre. But it is more than that. When you stop to consider just how much stuff is attached to the various formal education systems that are now deployed the beast takes on proportions that are truly difficult to comprehend. Appreciating the sheer size of these systems and here I don't merely mean the buildings, but also the many people who work in them or rely on them in some way for work plus the administrative support for them. But there is more. There is all the other stuff attached to them as well: parents, governments, varous other social institutions and so on. This makes these things darn near immovable, unreformable, and likely to be only slightly amenable to edits. All of this makes the various claims that have been made from time to time in relation to reform, revolution and re-invention of school such nonsense. All that matters is the ritual. The performance of school. We dare not ask the dangerous question, "what if it did not exist?" Apart from creating a lot of child minding work, it might allow the young to set more of the agenda than has been the case so far and which, might be characterised as a one hundred plus year performance of the Sabre-Tooth Curriculum. J.A. Peddiwell (1939) The Sabre-Tooth Curriculum, New York, McGraw-Hill.