Before I start, here is the Guardian article that induced me to write this post: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/14/teachers-life-inside-the-exam-factory This post is fairly unstructured because it started life as a Facebook status update that got out of hand, so I will continue in that vein.
The problems arising around education cannot be laid at the feet of teachers. Teachers are fighting a losing battle against the societal need and goal of producing a population of complicit, unquestioning, consumption units, willingly led into a life of induced 'happiness' and provided with just sufficient means to continue buying stuff without any real sense of purpose, in order to allow to continue the growth of that society ad infinitum.
Those students who display tendencies to break that mold are either pushed out of the system and banished into a life where they will inevitably end up incarcerated and no longer a visible problem, tolerated and allowed to pass through the system by manipulation of records and thus become virtually unemployable except at very basic levels but can still act as consumers, or are trapped into debt through higher education and still meaningless employment but of sufficient complexity to keep them quiet, occupied and complacent consumers. A very few are selected to become society's 'helpers' and 'policy directors'.
Most of that societal induction and indoctrination goes on unchecked outside of the classrooms and influence of the education system. What chance do even the most dedicated teachers have of 'reaching' and 'influencing' students to expect something more from life? Very little. Their influence is fast becoming restricted to assisting their charges to better 'fit in' to the pattern and so gain the most that they can from a highly structured life. The ranks of dedicated teachers are themselves becoming thinner as time goes by because they are being replaced more and more by those who are also just products of the system and basic consumer units themselves.
I don't think there is any going back from this. Society is almost completely but not quite yet operating under the 'glamour', in the sense of a manipulative magic spell, cast by its own self-preserving agenda.
I can even pick the time when things started to turn that way. Back in 1957, I think it was, when I was starting my second year of Grammar School education in Lincoln, UK. I was twelve years old. A thinker. A dreamer. At the beginning of what was to become my most successful year of secondary education. Well, perhaps a close second to my final year, when I exceeded even my own expectations by dint of hard work and dedication.
Beginning that second year, I looked around me at the fresh faces of the new 'fags' as first year students were known at the time. I was shocked. I became worried about the future of the human race.
A little aside before I continue: We, at my school, were told by the masters who taught us (they were called 'Masters' in those days and the school principal was known as the 'Head Master') that we were the 'creme de la creme' of the local intelligentsia. There were at the time four Grammar Schools in Lincoln. Two boys schools and two girls schools. The other boys school was housed in a magnificent old building and still back then took on 'boarding' pupils, kids who lived at the school during term time because their home was too far away. They of course looked down on our school whose pupils were drawn merely from the rank and file of local citizenry. We knew though who was really the 'creme de la creme'.
Back to my story. Yes, we were taught to think. The Masters, the good ones at least, would spend considerable periods of class time off curriculum, teaching us about life, relating their own experiences, getting us to consider and ponder how things really worked. Not merely preparing us for examinations. Not merely readying us for a life of 'work'. Not just fitting us for a 'job'.
Of course it was easier to do that in those days. The consumer society was only in it's infancy, had not yet established for itself a modus operandii, and was not then all pervading through every aspect of life. Things are very different now.
What did I see in the faces of my young successors that made me fear for our future? They were simply idiots and simpletons compared to us one year older than them. At least that is how it appeared to a twelve, almost thirteen year old who knew that he was part of the 'creme de la creme'. How could humanity's future be allowed to rest on the backs of such weak and insipid creatures as these? And what of years to come? As the gene pool weakened further, the outlook would get worse until we were all idiots running around and bumping into things, getting up as though nothing had happened and running around some more. Endlessly repeating the process until we all passed away.
Of course I cannot deny that these thoughts may have arisen partly through my own indoctrination into elite status, but we did at least come out of the process as independent thinkers and more rounded personalities than maybe we deserved to do. Or maybe we were just privileged to have obtained such a liberating education. I hope that I am not the only one of my peers who thinks that way.
It makes me sad to think that the passing of the years to my approaching sixty ninth birthday have not given me reason to alter my views on this. On the contrary, everything that I now see around me only strengthens those views.
I feel even more saddened for those, including my own children, who have been born into what is now a fully fledged self-serving and self-preserving society that has almost total control over many aspects of life of its denizens. Even though they may have been entranced so deeply into the murky depths of the 'glamour' that they cannot begin to imagine it to be that way. Human beings who are being stunted in their personal growth and blinded to the glorious panoply of experience that humanity was intended to enjoy, imbibe and blossom from. The form of control is there because without it people might become unmanageable, wanting to pursue interests that might be to the detriment of society, thinking thoughts that might lead them to question the way things are and possibly see through the thin veneer of the acceptability of societal norms.
The sausage factory that the education system is fast becoming, has been drawn, despite the valiant efforts of many of its teaching staff, into that foul system of impoverishment of human experience.
There is one bright spot in all of this. That self-serving societal system is also self-defeating because the end result of the process is an inherent instability that will eventually lead to its own demise. Bring on the day.