Be a good little snowflake

“Dependency,” said John Dewey, “denotes a power rather than a weakness. There is always the danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual.”

Got that? That’s the baseline. Now mix with pure Marxist contempt for the bourgeoisie, and here’s what you get:

Children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are “middle-class” creations, a Government adviser will claim today.

Professor John White, who contributed to a controversial shake-up of the secondary curriculum, believes lessons should instead cover a series of personal skills.

Pupils would no longer study history, geography and science but learn skills such as energy-saving and civic responsibility through projects and themes.

He will outline his theories at a conference today staged by London’s Institute of Education — to which he is affiliated — to mark the 20th anniversary of the national curriculum.

This being a Daily Mail report, I decided it might be prudent to look for an additional source. Says the Guardian:

The subject-based curriculum stems from 18th century religious communities and academic learning has become the mark of a well-heeled middle class, White will say.

“In 1988 a traditional subject-based curriculum was imposed by the Conservative education secretary with no rationale given for it. This has alienated many youngsters, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he will warn.

White will also argue that control of the school curriculum should be taken away from politicians and passed to an independent education commission protected from “government interference”.

“We need a way of ensuring that the school curriculum is kept at arm’s length from individual politicians’ idiosyncratic preferences,” he will say.

As though only politicians had idiosyncrasies.

The Guardian interviewed White two years ago, at which time he said this:

“If education is about helping people to lead happy, flourishing lives, then schooling should be focused on enabling children to meet their basic needs of health and food, as well as equipping them to find interesting work and form lasting relationships. The curriculum should flow from this, rather than vice versa.”

Pained as I am to say this, “interesting work” is more the exception than the rule, which suggests that it might not be a bad idea to learn those tedious middle-class subjects, in case following one’s dreams proves to be not merely uneconomical but downright foolhardy. Then again, I’m one of those old-school types: you want to be happy and flourish, fine, but you’re gonna finish your homework first.

I showed the Daily Mail piece to Trini, and she said, “That’s it. I’m homeschooling my kids.”


  1. fillyjonk »

    5 June 2008 · 7:16 am

    Being someone who teaches other people for a living, you might guess that I am appalled by this. It sounds so pessimistic – like maybe once this is instituted, then in ten years, they’ll be teaching the kids hunting-gathering skills, because, you know, “the coming societal collapse”

    Or maybe what’s next is grading individuals from alpha to sub-epsilon and assigning them their life’s work accordingly? So if you’re an alpha, you get to be a scientist; if you’re a sub-epsilon, you clean out public latrines?

    I mean, it’s great to have a civically-responsible populace and all, but what if they can’t, you know, READ and DO MATH? (Or perhaps I answered my own question).

  2. Andrew Kember »

    5 June 2008 · 8:27 am

    Ha – thank goodness I don’t live in the US – what a crazy… Huh? Guardian? Daily Mail? They sound familiar. Very much In My Back Yard. Well, near my garden at any rate, but I digress.

    I think one of the problems is that those who propose these things forget how much they rely on their basic skills, taught as conventional subjects. Energy-saving and civic responsibility are worthy topics, but deserve only a tiny fraction of the curriculum, as much more wide-ranging and useful lessons need to be imparted to our children.

    I learnt about the environment in a small fraction of my biology lessons. I learnt about electricity production in physics. I absorbed ‘civic responsibility’ (or, more accurately: Moral values, conscience and social graces) from my parents and the church. ‘Personal skills’ are vital, but are a by-product of a good education.

    Teaching children to be friendly and sociable is missing the mark. If they can’t get jobs, support their family and contribute to society because they lack basic skills then they will end up bitter and anti-social. That’s not just bad for them, it’s bad news for their children and the rest of society as well.

    Rant over. Thank you for participating.

  3. fillyjonk »

    5 June 2008 · 10:48 am

    I would also be inclined to argue that “friendly and sociable” is the responsibility of the parents, long before the kiddos hit first grade or whatever.

    Of course, given some of the recent interactions I’ve had, I suspect there are plenty parents falling down on that job – and there have been for the past 40 years or so.

  4. McGehee »

    5 June 2008 · 2:50 pm

    “There is always the danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual.”

    What, is that suddenly a bad thing now — or am I just unusual?

  5. Charles Pergiel »

    5 June 2008 · 11:45 pm

    Just who is this Trini of who you speak?

  6. Mister Snitch! »

    6 June 2008 · 3:34 am

    Trini is right. Go girl.

  7. CGHill »

    6 June 2008 · 7:20 am

    Trini, when she’s not studying for her [insert heavy tech degree here], is responsible for our hardware maintenance at 42nd and Treadmill.

  8. View From The Porch »

    6 June 2008 · 7:44 am

    Planting tomorrow’s Soylent Green crop.

    When I first read it, I thought it was satire. Surely nobody could be such a walking, talking parody of an Ayn Rand villain… Children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are “middle-class” creations, a Government a…

  9. DirtCrashr »

    6 June 2008 · 10:12 am

    “Dependency” as denoting “Power” is also considered a psychological inversion problem known as “passive aggressive.” Sheesh, “decreasing the social capacity of an individual” is only of concern to those who value that higher than the individual, and wish to exploit it for The Collective.

  10. Don Gwinn »

    6 June 2008 · 12:31 pm

    The Armed Schoolteacher does not approve.

    So, that’s settled.

  11. Tatyana »

    6 June 2008 · 4:58 pm

    [see, Chaz, I’m not the only one inquiring about Ms.Trini!]

    Maybe the Guardian’s collectivists should be sent to re-education camps themselves, to remind them one of the tenets of their ideology, “Knowledge is Power!”.
    Uh, no – that power, by socialist canon, reserved for the chosen few. The rest are perfectly fine learning to be “nice” – and depend on welfare.

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