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Something’s got to Gove

January 18, 2010 by
Filed under: Public policy, The RSA 

Oh the frustration. As a result of a complaint to the Charity Commission, I willingly agreed with RSA Trustees that I should not use this blog on this site to speculate on political strategy. Apparently, it’s not so much a problem of political bias, more that such matters have little to do with the RSA mission (‘unlike women’s sense of humour of the use of animals in advertisements?’ I hear you comment quizzically).

But I have so much to say! Sadly, I must save it for those occasional media appearances in which I insist there is no reference to the day job.

Suffice to say in this context that – amazingly – the general election is shaping up to be one in which real policy questions may feature. Whether on universalism in the benefit system, promoting marriage, the speed of deficit reduction, the form and content of schooling, immigration, Britain’s relationship with Europe, there are real differences being clearly articulated and debated.

Last week even, at the State of the Arts Conference, there were substantive differences between Jeremy Hunt and Ben Bradshaw’s view both of what is happening now in the sector and what needs to happen next.

Following the agreement of the Party leaders to TV debates, we are hoping to hold equivalent events with a departmental focus here at John Adam Street. We will be inviting the culture spokespeople and the environment leads to agree to answer questions from an audience comprising a full Great Room and thousands watching and listening on-line. And we will, of course, be hoping to do the same for education.

Which brings me to the most exciting news of the day: Michael Gove has replied to my July questions. Maybe now he has published his education manifesto I have finally, albeit momentarily, moved to the top of his priority list (joking and bad puns aside, I am genuinely flattered and grateful). And what a fascinating reply it is. I am holding back for 24 hours in case we can get some take up from the traditional media but tomorrow or the day after I will share his thoughts in full along with some of my replies to his replies.

Given that we are running at nearly 60 comments on my last education post, I am sure Michael’s views will provoke a very lively debate.



  • Hovedan

    Some stinker stopped you speaking your mind. Pooh.maybe you should just set up a personal blog and let rip, so to speak.

  • Joe Nutt

    Topically, I’ll get my retaliation in first, Vinnie style.

    Michael Gove said some extremely pertinent things on the Today programme yesterday about the profession and “respect.” I know when I joined the profession, it was like the vast majority of other teachers, a negative choice. I entered the job market when there were hundreds of applicants for every job, and opted to study a Masters when I couldn’t find the job in publishing I thought I wanted. (The last straw was coming second after three interviews for a job on one of the dreariest trade magazines imaginable. I still have the letter after all these years.) I tried teaching as a fall back and discovered, not only was I good at it, but it was incredibly rewarding. In many ways exactly mirroring the experience of many of the Teach First graduates I tutored a few years ago.

    However, what I wasn’t prepared for was how the public, the people I met in day to day life and work, reacted to me once they knew I was a teacher. The disrespect and disappointment was almost tangible. It was in fact something I don’t think I ever came to terms with. It certainly fuelled my academic writing and may well have ultimately contributed to my decision to leave the profession for business.

    So anyone who is courageous and intelligent enough to grasp this subtle problem, merits my continued attention and interest.

  • Brian Hughes

    If it’s authentic snobby British “disrespect and disappointment” he’s after, Joe Nutt should try telling people he’s an engineer…

  • Livy

    I thought about it at one point. Volunteered as a teaching assistant in a school over in East London which was basically like the one from that film Dangerous Minds.

    Secretly I really wanted it to be an off-putting experience but it was actually quite fun; kids are hilarious. Even the death threats and offers to sell me narcotics were delivered in humourous ways. I didn’t hate it, I just wasn’t born to teach.

    Even though it would have been an easy 25k I otherwise had no hope of earning elsewhere, I decided to keep it as a fall back option for later down the line. You know, in case I need the cash after getting someone pregnant or using the credit card to buy a Playstation 3 with built in Blu Ray DVD playing capability.

    My friends, however, reacted with the same sense of shock, pity and contorted facial expressions when I floated the idea. To be fair I understood why. They saw it as an admission of defeat, or rather a willingness to accept a life of mediocrity in exchange for long term job security. My indignant response may have been, “Well who the hell else is gonna pay me that kinda bunse for working 8 months a year and going home at half past 3?!??!”

    To be fair I’m glad I succumbed to the peer pressure and went to work for less; I’d rather roll the dice if it means I’m chancing it for something I really want as opposed to something to ‘settle’ for. Without pure love and enthusiasm for that job, it’s almost impossible to achieve greatness rather than mere competence. I’d only eek out the remainder of my days a self loathing and unambitious malcontent, trying to live the London rat race. And besides, even if you win a rat race, you’re still a rat.

    MT: Gutted on getting reported. I’ve never heard Gove speak at any event… Is he really the intellectual messiah Tories rate him as? Or is that just the best they can do…

    Oh yeah, regarding my ‘Mandatory Altruism’ …OK forget the illiberal and dubiously legal aspects of my warped set of ideas. Instead, we guarantee private conjugal visits to the first 7,000 offenders who volunteer for the procedure, whether they’re married or not. Any money says the entire male population with long enough sentences would throw their hats (and hopefully more) in the ring.


  • Steve

    It is a shame that people react like that to the mere mention of an occupation but perhaps like me their personal experiences have been less than positive. Sadly ‘with disrespect and disappointment’ is exactly the way I remember my teachers.

    Then again you could try telling somebody you create direct mail for a living…

  • Martin Robinson

    This reminds me of a blog I posted some time ago:

    If Teachers are to be held in the same esteem as Lawyers and Doctors, then paying them the same might help. (Old argument I know but no less relevant for that) Teaching as a career stops, unless you do less teaching, so better teachers, teach less.

    I was described as a ‘very good teacher’ at a dinner party the other day, which made one of my fellow diners laugh as it sounded, as he said, more like an insult than a compliment. I just swallowed the humble pie and put another chip on my shoulder.

  • Livy


    Funny post on your blog, sorry I would post there but my web browser doesn’t seem to like the text box on this old machine of mine.

    “If your Dad was a street sweeper and you are a teacher in a state school, your social mobility is decidedly downward”

    Cracked me up.

    My dad lays brick and my mum cuts hair. When I was 13 I told them I wanted to use my education and opportunities (that they didn’t have) to be an archaeologist. The reaction I got was somewhat less than pleasant; “…DIGGING??!…”

    I may as well have said I was training as a ventriloquist.