Sunday, 1 May 2011

An island nation of unemployed telemarketers

According to our Minister for Child Abuse and his cohorts have announced another public pseudo-consultation, this time on dumbing down kids for the workplace.
What an awful idea.
While, admittedly, the very idea of the Welfare State reached us almost by osmosis when the adjacent isle developed it, there used to be the idea that even a state education should invite children to be all they could be, not what vile, venal employers who cannot even compete in the UK market want them to be.
My parents were never so proud as the day, when I was about ten, Mr Fretwell, my Oxbridge educated form teacher, urged them in his cut glass accent to make me aim high, maybe Oxford or Cambridge, maybe the Classics. This was, to use Blair’s phraseology, a “bog standard junior school”, and ironically enough it was Cherie Blair’s maternal grandfather who, only a year later, encouraged my Dad to similarly aim high, stop throwing away the musical talent his parents had invested in so heavily, and get himself a university degree so that he could nurture that talent in other council house kids.
This was 40 years ago and Mr Fretwell may be long gone, but are there no teachers today who still think like that? Are they all too terrified by an educational industry which seems to chew up young talent and defecate prematurely aged mediocrity to …. well, do their job?
The thought that Manx children should have standards of education (already almost non-existent for too many) further lowered to raise new generations of call centre dullards is, frankly, horrific. The irony is, the call centres and other techno-sweatshops in countries which undercut our costs and laugh at our pitiful service standards are staffed by graduates who already have all-round educations our children can only dream of. As I saw only last week, we struggle to achieve basic standards of English, while graduate employees of our clients for whom English is a third or fourth language send back our sloppily written professional documents for rewriting with spelling and grammatical errors highlighted.
It would be funny if it were not so tragic. Can the nation which once, within a period of five years, produced both Randolph Quirk and Frank Kermode really be reduced to this?
The main reason those young Manx people who haven’t had all self-worth kicked out of them at school in the first place must “engage in lifelong learning” is that they learnt so little at school either. And the main reason most of them won’t even be able to benefit from lifetime learning (at least through on-island sources) is that the Education Department has dropped all the adult evening classes where we used to be able to do that. All that remains are a few second-rate flower-arrangers and new-agey nonsense, with the ‘serious’ emphasis on Micky Mouse vocational retraining courses to meet the requirements of employers who can thus pretend to be offering ‘professional development’ while retaining dumb, compliant employees who cannot afford to leave.
Were an eleven year old Randolph Quirk or Frank Kermode to be going through our current school system, what would be the highlight of their curriculum? Probably Business Studies, IT, and Marketing, I suspect, especially if, like Quirk and Kermode, they were children from modestly off families with no social connections.
If we throw away all hope for our children like this we sentence ourselves to become an island nation of unemployed telemarketers within a generation.

No comments: