Thursday, 26 March 2009

To work with or against the government?

Last week I wrote about the new GCSEs and how my son was able to get a decent score in a paper through general knowledge and a bit of simple grammar. The meeting I then attended, to discuss these papers was interesting, but it was run under Chatham House Rule so I'm not free to discuss what happened. However the idea is to use the information gathered to sit down with the government and its representatives and persuade them (if needs be - it might be that the meeting concludes that all is well) of a new path to follow. So rather than 'publicise and shame' which might make people defensive, it's 'sit down and talk'.

The evening after the meeting I went to the opera to see Dr Atomic, John Adams' take on the Manhattan Project. A key idea in this is that the scientists collaborated with the government, giving them what they wanted and allowing those in Washington to make the big decisions - given the information, they can be trusted to do what's right, they can make the political judgements. Looking back it is easy to condemn those scientists for their part in the project and their easy, passive guilt in working with the authorities rather than speaking out or refusing to collaborate.

I keenly felt the irony of that moment and wondered if we shall be seen as the generation of teachers who collaborated to bring about the end of good science in the UK. Or will history see us as the concerned and active teachers who pushed the government at the right moment? Or will the new GCSEs actually turn out to be the saviours of science, in spite of the naysayers in the independent school system? Who can tell?

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