The Teaching Establishment is Bad for Our Schoolchildren
© Frank Ellis 1999
© Frank Ellis 1999
It is 1999, yet it seems as if 1979 was only yesterday. For, a vast and largely unaccountable bureaucracy still wields enormous power over the destinies of our schoolchildren. Wilfully blind to the failures of “progressive” education, teachers’ training colleges and educational theorists continue to churn out the latest fads dressed in scientoid jargon. In this unholy task, they are aided and abetted by far too many teachers and lecturers in colleges of further education and universities, the majority of whom are members of the other powerful educationally-related bureaucracy, the teachers’ unions. In the longevity of these vested interests and their ability to resist change there is an eerie reminder of the Soviet communist party.
Education was a failure of the Thatcher and Major governments. To be fair, there were more pressing items on the agenda: winning the Cold War; taming the unions; privatization; and winning the Falklands and Gulf Wars. The trouble is that political victories are not the same thing as cultural victories. As Justice Robert Bork points out in Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline: ‘Even when conservative political leaders have the votes, liberal cultural leaders operate and exercise influence where votes do not count. However many political victories conservatives may produce, they cannot attack modern liberalism in its fortresses.’ Or perhaps one might say that they can, but that it is not easy. No matter, education is one such left-liberal fortress whose walls do have to be knocked down if our cultural degeneration is to be arrested and reversed.
Establishment, as in “teaching establishment”, is misleading. Establishment suggests respect for tradition and a certain scepticism towards change, the belief that teachers are the custodians of history, the defenders of cultural achievement. Yet, one will struggle to find these attitudes among many of today’s teachers. On the contrary, the teaching/education establishment, with its unions and gurus and “relevant research”, is solidly a creature of the left. This establishment delights in mocking and vilifying anything which might in any way be linked with, or be supportive of, UK PLC and the West generally. The “teaching” establishment is radical and nihilistic, unless its pay and conditions are threatened.
“Resources” is a much-loved word among the various groups that comprise the teaching establishment. Decoded, this means money and more of it. There is assumed to be a direct and demonstrable relationship between spending large sums of public money and the quality of education provided. Wherever this fallacy is cited, it should be exposed and attacked relentlessly. More money can be translated into more equipment, computers, books (will they be read?), classrooms and pay for teachers, but alone is no guarantee that children will achieve satisfactory standards in literacy and numeracy by the time they complete secondary education. A school which acquires computers and so on, but tolerates anarchy in the classroom and adopts, what in teacher-training speak is referred to, as a “non-judgemental” attitude towards academic standards and setting homework, that is in plain English, sanctions failure, is never going to teach children to read and write, however much public money is wasted.
The teaching establishment’s obsessive and fallacious belief that throwing money at a problem will cure it, is something that conservatives should find paradoxical. They are routinely attacked for putting capital before people, yet it is conservatives who realise the limitations of money in saving schools. Money can only go so far. What counts is the ethos of the school: high expectations; discipline and an orderly teaching environment; and, above all, teachers who believe in these things. The near permanent whine about money emitted by the teaching unions is intended to divert attention from fundamental failures in these areas.
Identifying the source of our woes is the easy bit. Solutions are much harder to find. In fact, the problem may well be insurmountable and the best that can be hoped for is some form of damage control, which in time might lead to improvement. The insurmountable nature of the problem, as I see it, concerns parents, particularly in their capacity as voters.
Failing schools are, overwhelmingly, to be found in Labour-controlled areas. This is nothing new. The remorseless decline of sound education in these fiefdoms, amid ever-increasing spending, has been well documented. No amount of evasive bluster can hide the scale of educational failure. The secret is well and truly out. But the question here is why, when so much about the grotesque incompetence of Labour-controlled education is in the public domain, do these councils remain solidly Labour. The answer is, I think, that significant numbers of parents are largely indifferent to the educational achievements or failures of their children and, likewise, are indifferent to revelations of teacher incompetence. Education is not an issue they worry about. Teachers are just state-sponsored child-minders. Moreover, those same Labour councils that tolerate failure are a source of benefits paid for, in part, by confiscatory levels of council tax. When it comes to instant gratification through the welfare system or the hard-won fruits of education over the long term, then it is a no contest. Welfare wins every time. Subsidize socially-dysfunctional behaviour and educational failure and you get more of both, not less. More money, spent specifically on education, in addition to that already spent as part of the general welfare budget, merely aggravates the problem.
If then, as I am arguing, high levels of welfare spending and educational failure are closely related, then the outlook is not good. Welfare provisions grew under the last government and the removal of Frank Field, a man with a deep moral and intellectual grasp of the corruption engendered by welfare, implies that the new Labour government have not got the stomach to tackle the problem either.
Matters are made worse by the changing nature of work which now relies on the service industries and the notion of adding value. Such work practices require certain segments of the work force to study at the highest levels offered by good universities. A great deal of the work force, however, does not require such demanding preparation. They can be hired, given in-house training and laid off when necessary. No amount of employment legislation can change this. In fact, legislation will force companies to accelerate ways of reducing their dependence on low-paid employees.
Confidence in traditional approaches is the key to education reform. Without it, any reform is meaningless, even harmful. If the task of education is merely to provide a semi-skilled supply of workers for business - a bleak thought - then the burden of education, or more accurately training, should fall on business. If, on the other hand, conservatives at all levels of government believe that a good education, as traditionally understood, is a desirable moral and intellectual end in itself, that it should be available to every child, then it is high time that we put the “teaching” establishment to the sword (“non-judgementally”, of course). Once the power and insidious influence of this establishment has been broken, or severely curtailed, then those who want to teach will be free to do so.
Dr Frank Ellis, University of Leeds
Equal Opportunities or Institutionalised Envy
© Frank Ellis 1999
© Frank Ellis 1999
Implicit in equal opportunity theory is the assumption that all individuals are equal in ability and that unequal outcomes are due to one group’s - white, middle-class, heterosexual males - suppressing everyone else. Given, however, that all people are emphatically not equal in physical and intellectual abilities, the outcomes are never going to be equal either. Once the commissars of equal opportunity/affirmative action discover this - they know it already of course - then the stage is set for cooking the books so that outcomes can be made to be equal as well. This is all done in the name of something called “social justice”. For the seekers after “social justice” equal opportunity theory offers a ready-made explanation of life’s supposed unfairness: it nurtures unnatural expectations for women and legitimatizes their grievances when things go wrong or turn out differently; it justifies black hatred and persecution of whites in the name of quotas and preferential treatment; it provides the justification and means for homosexuals to raise a perversion to the status of a violated right and demand moral compensation; and it affords a perfect excuse for Africa’s bloody failures of which we are daily reminded.
Feminists, for example, regardless of any empirical evidence to the contrary, insist that absolute equality between men and women is a natural state. Feminism has declared war on human nature. Obvious biological differences and physical achievements separating men from women are ignored. The nuclear family oppresses women. Sex, we are assured, is a social construct. So what then is rape? Social deconstruction? Sex-as-a-social-construct is grotesque and says much about the level of what passes for intellectual discussion that such notions see the light of day, let alone that they are taken seriously.
The disparities between men and women in just about any major field of human endeavour are enormous and long-standing. In the sciences, art, music, architecture, metallurgy, industry, military strategy, polar exploration, sport and medicine, men are dominant. Agreed, there are many talented, conspicuously successful women in some of these areas, yet talented, conspicuously successful males outnumber talented, conspicuously successful females. As a sex, men have strength in depth, women do not. And this is the obstacle against which feminist aspirations will always clash, unless there is some sudden and massive genetic shift.
The standard feminist response is straightforward - and ridiculous: men have suppressed women for the last 2,000 years or so. If women had equality of opportunity these glaring disparities in achievement would simply fade away. Note the interesting contradiction: feminists insist on the absolute equality of male and female, yet for some mysterious reason men have been able to “suppress” women for all these centuries. Suppression over such a long period can only mean a highly sophisticated strategy of suppression, which would, in turn, say something about the intelligence and other qualities of the suppressors themselves. It would also say a great deal about the efficiency of the suppressors. For, not only have they successfully devised and implemented a brilliant policy of suppression, presumably since they “invented” or “socially constructed” sex thousands of years ago in those long Neanderthal nights, but, additionally, have found time to wage wars, discover some of the profound laws governing the universe, invent computers, conquer many diseases, explore the Solar System and, in the process of doing all these things, have showered many blessings on the “suppressed”.
Also, the sheer duration of this alleged suppression would be completely at odds with what we know about the way conquered and subjugated peoples behave. No conquest stays forever. Sooner or later, and in historical terms it is always sooner, the conquered free themselves or the conquerors are assimilated which is frequently beneficial for both sides. Equally implausible are the many claims of feminists - similar to those of Marxists in the context of class - that they are “liberating” females from “oppression” by males. For thousands of years, males, we are told, have “suppressed” females (spare a thought for Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Messalina, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Elizabeth Taylor, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Lady Thatcher). Then some hundred years ago or so the new age dawned. People calling themselves feminists claimed to have uncovered the male blueprint for “suppressing” females, of which, from the time when we left our caves and founded cities, nobody had any idea. The greatest minds in history, from Plato, through Shakespeare and Newton to Einstein failed to be aware of the male “conspiracy” to “suppress” females. Only the feminists, we are to believe, were intellectually able to unravel this brutal, subtle, diabolically-camouflaged, patriarchal conspiracy and to strip it bare for their “suppressed” sisters to see in all its despicable horror. No doubt, some of these feminists are clever, but the world has always had plenty of clever fools. It is wisdom we lack. The feminist claim to have uncovered a conspiracy is a monumental conceit, an outrageous piece of self-flattery. There is no conspiracy and there never has been.
The rise of feminism coincides with the dramatic advances in living standards made possible by the Industrial Revolution. As we move further and further into the era of the post-industrial society, so the influence of feminism increases with all its destructive consequences. Feminism can only thrive in a sophisticated, male-created industrial/post-industrial society; that is in a society which has conquered disease and material need. Societies engaged in a desperate struggle for survival cannot permit themselves the luxury of indulging feminism. Only in societies, which are prosperous and bored, is it possible for a well nourished parasite such as feminism and the ridiculous gender-studies industry to thrive. Feminism and all the other -isms that go with it are waging war against the great enemy: rational enquiry and reason. These, we are told, are the tools by means of which the evil, woman-hating, logocentric, phallocentric, gynophobic, patriarch enslaves woman. One reason why feminism places such enormous importance on feelings, counselling, group therapy, the idea of belonging to “womankind.” The collectivised mind is intended to suppress the individual and the faculty of reason. That feminism enjoys such prominence in our universities is symptomatic of our cultural malaise, our intellectual laziness and moral cowardice.
Equal opportunity theory was designed with blacks in mind and this is where things get rather nasty. I cite a couple of episodes from my time at an American state university. After some three weeks of teaching first year Russian, I noted that one student, a girl of about 18, was starting to leave her fellow students way behind. She was an outstanding linguist. One day, just before class started, I asked her, why, being resident in California, she had not gone to one of that state’s top universities to study Russian. In a quite matter-of-fact way, she replied: ‘Because I am white’. It turned out that she was a victim of the policy that obtains in America today, whereby white students, male or female, are denied access to good universities, even though they have achieved outstanding Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, because quotas have been established for various groups, primarily blacks with low SAT scores (well documented in Dinesh D’Souza’s, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus, Vintage Books, New York, 1992).
Or consider the hypocrisy revealed in the following anecdote. One day on a very hot afternoon, as I ran past a black woman, she laughed and told me that I was ‘as white as a sheet’ (fair comment and true). Back in the university I did an experiment. I explained to one of the many officials in the affirmative action bureaucracy that I had just arrived from England and, not wanting to give offence, I would like to know whether telling a black person that he was ‘as black as coal’ would be considered offensive. No question, I pressed the right button. At a suitable opportunity in the ensuing tirade of re-education, I managed to ask whether a black person who told me that I was as ‘white as a sheet’ would be guilty of the same “crime”. I was given the following gem: ‘She’s a member of an oppressed group, she is incapable of racism.’ So there you have it. Blacks can say anything they wish, from racially offensive language or totally innocuous remarks (as above) about whites, but woe betide any mere white, who even hints at such things. One further example from Hollywood sticks in my mind, the film, White Men Can’t Jump. What, I wonder, would be the reaction of the equal opportunity commissars to a film with the title, No Black Society has Ever Produced a Written Language or Mathematics? We know what the answer would be. This grotesque double standard pervades the whole programme of what is called equal opportunities. To add humiliation to nastiness, whites are expected to collude in their public vilification.
I suggest that it is the very inequalities in individual achievement which have enabled us to progress from mud huts and woad to computers, the internal combustion engine, the jet, the pill, the post-industrial society, antibiotics, space travel and bio-engineering. It is considered politically incorrect to say so, but were one to take the “white” and the “male” out of science and technology one would have no science, just witchcraft, third-world squalor, misery and mega-incompetence. The striving to be faster, better, more successful has brought more good to mankind than egalitarianism, which, in its ugly institutionalised form, equal opportunities or affirmative action, is the great enemy of freedom, prosperity and genuine opportunity. Inequality - that is the condition of there being many different and innate abilities unequally distributed among human beings - is a blessing not a curse.
Frank Ellis, Department of Russian, University of Leeds
 The title of my hypothetical film is a line taken from Professor Levin’s essay, “Recent Fallacies in Discussions of Race”, in The Real American Dilemma: Race, Immigration, and the Future of America, ed., Jared Taylor., New Century Books, Oakton, Virginia., 1998, p.69.