Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

It is a general rule that public services rarely work properly, if at all. But over the past 60 years there has been one shining exception - grammar schools.

Yet New Labour agrees with great thinkers like the IRA hero and sometime Ulster education minister Martin McGuinness that the single example of our public services that has been an unconditional triumph should be blown up. The reason seems to be that, if not everyone can have it, no one can have it.

In that case, make every school a grammar school. Why not? Because it would not serve the needs of large numbers of pupils, i. e. , the truth behind the whole debate is that our political and educational establishment is too lazy or hidebound to think of ways of serving pupils to whom grammar schools are irrelevant. But help is at hand: Aristotle.

Aristotle (384-322 BC ) devotes Book 10 of his Nicomachean Ethics to the importance of pleasure. Arguing that everyone aims at pleasure because it completes or perfects one's life, he points out that pleasure is intimately connected with a specific activity, and those who find pleasure in an activity will work at it with more discernment and accuracy: 'for example, students who enjoy geometry become proficient at it, and grasp its various problems better, and similarly lovers of music, architecture or the other arts make progress in their favourite pursuit because they enjoy it. …

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