Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Teachers on the rack

From The Lord Deramore

Sir: John Turnbull (Letters, 31 March) correctly points out that the Conservative party was in government for most of the years between 1945 and 1997. Indeed, the 1944 Education Act was the brainchild of a Conservative, R.A. Butler, but it was Attlee's postwar government of 1945-51 which was responsible for implementing its provisions.

In those five years the Labour government established the basic structure of the state-- education system in this country. Succeeding Conservative administrations pursued a policy of maintaining the status quo, which Keith Joseph called `the ratchet effect'; i.e., each fresh administration by Labour moved policy further to the Left and the intervening Conservative administration did nothing to move policy to the Right.

Sir Edward Boyle was a very left-of-centre Tory education minister, and Harold Macmillan and Edward Heath were left-of-- centre Tories. Furthermore, there were other equally important issues to be resolved, and the Ministry of Education was left in peace to develop its own ethos, which was fundamentally statist in nature, involving centralised control from the ministry and vast bureaucracy at the ministry and in local authorities, whether they were politically Labour, Conservative or Liberal.

From 1949 to 1965, while I imagine Mr Turnbull was teaching, I was an architect designing schools and supervising their erection. As they were all either state or Church of England schools, my hands were tied by regulations of all sorts emanating from Whitehall, and architects worked closely with educationists, whose political orientation was generally socialist. Many architects, too, were left-wing or extreme left-wing; some were communists and others fellow-travellers.

There is no doubt in my mind that teacher-training colleges became indoctrinated with subversive theories and that this has been at the root of the present abysmal education system. Clearly, there were thousands of good teachers like Mr Turnbull and still are, but one only needs to look at the NUT gatherings to see the appalling calibre of many teachers.

Arthur Deramore Pickering, North Yorkshire

Lessons of war

From Mr Franz Metzger

Sir: Your `military issue' (24 March) casts a crucial light on a fundamental difference between the British and the Continental Europeans: their attitude towards war. It's evident, not just from this one issue of The Spectator, but from hundreds of publications, from private and public statements or simply the daily use of language, that the British (or at least the non-decidedly Left majority there) still think that war is basically a jolly good thing, provided that you win and can see yourself as the goodies two assumptions the British take for granted. The rest of Europe, with perhaps the exception of atavistic tribal feuding in the Balkans, is deeply convinced that war is a bad thing, to be avoided at almost all costs.

This difference is clearly based on their respective experiences during the second world war. I do not want to belittle the sufferings and the courage of the British during the Blitz, nor the grief of those who suffered personal losses then; but these individual hardships cannot compare with the traumatic effects of a war actually raging through your country, the shocks of defeat and occupation, which, at some stage or other, all involved nations had to go through. Besides the horrid devastations, the fate of being occupied had especially traumatic consequences. It wasn't just the loss of sovereignty and being bossed around by armed foreigners that terrified; it was also the loss of clear distinctions between 'right' and 'wrong', 'good' and 'bad'- not all collaborators were rascals, and not all resistance fighters were heroes.

Britain escaped all that - deservedly, one may add - but therefore it remains excluded from a common European experience. This shared experience not only allowed the surprisingly quick reintegration of Germany, the original source of all that misery, into the community of European nations; it also stands behind the drive towards a European Union which shall prevent any further wars on our soils - The very point stressed by the Polish minister, Radek Sikorski, in The Spectator (`The joy of federalism', 17 February). …

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