Education is funny

Sometimes, things happen and you can feel yourself growing-up in the moment. Whether adults ask for it or not, I think that as children, we place a lot of faith in our elders; a level of expectation that they cannot possibly meet.

I remember my parents’ divorce when I was fourteen. That was a moment when a part of my innocence died. I remember the anger I felt as an adolescent. “You help the thick get thicker while the poor get poorer and the rich get richer,” I raged at my teachers as the front-man of a punk band.

And I remember a satire called “Brass Eye” where Chris Morris duped a bunch of celebrities that I knew well from the Saturday night TV of my childhood. He duped them into saying ridiculous things like, “Cake is a made-up drug.” He duped Noel Edmonds and Rolf Harris and Phil Collins and some politician.

“These people are just idiots,” I thought. And I began to realise that there were no special ones; no anointed individuals who were destined to be famous or powerful; who knew the answers and could look after the rest of us. As my grandfather used to say, “He’s just a mon in a pair of trousers.” And a stupid one at that.

This is the power of satire. It cuts through in a way that nothing else can. One minute, we are all scratching our chins and nodding sagely, the next we are made to realise just how absurd it all is.

Education is profoundly comic. Is there anything more rampantly silly that Building Learning Power with its absurdly inaccurate image of a brain divided up into ‘learning muscles’ that all just happen to have alliterative names? Try teaching it, as I have tried. “Now class, which learning muscles have we used in today’s lesson?” Watch them groan and parrot back something that they have rote-memorised. Then go back to a prep-room full of science teachers and see if you can avoid mocking the whole thing with sardonic relish.

Then there is the teacher who wants to get rid of his desk. This is because it is a symbol of traditional authority, raising the questions a) why is authority a problem? and b) where’s he going to put his coffee mug and his marking? The whole thing howls to be satirised:

I took the teacher desk away but then I realised that I was standing up and walking around whilst all the children were sitting down and writing. This made me appear like a kind of supervisor and projected a sense of authority. So, I decided to take the children’s desks away too but then they started to write on the floor. Even if I sat down I found that I was up higher than they were which gave me authority over them. And so I decided to lie on the floor. But then one kid said, “Hey! How come we have to write and you get to just lie around?” This was a good question and so I contacted my PLN to see what they recommended…

I am not going to stop seeing the funny side in the silly things that we do. This will of course annoy the people promoting these silly things.

Such is life.


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