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A "New Model School" Opens in London On Derridology

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Education for What?

by Christopher Chantrill
October 09, 2004 at 8:00 pm


LONDON’S Economist published a handy chart this week to help eager parents game the British education system.  The objective: to place your child in a “top university.”  To get there you’ll have to pony up lots of cash: to pay for private schooling, to pay the premium of up to 20 percent on housing in the catchment area of a good school, or to pay for private tutoring.  Prime Minister Tony Blair has done as well as anyone in gaming the system.  His children attend a highly desired Catholic school and are topped up with private tutors from one of Britain’s most prestigious private schools.

The British government-run school system has been designed by left-wing egalitarians to prevent middle-class parents from “privileging” their children by giving them an education that other parents can’t afford.  In short, they want to make it hard for professional parents to get their children into “top universities.”

At least the parents and the egalitarians agree on one point, the Vince Lombardian idea that getting into a “top university” is the only thing that matters.  There’s only one question.  What if they are wrong?  Or for the conspiracy minded, what if they are deliberately misdirecting us?  What if they are concentrating the minds of the reading public upon getting into a “top university” merely as a diversion?

After all, it’s no secret that many of the most remarkable people in the modern era never went close to a “top university.”  John D. Rockefeller went to bookkeeping school.  And Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard so he could start a business.  Of course, that didn’t stop them later on from hiring the best and the brightest to staff and run their evil corporate monopolies.

It’s also no secret that boys are turning away from universities, and indeed, from schooling in general.  Women already represent the majority of university graduates, and are expected to account for up to 60 percent of college graduates by the end of the decade.  Conservative policy analysts have been warning for years that the liberal fixation on improving girls’ access to education is blind to the facts: girls thrive on the sit-down receptive school system, but boys hate it.

What do boys want?  It’s a good question.  Our western society has spent the last century pondering Freud’s worry about what women wanted.  But it has always known never to ask that question of boys.  We know what they want.  They want to gang up with other boys and go around breaking things.  Human society has understood since the dawn of time that the one thing needful is to put a stop to gangs of boys roaming around breaking things.  But how?

It’s easy.  Instead of leaving them to their natural gang-up instincts, we raise them to join teams and go around building things.  As a sweetener, we have ordained that the first task in every building job is called: “Excavation and Demolition.”

Now that the sit-down education system has admitted defeat on the boy front and started tranquilizing the most boyish boys with drugs, it’s time to return to the good old ways.  We must raise boys to join teams.

There’s a simple difference between a gang and a team.  A gang is led by an adolescent.  A team is led by an adult.  That is what Robert Baden-Powell understood when he founded the Boy Scouts movement.  He wanted to get at weedy cigarette-smoking ten-year-old punks before the gang did, and raise them to the culture of the team.

Notice how the left admires the culture of the gang: the revolutionary adolescent like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the perpetually adolescent rock musician, the transgressive artist intent upon “challenging” society.  On the other hand the right admires the culture of the team: Boy Scouts, athletic teams, armies, and corporations.  Lee Harris in Civilization and Its Enemies has contrasted these two cultures.  The signal success of the West, he wrote, has been its development of the culture of the team to fight the eternal gang of ruthless men.

A change in the culture of education from girly seats-on-chairs to manly adventurous teams couldn’t come too soon.  While society has been wondering what women want, boys have found a new gang culture.  It is called Halo, the major game available on Microsoft’s X-box video game console.  In Halo II, available in stores this fall, a boy can create a virtual gang with any on-line boy in the world and then head out for a bit of shoot-em-up mayhem.

While our political masters busy themselves with controlling who gets into the “top universities” and counting how many historically marginalized students can fit on the head of a pin, we may be losing a whole generation of boys to virtual gangs.  It’s up to us to figure out what to do. The Schoolmen are otherwise engaged.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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