Monday 20 May 2013

I'm not wrong, everyone else is.

The Secretary of State for Education has reached record-breaking levels of self-delusion this morning with his accusation that headteachers who disagree with him are 'defeatist'.

I don't like coming over all psychological in the context of politics but I have a feeling that we're dealing with someone who is displaying some classic symptoms. Some people who were over-corrected when young find it so difficult or painful to admit that they're wrong that it is much more comfortable for them to keep repeating that everyone else is wrong instead. 

At one level, this would seem to be a 'personal' way of looking at something political but then I find that a good deal of what Gove says seems to be informed by a political Calvinism. At the outset, Calvinism was an extremely powerful ideology because it armed its adherents with unswerving certainty that they were 'saved'. This was coupled with strong ideas about what should be the correct conduct for an individual. Duty, sacrifice, responsibility, moderation, industriousness were seen as obligatory processes which would secure salvation - even though the adherents 'knew' that they were already saved. If Calvinism merely directed these ideas to its own members, it's possible I wouldn't be thinking of it now, but Calvinism - in its various forms - has had a massive impact on how we think, particularly when it comes to young people and their formation or education. 

If you want to see the mark of Calvinism on our education system, you can see it in the relative status of school subjects. That's to say, some are regarded as 'real' or 'more important' than others; knowledge is given priority over investigation; private acquisition and accumulation of knowledge is seen as much more important than co-operation and discussion; learning correct facts from 'the master' is seen as much more important than discovery through talk, play and invention; the 'basics' (stated as being 'basic' without reflection) taught as correct rules are seen as more important than anything else that is not 'basic'. 

There's nothing wrong with zeal and passion in education but when it leads to a leader claiming that no one is as zealous as him, I think we can see how the politico-religion of Calvinism slips into delusion.