One of the many downsides of the 11+ (now being given the nostalgic treatment in a BBC repeat The Grammar School: A Secret History
) was telling young children they were cleverer than their peers.
Being told you're brighter than others can lead to overconfidence - the belief you're always right because others aren’t bless with your intellect. This over-inflated self belief is obvious in many politicians: 'It's right because I say it's right.' And they’re encouraged in this delusion by fawning underlings (all the better to climb the slippery pole of politics) and an unquestioning media
It's called hubris. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, writes in Saturday's Times
that 'hubris...haunts every chancellor'. He calls for 'the need for humility; the need for honesty and transparency...'
Although he was writing about economic affairs, the same holds true for education. The last education secretary knew he was right - those who opposed him, however well-argued their case, were 'enemies of promise', 'Marxists', 'bigots'. He was Valiant-for-Truth – they were hobgoblins and foul fiends.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan believes she
is right. Morgan has an unblinking belief in academy conversion
- so much so she will push a Bill through Parliament imposing this solution on 'coasting' schools who don't satisfy the Regional Schools Commissioners (who are rewarded for the number of schools which become academies
) they can improve without a multi-academy trust winding them in chains.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb believes he
is right. Gibb knows the only way to teach reading is the sole use of synthetic/ systematic phonics when he appears not to know the two aren't the same thing and teachers of reading admitted they supplemented phonics with other methods.
He has a blind faith in the Phonics Screening Check (PSC) and its ability to increase literacy despite the NFER
not finding ‘any evidence of improvement in pupils’ literacy or in progress that could clearly be attributed to the introduction of the PSC' after a three-year evaluation.
surrounding the 'coasting' schools scrutiny committee was explained away by the same Nick Gibb. He said he would make “no apology for the swiftness of our actions to tackle coasting and failing schools”. Making ‘no apology’ appears regularly in speeches by education ministers – it makes them look tough. But it's hubris – because they know they’re right.
Nothing exemplified this more than Gibb’s comment to the Education and Adoption Bill committee
about removing the right of parents and others to argue against academy conversion: ‘There is no point in protesting because that is going to happen ‘. No point in exercising the right to free speech – ‘because that is going to happen’. No point in saying the school in question is already improving (Gibb was referring to Downhills) – ‘because that is going to happen’.
‘That is going to happen’ is not what we expect to hear in a democracy. We’re told this is a British Value – we're supposed to teach about these in schools. But a value isn’t just words, it’s a way of acting. And hubris tramples over democracy.
Paul Johnson called for humility in Chancellors of the Exchequer. But humility is lacking in school ministers - they think they know best and what they say 'is going to happen'.