Chris Woodhead · George Walden · Robert Holland · Thorstein Veblen

On Walden ponder.

Thanks once more to Susan Godsland for bringing George Walden’s recent piece for the Telegraph to my attention. In truth, I almost wish I hadn’t seen it, as it makes such deeply depressing reading.
No-one comes off well under Walden’s scathing reflection: he quotes a friend as saying that ‘reforming education was like trying to disperse a fog with a hand grenade’, which puts me in mind of Chris Woodhead’s book Class War in which he quotes Robert Holland as declaring the project to be ‘as slippery and hard for reformers to wrestle down as a greased cow in a swamp’ (Class War, p.3).
The downgrading of the value of educational qualifications, the hypocrisy of educational pundits and Labour and Conservative politicians, the pernicious effects of having a two-tier system in which the lower tier is condemned to a second class education: all come within the purview of Walden’s withering appraisal.
For all that, he insists he isn’t cynical. There are solutions and he points to Germany as offering more modern forms of selection. Not that he’s holding his breath. As the economist and social philosopher Thorstein Veblen said, ‘Invention is the mother of necessity’; and it won’t be until UK plc comes under unremitting pressure from the Chinese and Indian economies that the collective mind will be concentrated to the degree required to force the change we need so desperately.