St Gove the Dragon slayer – a new Classic

The British view Europe from its periphery, barely aware that the youth in its southern states are rioting with anger as they bear the brunt of the economic crisis.

In our country the same cohort seem bedraggled; leaden with passivity from conceding their vitality to the slump born of global market collapse, European entanglement and post-debt austerity. En masse they go back to Mum and Dad, and give up believing in their stake in political solutions. This week Michael Gove suggested that this might be what’s best for them.

The Economic Crisis is lurking in every news story; lowering our belief in a shared, brighter future. It scorches our hopes with its fiery breath, and then flies out of reach as we try to contain its dominion. Governments have boldly tried and failed to slay it, drawing on ancient weaponry powerless against its grip, losing ideological limbs and public confidence along the way.

But one ministerial knight knows better. He knows that his role is to consign such beast-slaying to the professional politicians. St Gove the dragon-slayer is one of the boldest. Through his intervention all will discover their place. The former knights of old labour will be cast in the role of hapless dragon-makers! The new knights of the elite will rescue us and win our confidence and the right to rule forever. The plebs will be grateful and spawn his children as grateful damsels in distress.

His weaponry is fine-tuned for the task. First he will divide and conquer the mind-formers in the nation. Pitting seniors against juniors he will disassemble the unified workforce of the teaching profession. Their foot soldiers will be browbeaten and their generals aggrandised in loyalty. The content of their wisdom will be emasculated until it teaches only serfdom and allegiance to the machine of the neo-liberal dream. This will be given to them as the best that they can hope for, safe in the knowledge that the leaders of the nation are choosing wisely in their benefit, for they indeed have read the classics.

Put another way, then: in spite of vigorous lobbying behind the scenes, Mr Gove has doggedly refused to follow best-practice world class-educational standards in the new curriculum and has taken any knowledge about economics out of the new citizenship programme of study, replacing it with personal finance. This will cleverly make sure that children have no introduction to their status as citizens as if they were heirs to shared economic choices. He wants people to be responsible with their own money (after all, personal debt is bad for the economy), but he doesn’t want to let them anywhere near comprehending the economy itself. Presumably because the complicated bits of politics are, unlike Wagner and Shakespeare, a bit too heavyweight for the common man; a little of this knowledge would only lead to a futile uprising.

In the new privatising curriculum our offspring will be introduced to “the best that has been thought and said” which will not though include a right to comprehend the kind of social constructions that has made our country great. In the absence of any instruction to the contrary, there is no need to mention the Welfare State as if it were a triumph of collective endeavour. But our children will get introduced to private health insurance as a feature of personal financial management. They will not have to question the media misuse of social statistics in favour of reactionary and protectionist politics but they will get to grips with an ISA.

Britain, so far, has got off lightly: we’ve been kept in our place effectively as we wait for the green shoots of economic recovery in England’s green and pleasant land. But for how long? And should our politicians lose their grip completely, do we really want a populist uprising of young people who have been kept alienated from political life? More riots, anyone??

So, as a small but significant gesture, put the economy back on the curriculum, Mr Gove. Fulfil your February promise to make sure citizenship ‘is even better taught’ in schools. Prepare our young people properly for economic and democratic life. Otherwise, a silenced generation will wonder why we never let them into the role of becoming the heroes they have been waiting for, and the great dragon-slayer spoke with forked tongue.

Also see Michael Grimes‘ article for the New Statesman: Teaching economics teaches young people who to blame for their problems. No wonder Michael Gove wants to stop doing it.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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