Monday, 21 October 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare

There are many things that illustrate the utter futility of politics. Every day you can read or watch examples of politicians cynically taking up arms on behalf of populist causes using arguments entirely unencumbered by the truth, their own beliefs, party policy, party track record, their own previous pronouncements or in some cases in direct contravention of the laws of the universe. Some easy examples of the pointlessness of it all are; Labour pretending they understand economics, the Conservatives imagining they will repatriate powers from the EU… and the LibDems.

And as ever the eventual truth – long after the damage has been done – turns out to be what we knew all along. To those of us who have watched from the sidelines for decades it comes as no surprise to learn that the ever-inflated tractor production figures education statistics were just a smokescreen for successive governments to do nothing in the face of oxymoronic ‘progressive wisdom’, allowing fifth columnists to infiltrate deep into the system and make sure our school leavers and future teachers were going to be more a part of the problem than the solution.

The row over the shenanigans at the Al-Mujahideen anything-but-freeschool in Derby has managed to neatly sidestep the deeply islamic root cause of its problems and pretend instead that it is all the fault of hiring ‘unqualified’ teachers. With no respect whatsoever, bollocks. Teaching qualifications are simply an opportunity for an extended Common Purpose brainwashing Alpha Course, the essential elements of effective teaching being conveyed far more effectively through mentored practical experience than the pseudo-intellectual, theory-du-jour and pussy-footing flim-flammery of the PGCE.

Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare is of little use for the children of today, teaching as it does the virtues of methodical application of limited skills. No, today’s little darlings must be enthralled, entertained and most of all cajoled into acquiring learning in a manner that best befits their largely imaginary potential. Hard work and stick-at-it-ness? My word no. Today’s young pioneers need to be multiculturally enthused, variformally synthesized, digitally native and synergistically informed learning clients. That’s how they roll. The hare didn’t deserve to lose. Look:

In today’s story Hare will have been diagnosed with ADHD at an early age, labelled as having special educational needs and been supplied with a classroom assistant barely any more literate than he to do his thinking for him and try to keep a cap on his entirely voluntary Tourette’s-inspired ejaculations. Tortoise, meanwhile, will be largely ignored by the system as he uses up few resources, never complains and just gets on with his homework.

Their school reports differ widely – while Hare’s file is an inch thick, overflowing with notes of praise and indulgence documenting every single time he grudgingly did what little was required of him, Tortoise has barely more than a page with the boxes all neatly ticked and an uninspired impersonal comment at the end. While Hare is vaunted as a major school success story having gained a single grade C in something ‘creative’, Tortoise’s dozen A-to-Cs attracts no accolades at all; it’s only what was expected.

The next time they meet is some years later when Tortoise is required, under a government social engineering programme, to hire the hapless Hare who hitherto has supported his growing brood on state benefits. Tortoise bears no grudges but over time his own health and personal life suffers as he works longer and longer hours to cover for Hare who is habitually late, needs constant supervision and is laughably inept. Eventually Tortoise is forced to hire an Albanian to do Hare’s job because Hare has become the poster boy for the back to work programme and spends more time being interviewed on daytime television as a shining exemplar.

His chippy insouciance attracts curious viewers and a documentary is made as a result of which he is offered a place in the celebrity ‘Jungle’, a book deal and his own afternoon chat show, all the while being paid by Tortoise’s firm for a job he has yet to complete a full day doing. As Tortoise’s mental state declines he nevertheless refuses to give in and continues to work longer hours until the inevitable happens and he succumbs to a heart attack at his desk. He is not discovered until Monday.

Tortoise’s only moment of recognition is an unthinking, throwaway mention on Hare’s new prime time Saturday night chat show. As Hare stares vacuously into the camera he is vaguely aware of his good fortune, which in interviews he attributes to hard work and lifelong perseverance. Internally he can never quite put his finger on how he got here. All he knows is he deserves his success; he won the race.

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