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Unintended Consequences
September 09, 2013

I remember seeing the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at university, before Maggie Smith made the role her own – and there she (Miss Brodie that is and not Maggie Smith) declaimed the Latin roots of the word education as a drawing out of what is there and not a shoving in. A slightly different interpretation would be that education is a “leading“ out. So maybe the best way to understand the ideal of what education should be is a balance between drawing out what is there and a leading out to what may be discovered.

Either way we can all agree I would imagine that the education system we have now is far removed from either. Olivia is the most political in this Conversation than I have read in any of her previous Conversations. Her basic point is that the abolition of grammar schools was a terrible mistake. It allowed the elite to realise that in the new “meritocracy”, academic standards were everything. And so having the resources to do, began to develop an excellent education, but unfortunately just to those who can afford it. And with competition from grammar schools gone, which prompted the elite school’s effort in the first place, these excellent schools and those who are educated there can clean up. Which they are now doing and so inequalities – of both opportunity and outcomes are now widening alarmingly

This is an example of the law of unintended consequences – which perhaps does not just disfigure our political life but is an ever-present part of our personal life too. So you might like to ponder that.

Inspired by Olivia Fane’s “The Conversation no 29” – on education

Let me remind you of my Wellbeing Workshops – in three modules, beginning on Sunday 22 September, but with opportunities throughout the autumn – to “pic and mix” as you like. Details and booking here.

best wishes

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Andrew Richardson

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