Tag Archives: Nicky Morgan

A caricature of character education? Morgan needs a broader vision

Another contribution to the wider narrative – including some very useful comments. Let’s keep the discussion alive.

IOE LONDON BLOG

John White

The Department for Education has just invited schools and other bodies to bid for money to support projects in character education. Since her appointment last July, Nicky Morgan has shown an especial interest in this area. In a recent talk at Birmingham University, she spoke of “ensuring that young people not only grow academically, but also build character, resilience and grit”.

She went on: “We want to ensure that young people leave school with the perseverance to strive to win…. We want pupils to revel in the achievement of victory, but honour the principles of fair play, to win with grace and to learn the lessons of defeat with acceptance and humility.” These values are reflected in the bidding invitation. Pride of place is given to perseverance, resilience, grit, confidence,

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Character Education is a Waste of Time

Some very useful contributions here to help those concerned about the growing move for the explicit teaching of character. The focus on humanity, experiential learning and the opportunities (time and space) that may exist with the current lifeworlds of the individuals and the school to explore, question, build and reflect on values underpinning character is most welcome and very much in tune with the approach we take through the http://www.learningthroughvalues.org project. All of our experience suggests that the imposition of values (or character) is a non-starter. This is about deep personal identity and being. There is a level of neglect in the way this is being approached by those with power in education at the moment and this is where I feel we get to the elephant in the room – power and the need and desire to control.
Society needs to be challenged and remodeled to reflect the changing realities of our liquid modernity – holding onto a past that has caused so many issues is misguided and short sighted and the imposition of those character traits that underpinned this is simply nonsense – unless of course you are one of the (increasingly) few who benefit from this.
We need an honest debate around these issues and not a short term election response from a dept that does not even know what values are and seemingly from the current funding process, even know what the school year is. Where is the sense in a grant to work with schools running April 2015 – April 2016 – which school year does that fit with? Nonsense.

Speak up, share other voices, create a broader narrative, join in.

Trivium21c

One Man In His Time Plays Many Parts

Today I had the honour to debate the following at the Policy Exchange Think Tank in London: ‘Is Character Education a Waste of Time?’ This was further explained by the Chair, Jonathan Simons in this way: “The issue is… can we teach it [character] in the formal way, in the same way as we teach other subjects…?” (You can hear the debate on the audio link below)

This was my contribution:

I never thought I’d be sharing a platform with Toby Young let alone debating a motion where I am on the same side as him. Toby is an extraordinary character as is Anthony Seldon and James O’Shaughnessy, extraordinary characters all. I feel a bit of fraud, a walk on part, sharing the stage with these lead players in our national narrative.

I must admit to something, paradoxically, my day job is…

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New Minister, Same Misunderstanding

I’m not sure what I expected when the new Education Minister, Nicky Morgan, took on the role from Michael Gove. Her arrival came shortly after Gove had responded to the Trojan Horse affair, by among other things, proclaiming that schools should actively promote “British Values”.

There was a wave of comment and a flurry of activity in response to this, but then Gove departed and all went very quiet again.  Elements of that earlier commentary can be found elsewhere on this blog, with links out to various pieces at the time. Then came Nicky Morgan’s appearance in front of the Commons Education Committee this week and we got our first signs of the likely direction that values would take under the new minister.

The short version of the response is in the title to this blog entry. Nothing has changed. I was not in the hearing and so only have the filtered news reports to reflect on what was said, but in those there is enough to go with. It was a mixed bag for sure. One aspect that I liked was the idea of values being ‘woven’ into the curriculum. This is something we have been working with in our http://www.learningthroughvalues.org project. It is an approach that is mindful of the pressures already on schools and more particularly on busy teachers and school leaders. They have welcomed it, talking not of additional pressures, but of new and exciting ways of doing what they have always done, but with greater purpose and higher motivation and engagement from the pupils. The support for weaving values then seems positive.

Where it becomes more concerning is in what Nicky Morgan might have us weave and why. What is particularly interesting is the introduction of the word ‘fundamental’ such that ‘schools must not be shy about talking about fundamental British values’. This as a response to a concern that fundamentalist views were making their way into our schools. Is there not a contradiction here, or is one version of fundamentalism allowed or more respected and tolerated than another?

There was a further confusing aspect to her comments when she apparently said that individuals who try to promote a particular view in schools needed to be removed from the system. This is of course meant in a context, but it also shows a glaring ignorance as to how values work and even what they are. Everyone has a particular view and that view is informed and regulated by our values. There is not a teacher in the land who does not in some way promote a particular view – to what extent they are aware of this or not is another matter.  So then, we come to the issue of what the view is and this I suppose is where Nicky Morgan places the values that she believes to be fundamentally British into the frame.

Those stated in her comments were mutual respect, equality between boys and girls, democracy and tolerance.  Are these values (if indeed they are in fact values) uniquely British? I have read other lists by those within Morgan’s own party and coalition govt and I have no doubt this is not the final offering hat will comprise the non-statuatory guidance to come, but what is really distressing is the treatment of values as content and the failure to see role of values as process within learning and education.

The hypocrisy of promoting equality at the same time as endorsing policies and measures that increase inequality (there are numerous measures of this in the press in the past week even), is also of concern and I’d like to see the mutual respect that Morgan talks of offered by her own department and staff to those working in education and learning who actually know a thing or two about schools, learning and education.

It seems nothing has changed then. Morgan will preside over what I imagine will prove to be a set of poorly conceived and even more poorly understood, values and announce through non-statutory guidance how, already pressured schools are expected to implement them. I would so love to be wrong on this but my suspicion is that this will be the case and my fear is that under such circumstances there will be very little weaving at all.

In the meantime I look forward to forthcoming discussions with colleagues in London and Scotland who unlike Gove and Morgan have taken the time to fully understand values and the complicated (and yet also simple) ways in which they interplay with teaching and learning.

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