Daniel Murphy (2014) Schooling Scotland: Education, equity and community.


The kids are back at school. You know what that means, the school run, clogged streets and roads. Banners hung outside school gates warning parents that ‘Parking here is dangerous and selfish’, but some park there anyway, because it doesn’t apply to them, they’ll just be a minute and the people that are dangerous and selfish are the ones without cars, because their poor wee Daren might get wet and catch cold. My response isn’t two fingers in a V-sign, but two legs, try walking.  Daniel Murphy is an optimist. He started teaching in 1974, when we still had the belt to enforce discipline, and teaching was something ‘done to’ you, whether you liked it or not. He was  headteacher in a number of schools and was one of the dreaded school inspectors that searched for continued excellence. He envisages a participatory model, something ‘done with’ pupils, schools being a learning hub, part of the learning community, within walking or cycling distance. The aphorism: It takes all Scotland to raise a child, is a philosophy that is hard to argue with, not that I’d want to.

But unlike Murphy, I’m a pessimist, but I support his belief in continuous evolution: ‘Schools are reservoirs of stability and hope in a changing world’. My starting point was my own prejudices. Murphy makes a distinction between two kind of people and two different career trajectories based not so much on their self-worth, but their parents worth or wealth.  He gives them pseudonyms, but it’s perhaps better to look at Upworthy’s cartoon version of Richard and Paula that perfectly illustrates the direction our school system is taking us ‘on a plate’ : http://www.upworthy.com/a-short-comic-gives-the-simplest-most-perfect-explanation-of-privilege-ive-ever-seen?g=2&c=tpstream

Murphy acknowledges that the education system mirrors society and it’s a rigged system and an unequal adult society. His checklist of doom and gloom could have been written and has been written by ‘Futurologists’ (that’s a made-up word) like me.

  • Overpopulation
  • Resource wars
  • Environmental catastrophe
  • Global warming
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • All powerful globalisation market
  • Less job security
  • Spendthrift baby boomers will demand more care resources

I’d argue and have argued that global warming is a game changer. It’s not hyperbole to suggest the third world war has begun. The richest nations recently failed to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold and with less water and more water in the wrong places and less food there’s going to be tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, on the march. I believe that. And no one can argue that spendthrift baby boomers will demand more care resources. Like global warming, it’s already happening. There are more sixty-five year olds than fifteen-year olds in Britain. If education is for life, less job security doesn’t give you much of a chance. What kind of jobs have we created?

Take my mate Archie. He drives a bin lorry for Edinburgh Council and he’s been there for about four months. He asks for a day off to attend his pals wedding, where he’s the best man. Gives them advance warning, but is told if he takes the day off he’s sacked. Edinburgh Council doesn’t sack him, of course. They pay an agency to sack him. Job flexibility comes at a cost and the worker keeps paying. That’s one of the biggest changes in society since Murphy was teaching in 1974. Privatising and using agencies as a buffer to employ people, indirectly, and take away their rights to have a pension, to be sick and to have a paid holiday. NHS caring is outsourced, as it local authority caring and based on such a model. There’s been a propaganda war and we lost and this is reflected in the schools we have created and the life chances of those that attend them. I’m with the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and  Jimmy Reid on this one.

A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.  It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.  This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high.  Or as Christ puts it:  ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world suffer the loss of  his soul?’

‘What is Scotland willing to pay?’ asks Daniel Murphy. The answer is whatever it takes for mine and a grudging pittance for thine. I support Murphy’s assertion: ‘Scotland should move towards a system where the accountability of a school is evenly weighted between national and local authority expectations and the views of the parents and pupils.’ Of course, I support it. But I see no evidence that it will happen. Tory rule for the next two parliaments will destroy the NHS and create academies, all for the betterment of poor, poor kids. Aye, belter.



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