Children in the Hellmouth

Letter From England

In the week before English schools closed for the summer, three educational news items grabbed the national headlines.  This is not especially remarkable in itself: English education has been in a state of revolution for years, and unsettling stories that reflect the unsettled state of our universities, colleges, and schools are featured almost daily in our papers.  The crisis in teacher recruitment; the outrage of children having to be sent home because their schools do not have sufficient funds to pay enough teachers to teach them full-time; the panic at the drop in numbers studying math, science, or languages; the absurdity of expanding universities to and beyond the point at which they cease to be universities at all, except in the sense that they are universally accessible to the talented and the untalented alike; the question of how such an expansion can be paid for; the psychological, intellectual, cultural, and financial strain of maintaining a target-driven system that is so top-heavy with testing that it stumbles under the burden of self-justification: These and countless other educational problems are constantly reported in the English press.  It’s all too much.  Education is a bore; a chore; a turn-off.  And the three stories that popped up alongside one another in July show that it is also a failure.

The first report was of such comic absurdity that it would have provoked cascades of ironic...

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