Credit Where Credit's Due

Letter From England

Tony Blair's promised target before being elected to his first term in office was "Education, education, education"; some months into his second term, it is clear that his promise has been honored, and that his target has been hit—clean between the eyes. English education lies unconscious on the canvas. If there is any real learning going on in this country', it is in spite of— not because of—his efforts, and those of his anticultural precursors in the capital-driven conservative party. Between them, the nation's politicians have spent the last three or four generations reducing education to a process in which there is little room for the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual enrichment that a civilized society would expect of its schools.

Contemporary education is in intellectual chaos. This year, the traditional A' level (the single-subject examination hitherto taken in twos or threes by 18- year-olds at the end of their high-school careers) has been wrecked. Sixth-formers were expected to study five subjects to the new "AS level" in their penultimate school year, turning three or four of them into the new "A level" thereafter. Those who opposed this were rubbished as reactionaries, but even their most cynical expectations were surpassed by what happened this summer when the first round of examinations was endured. Things went so wildly amiss that the government announced...

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