There’s No Place Like Home

Simon Says, “Go to School”

Every school has a playground for its pupils; English schools provide a playground for politicians, too.  Children seek security, regularity, and continuity: The games they play in the schoolyard observe rules that do not change.  Change, though, is the contemporary politician’s reason for existence: He seeks not to hold fast to that which is good but to run fast to something he fancies will be better.  And he wants to make everyone else run fast, too.  For the here-today-gone-the-day-after-tomorrow politician, the all-change game offers excitement, but the children that are forced to play it every day are bored.  “Simon Says” is no fun if the same person always plays Simon and prefaces his every instruction with “Simon says.”

The self-contradiction of Simon’s sayings to the last several generations of British schoolchildren is reflected in the constant rebranding of what used to be known as the Department of Education.  The first change came under Margaret Thatcher, when it became the Department of Education and Science, in which the “Science” that was thus celebrated was not theoretical but applied, and applied to the development of national wealth.  Later, it became the Department of Education and Employment, in which the “and” really meant “for.”  Then, the word “for” was slipped into the title, but in a...

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