An Analysis of Secondary Education Objectives in England in the 21st Century
A better understanding of the educational process and its traditional raison d’être.
My own schooling was of the highest standard and several of my contemporaries and others educated therein have achieved high rank in the armed services, the legal profession, the medical profession, the Judiciary, the Church, politics, the diplomatic service, the academic world, teaching careers, business life, the sports of England and writers as by example. Some may not have been my exact contemporaries but we were all educated at Downside School, Bath, Somerset pre-1970. What was the secret of this educational excellence?
2. Innovation not unconventionality
I do not quibble over the unconventional or the maverick epithets generally providing these terms are not applied to the Old Gregorians (a term for Downside pupils who have left the school). Downside used to produce some academically excellent university candidates and this was the core of its educational success – intelligence par excellence as formed within a monastic school based on Roman Catholicism. The Monks occupied all the key positions. Of course not all Old Gregorians kept up their religion – probably only a minority. Apart from a well exercised intelligence this school left all its pupils with a properly developed Roman Catholic conscience without exception. Where this conscience lead these Old Gregorians is another matter however. Many were to marry non-Catholics – very few entered the Church. Quite often their children were not brought up Catholics. Downside essentially gave a first class, purist and “straight bat” start to life. It was the opposite to encouraging unconventional or maverick men. Its Old Gregorians would not have achieved such heights if they had been eccentrics, mavericks and unconventional. I consider myself to be in the bracket of conventionality as I describe it for the Old Gregorians.
3. What is lying beneath the surface?
You cannot succeed in life if you do not tow the line, join the consensus and support the status quo. It is a hard lesson for some young men to learn, myself included but until they do they will make little progress. Any good Public school or state secondary or grammar teaches that approach to life. However this is not the complete message of the Downside I was educated at from 1966-69. Somehow the school also taught you to stand up for the weaker party whatever your profession or way of life. This is the very essence of education – to teach courage, audacity and bravery – whatever the cost to yourself in terms of success, liberty and yes your very life. You cannot go halfway then cease – that is cowardice. Of course we are not talking about civilian life post 2000 when it comes to physical danger but the military e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan, countries in central Asia. Rather like the gold rush speculator pre 1900, we have to tirelessly work to find the gold, diamonds and silver, bronze and the other precious metals. We know broadly where to search but require an eagle eye and constant attention to find these precious metals. We should know dross from value. Translated to education the school should teach by drama, history, debate and religion, these skills to unearth the injustice and then seek to rectify that wrong.
The school should equally inculcate sincerity, honesty, straight forwardness and good judgement of character and constancy with honour. These qualities all come to the fore with matrimony and the priesthood. Most importantly a self-critical eye is vital and a preparedness not to blame the other party in matrimony. Here the qualities of self-sacrifice and audacity I referred to at paragraph 3) come to mind. It is probably within matrimony that the biggest challenges arise for those who are Old Gregorians in my day and since. That is the nature of modern life.
5. Care in decision making
None should throw caution to the winds and each move must be carefully worked out resourced and prepared or it will fail. But the public school and secondary school should teach all pupils of what I call the calculated risk and necessity to take it in some circumstances. Timidity is defeatism.
In this respect parents can be of great assistance. At the end of the day the individual decides and no-one else. It is no good doing what everyone else does or many do – you must be honest with yourself and go in that direction you believe in. The school should teach independence of mind and character in all decisions so that the leaver will not be a slave to conformity.
7. Premature departure
Where certain pupils have left school prematurely the chain linking the school to the pupil may be broken. The parents should step in to repair the breach sensitively. The matter should not be left to neglect and fester. Long term damage may be done.
A Public school or secondary school should fundamentally teach originality based on observation, analysis and conviction leading to a vital and vivacious contribution to his or her circle or professional life. Of course the school should also enable the pupils to learn tact and understatement a crucial quality in the legal process. The school should teach all its pupils to have the courage to speak up however the art of debating is very useful in this respect. Life has many twists and turns and a school that does not impact faith in God Almighty (one of the three main religions) to its pupils will truly fail in its duty to its charges. They will suffer later in life. It is that faith in God which will enable that man and woman to achieve what is required in maturity. Life is not all plain sailing. We must all recognise that things may go wrong and urgent remedial action and leadership are required in that event. In those circumstances the “players” faith in God will be pivotal. A good education is priceless and even more valuable if followed throughout and taken to heart by the leaver. “He who does not dare will fail”. The school may only launch the young man and woman on the life of adventure but the mark the school has made on that young man and woman will never be erased – have no fear.
I am strongly against the apparent constriction of the A-Level History syllabus latterly to the Rise of Nazism. I was taught English and European History 1700-1945 over two years (special subject: American civil war).