Thursday, 1 March 2007


Yesterday I said that I was uncomfortable with either Black or White views but that I was a gray person. I didn't like fixed and unthinking views. Interesting that. In my second point yesterday I jumped straight in with the fixed view that a particular politician's statement was "Bullshit!". I gave no reasons why I thought this rather than thinking that his views had merit.

How easy it is to fall into this trap - not thinking the issues through fully. But we can't think through all issues from first principles: we don't have the time or the brain capacity. We need some fixed points from which to consider the world and it is these fixed points which give us our fixed and apparently unthinking views. This suggests that it is inevitable that we have some, at least, fixed views and so perhaps the trick is to be aware when we have flipped into this mode. Awareness gives the options of thinking through the issues or of continuing to write unthinking views.

I didn't realise this is where I would end up but I'm here. Awareness is key. Awareness of my thinking processes and of my thoughts and unthoughts.

Yesterday i wasn't aware and I slipped into unthought.

Today.. we'll see.

My next ... whatever is

A local council in England is radically changing the way in which children are allocated to schools. Currently placement of childen is predominantly carried out by catchment area i.e. each school has a designated area from which its pupils are drawn. The new approach is to run a lottery to allocate places where a school is over-subscribed. This means that a child could live next door to a good school but, because the school is over-subscribed, fail to get a place at he school in the lottery.

Now, however, some schools are deemed to be much better than others; to draw on children from more privileged backgrounds and similarly under-achieving schools can be deemed to have children from less privileged backgrounds. Some parents have bought houses - often at inflated prices - within the catchment areas of "good" schools, effectively buying a better education for their children.

Poor families or even those on middle incomes do not have the option of "buying" a place at a good school and have to take whatever place is available. If that place is at one of the poorer schools there is little or nothing they can do about it.

This whole issue has become very contentious with very polarised views. I think it is virtually impossible to take a considered view if one is actually involved directly. All of us, I guess, would want the best possible education for our children and this desire is at the root of the problems. Only by being uninvolved can one think through the issues.

If my children were in the catchment area for a good school I would be very unhappy that their education and, possibly, their futures, were to be compromised by the change in policy. That other children would benefit would be largely irrelevant because my concern would be my children.

However, if my children were in the catchment area for a poor school I would be delighted if the they won a lottery place to a good school and I wouldn't be too concerned about others whose children failed to go to a good school.

Unfortunately the issues aren't as simple as I have described.

Children in poorer areas with poorer schools have lost out for years. They haven't had the opportunity afforded to others. They have always had to attend the poorer schools. This was just the way the world worked.

Children in richer areas with better schools have benefited for years. They have always had the opportunity to attend the better schools.
This was just the way the world worked.

Social and educational differences were confirmed and prolonged.

Now the council is changing the way th world works by giving some children their first oppotrunity to attend a better school. Unfortunately, for every winner there has to be a loser and no loser will be happy. But in the long term is it not better that all children have the opportunity to the best available education - not all can have that education but, at least, there would be no social or financial barrier. Yes this is social engineering but the current system of catchment areas is social engineering and only because this system has been working for years has it been deemed acceptable.

I hope the council manages to push the policy to its conclusions but,I guess, there will be a few legal challenges before the issue is finally resolved. Because children in middle-class families will lose out we must expect that articulate and monied parents will fight to retain what they see as their right to send their children to the school of their choice regadless of the affects on other children.

Ideally no school would be considered a poor school. Perhaps those who are unhappy that their children have been placed in a poorer school will work to help that school improve.

This would be a big step forward for education BUT I'll not hold my breath.

I'll wait and see ... whatever happens.

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