As a trainer and tutor, it’s commonplace for me to acknowledge that people learn in different ways. (These are called learning styles in the jargon.) They do this just because they are people, not robots or cogs in a bureaucratic machine. This is not a difficult concept to grasp.
Unless you’re a politician, that is.
In a heart-breaking and logic-defying article, apty titled Let’s not get personal, BBC correspondent Mike Baker has highlighted yet another government u-turn, this time in education (the usual victim when it comes to government fads and sound bites). Once, not so long ago, meddlers as mighty as Blair and then Brown recognised the fact that ‘children learn in different ways, at variable speeds, and in response to different teaching styles’, several decades following many psychologists. Therefore modern teaching methods should follow suit.
Not so. Now, a leading academic has branded the new government guidelines for personalised education as ‘well-intentioned waffle’. Nice. Straining to do much better himself, the academic said education should be “customised” rather than “personalised”. The difference? Apart from an increased smell of market-forces, no-one knows. Now they want to scrap the whole policy.
The real problem is not one of definition but one of contradiction, that much is obvious to me. As Baker succinctly puts it:
“Ministers are, on the one hand, encouraging teachers to innovate and use curriculum flexibility to teach as they think best for each pupil. Meanwhile, they are pressing for constant, linear movement towards ever higher test and exam scores, attempting to fit all children and schools into national targets.”
Typical New Labour thinking – combine contradictory policies and then brand it an ground-breaking ‘third way’. More like a highway than a third way, a highway to hell that is. It is the first law of logical thought that one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time. But, silly me, when did logic ever have anything to do with politicians?
What a crying shame!