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What might be taught in the classroom where politicians go to ‘learn lessons’ from poor judgement or mistakes?

In the classroom, the most important skills acquired by any student are reading, writing and arithmetic. To attack the three ‘R’s as conservative or traditional usually belies the accusers depth of understanding. These are matters that open up the possibilities of learning and opportunity rather than close them down. The essential ability to be able to master the pleasures of and/or analytical skills inherently involved in reading, to express oneself clearly and eloquently in a variety of written styles and modes and to be able to command an understanding of basic mathematical principles remain constant if not neglected parts of the national curriculum.

It is to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s credit that he is pursuing a hard-line in addressing a restoration of the importance of these subjects as well as other areas of education. According to Conservative Home [1]:

  • The current curriculum states that pupils should be taught, by the end of Year 2, to write each letter of the alphabet, use simple spelling patterns, and spell common words. In the new curriculum, by the end of Year 2, children will be taught contractions, homophones and possessive apostrophes, and the spelling of more complex words.
  • With grammar, the current curriculum says that pupils need, by the end of primary school, to know such things as the “purposes and organisational features of paragraphs and how ideas can be linked”. The Department for Education says the new curriculum will be far more demanding.
  • The new curriculum will seek to place a stronger emphasis on the enjoyment of reading. At present, pupils at the end of Year 6 should be able to “express preferences and support their views by reference to texts; read stories, poems and plays aloud”. Under the new curriculum, pupils at the end of Year 4 will have similar skills.

If education is not demanding, if it does not insist upon challenging the intellectual capacity of those it is meant to enrich, then something is very wrong indeed.

Yet, whilst students enjoy the summer break, perhaps now is a good time for our own politicians to reflect upon their political education. Quite often when mistakes are made, politicians report that they will ‘learn lessons’ from the experience and resolve to do better or else not let it happen again. There is a ring of cliché to this claim not lost on the electorate; indeed, if a politician went back to school every time they claimed they would be learning lessons, classroom overcrowding would indeed be a very great problem.

However, if politicians were to return to the classroom, schooling them in what may be termed ‘The Three “L”s’ would be a strong place to start. In this adaptation of what is contained in the American Declaration of Independence [2], one may suggest that government has a duty to maintain the following: Life, Law and Liberty:

  • Government should determine to protect the lives and the ways of life of the people under its care
  • Government should continue to legislate or repeal laws that serve this first cause
  • In enacting these laws, government must do so without undue exertion of influence over the law-abiding and should diffuse centralised power, deregulating where prosperity is stifled and protecting the rights of the individual, without compromising the will of the many.

These are broad strokes that (like the three ‘R’s that offer a point of entry into learning rather than an end in themselves) may remind politicians of the nature of the democracy they claim to represent, that their responsibility is to those they serve rather than the parties to which they are attached, that, ultimately, big government is incompatible with democracy and prosperity.

Indeed, in their lessons, politicians may learn from other tripartite mottos including “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity) in France; “Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit” (unity, justice and freedom) in Germany’ “life, liberty, and prosperity” in Australia; “peace, order and good government” in Canada. [3]

If the three ‘R’s enhance the ability of the individual to express themselves, so variations upon the three ‘L’s may aid politicians, enabling them to ameliorate the UK’s expression of identity and that of the people within its territory.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes