I quake in awe of the danger of his thinking. The idea you can improve schools by classifying them as failing. That’s always a good one. The idea you can get people motivated by slagging them off. The idea that you can create a new structure for inspection, which is based on the abuse of language, while satisfactory, no longer exists because satisfactory is not good enough.
So the view of this week was that if a dangerous idea is one that challenges conventional thinking then let’s have some dangerous ideas because, frankly, it’s time to start fighting fire with fire.
We’re at a really interesting period in Scotland generally – and in Scottish education in particular. We have the opportunity to do so much more and to do things in different ways and take different approaches and one of the major risks we face is that every single possibility of change will be trimmed to suit the voices of caution.
The idea that people can’t plan courses until they’ve seen the exams strikes me as bizarre because it speaks of an education system where progression is built backwards rather than forwards. If somebody was to say to me ‘I can’t plan my courses because I haven’t seen the children yet’, that might make sense. The idea that someone can’t teach their course until they’ve seen the test bespeaks a lack of confidence and trust in the system that we’ve established.
We’ve clearly said what the basis for teaching, planning and for assessment is in Curriculum for Excellence but Doubting Thomas demands to see the holes in the palms of the hand, and if the dangerous idea that we might actually provide young people with the education that they need in the 21st century becomes trimmed to the demands of the last decade, 20 years, 40 years or whenever, then I think we miss a great opportunity.
My contention is that educational reform in Scotland on all levels is ambitious in conception and compromised in implementation.
We begin with a vision of what might be possible and we trim it to a reality of what’s apparently permissible. We have a media which champions fear rather than hope. We have a medium which is far too ready to classify children going through change and young people and learners going through change as guinea pigs, as if somehow or other, the rest of their lives were absolutely tranquil and they were never troubled by a dangerous idea.
We live in a world where we can put countries’ economies to the swords but we have to save the banks. That strikes me as a dangerous idea.
It strikes me as a dangerous idea that we all have to pay for the mistakes of the economists and of the financiers.
It strikes me as a dangerous idea that we all have to pay for the mistakes of the industries which have ridden rampant over finite resources.
Carol Craig’s talk* recently spoke of materialism and the extent to which we ignore that sense of importance, of value, and instead replace it with the quest for brands.
These are dangerous times. Time for dangerous ideas. Don’t let the devil have all the good tunes, and don’t let the other David Cameron have all the dangerous ideas.
This is a transcript of David Cameron’s speech at The Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
* Carol Craig, founder of the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, at TedXGlasgow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQel6t784W0