Guest Post: Hot-Housing: a cautionary tale for Nick Gibb from Charles Dickens – Colin Richards

Colin Richards writes about Nick Gibb and his approach to education. 

Nick Gibb has been confirmed in his ministerial post. His personal crusade to raise what he calls standards in primary schools continues. The excessively detailed, prescriptive and unrealistic curriculum in mathematics and English which he sponsored remains in place. He fails to see how educationally counter-productive such inflated demands are, how “hot-housing” is replacing child-respectful education in compliant schools and how children’s individual development is being put at risk in pursuit of what for many are impossible goals.

In the absence of focussed professional evaluation of his scholastic fetishes from an indifferent Ofsted we and he need an “outside” and independent perspective which challenges his views and questions their consequences. Charles Dickens, himself a victim of indifferent, indiscriminate schooling, should give us and Nick Gibb pause.

In this passage from Dombey and Son read “Nick Gibb” for “Dr. Blimber”, “primary-age children” for “boys” and “young gentlemen” and “Chinese and Singaporean” for “Greek and Latin”.

“Doctor Blimber’s establishment was a great hot-house, in which there was a forcing apparatus incessantly at work. All the boys blew before their time. Mental green peas were produced at Christmas, and intellectual asparagus all the year round. Mathematical gooseberries (very sour ones too) were common at untimely seasons, and from mere sprouts of bushes, under Doctor Blimber’s cultivation. Every description of Greek and Latin vegetable was got off the driest twigs of boys, under the frostiest circumstances. Nature was of no consequence at all. No matter what a young gentleman was intended to bear, Doctor Blimber made him bear to pattern, somehow or other.

This was all very pleasant and ingenious, but the system of forcing was attended with its usual disadvantages. There was not the right taste about the premature productions, and they did not keep well.”

Time, of course, will tell.

Do you agree with what Colin has written here? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie

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  1. RobertYoung3

    As always, Colin Richards is a master in illuminating current issues through drawing on the insights of the past. What a shame they are ignored!

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