I came across something called Goodhart’s Law today. It can be summed up as this: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
A few years ago I wrote two books about teaching, and one of the central planks of both books – alongside the joy and chaos of classroom teaching, and the Gordian knot that is relationships – was exactly that point. I put it slightly different to Goodhart, and my take goes like this: “Hitting targets is not difficult. It’s what you jettison in order to hit those targets that is the issue.”
I was chatting to a physics teacher the other day. He was talking about how irrelevant the curriculum is. “I have to teach nuclear fusion to bottom-set sixteen-year-olds who will not remember anything about it when the exam comes, and will never need to use what I’m teaching them after they leave school.”
Meanwhile, as a former English teacher, I’m appalled that there are universities who think so little of their students’ abilities that they won’t mark down or correct bad spelling, punctuation or grammar. The universities truly believe they’re helping students by allowing them to write badly.*
I’d never advise someone to go to university. I wouldn’t say don’t go, but my default would be to suggest you explore your motives for taking on a hundred-k of debt for a qualification that might not be of any use. If you just want to have a good time in your late teens and early twenties, save the fees, get a part-time job and party.
I’ve explored these issues, and their causes, in both of my books on teaching – available here – and I think it’s got worse since I left the industry.
At the front end of the education mincing-machine, a friend of mine worked as a primary school teacher. After a few years of that, she left teaching and now home-schools her own children. I concur.
I learned nothing from school. My mam taught me to read and write when I was three and everything else I taught myself. The five years I wasted in secondary school could have been spent in a library. As William Blake said, we desire “the lineaments of gratified desire” – we seek an analogue of learning – rather than actual learning itself.
Blake had some good things to say about education in general.
*the soft bigotry of low expectations.
I was a bit broke so accepted some teaching work. It’s always a good idea to remind myself why I left the industry.
And I was reminded.
I wrote a couple of books on my career as a teacher under the pen name Daniel Ken. They’re listed here.