taught.rnHow a teacher—or, less misleadingly,rnsome teachers — might be able to earnrn£^5,000 a year (half again as much as therncurrent salary for one at the top of thernscale and without additional responsibilities)rnis far from straightforward. A closerrnlook at this carrot reveals it to be a shck.rnTo the general public, the educationrnministry can say, “Lo, for the teachersrnasked for more pay, and behold, we offeredrnriches —unto the best of them.”rn(The best of them, of course, being thosernwho consent, conform, and cooperaternwith them in their redefinition of what itrnis to be a teacher.) To the teachers themselves,rnthe ministry says, “Sure, we willrnconsider paying you a bundle—providedrnyou tear up your current contract, and acceptrneven longer working hours, shorterrnholidays, and —crucially—the principlernof payment by results.” (This is what isrnmeant by the mantra of “recruit, retain,rnreward,” however it might be dressed uprnand larded by the propagandist’s arrogationrnof such terms as “professionalism”rnand “development.”) “Results, of course,rnlike everything else in contemporary education,rnhave to be measured. So we’ll setrnyou personal targets — moving targets,rnthat is —and vou’ll have to come to us everyrnyear with your cap in one hand and arndossier of your achievements in the otherrnand prove to us that you have hit themrnand are thus worthy of your salary.” Littlernwonder, then, that the National Union ofrnTeachers has resisted this invitation tornsubscribe to a deal of such Faustian foolishness,rnand has for the first time in a generationrnvoted to refuse to cooperate withrnits political masters.rnSo much for the inducements whichrncontinue to fail to attract intelligentrnyoung people to audition for a part in ourrnpoliticians’ pantomime parody of education.rnThe other two stories flagged on thernfront of their propaganda comic concernrnthe internal economy of schools. Thernclaim that the virtually inescapable dailyrn”literacy hour” can be children’s “favoriternlesson” is no more representative of realityrnthan are the top-of-the-rictus-scalerngrins on the faces of every teacher andrnchild whose face appears in the magazine.rnMy wife is a primary-school teacherrnwho has to act out this governmentscriptedrncharade daily with the pupils inrnher charge. Wliilst it has its good points,rnit does nothing for the children who havernthe greatest difficulties in reading andrnwriting, and little for those who havernnone. Research that shows this is ignored.rnMoreover, from the first of thisrnmonth, a second whole hour of each primaryrnschoolchild’s day must now berntaught from a government-issue script—rn”numeracy.” hi every corner of the country,rnchildren will be lisping in numbers—rnthe same numbers, in response to theirrnteachers’ prompts; the same prompts, asrndictated by ministerial ukase. Again,rnaside from its totalitarian take on education,rnthere is some merit in the scheme,rnfor some; but this teaching of numbers,rnby numbers, is uldmately for numbers—rnthere is no doubt that it will lead to carefullyrnconcocted statistical targets beingrnmet.rnThere is further evidence of the “controlrnfreakery” we have seen so far imderrnthe headline, “I was a teenage truant.” Itrnturns out not to be a story about a recalcitrantrnchild being won over by a charismaticrnand pastorally minded teacher, butrna paean for a school that has improved itsrnattendance figures (authorized andrnunauthorized) by one percent—yes, onernpercent—by “focusing their efforts andrnmaking the most of innovative new technology.”rnThis turns out to be a £50,000rncombination of electronic registers, radiorntransmitters, pagers, and centralizedrncomputers.rnThe state school attended by two of myrnfour children has a more modest versionrnof such a system. Last term, we receivedrna computer-generated letter informing usrnthat attendance in my son Matthew’s yearrngroup was currently running at 88 percent,rnand his own at 85.98 percent. (Educationrnby numbers, it seems, is nothingrnif not precise.) “Less than 90 percent attendancernfor an individual pupil, letrnalone for a year group as a whole, is arncause for concern,” we read. “We dornmonitor the situation closely and if therernis no improvement over the comingrnweeks we shall make further contact.”rnThe letter was accompanied by a printoutrnshowing that all of Matthew’s absencesrnhad been authorized. We alreadyrnknew this: He is asthmatic. Supportivernthough we are of his school, our commitmentrnto it does not extend to calculatingrnhow to identify what amounts to 4.02 percentrnof his school time when his asthmarnwas at its least severe, so that we couldrnsend him in to satisfy his teachers’ targets.rnOur view of Matthew is that he is an individual,rnnot fodder for statistics.rnIf all this sounds like a catalogue of intrusionsrnand interventions by a centralist,rnauthoritarian, and intolerant governmentrnthat regards education as a mediumrnthrough which its political decisions canrnbe enforced, then that is what it is. Ifrnthere were ever any doubt about it, it wasrnsurely settled recentiy, when the thoughtrnpolice of the school’s inspectorate visited,rnand condemned, a school whose particularrnethos is the very antithesis of ourrnpoliticians’ Gradgrindian credo. Summerhill,rna coeducational boarding schoolrnin Suffolk, is independent in every sense.rnFounded by the avant-garde educationalistrnA.S. Neill in the 1920’s, it is the Liberty’rnHall of the educational world: Lessonsrnare voluntary, and such order and disciplinernas obtains is achieved by a democraticrncouncil of the whole community,rnadults and children alike. It is not arnschool to which I would send my ownrnchildren, even if I could afford the fees. Irnwould, however, defend its right to exist.rnRight now, Summerhill needs all the defendersrnit can get. It faces closure. Therninspectors condemned the school unequivocally,rnand no wonder. The frameworkrnthrough which they operate isrndesigned to measure conformity; Summerhillrnexists to rebut it. You might asrnwell try to measure the temperature ofrnthe fire in your hearth with a ruler, or therndistance from the earth to the sun withrnyour bathroom scale, as attempt to judgernthe quality of a school devoted to libertyrnby employing an instrument used everywherernelse to suppress it.rnMichael McMahon is a writer who hasrntaught in both state and independentrnschools in England.rnLetter From Venicernby Andrei NavrozovrnGuilt by AssociationrnReading over my last letter from Venice,rnI spot the word “improbable,” which hasrnsomehow slipped in through the barbedwirernfence of watchful Russianness I havernbeen building in order to keep all mannerrnof tripe out of these monthly communications.rnI am sorry, and promisernthat nothing of the kind will ever happenrnagain. Never again, in the fortified, hermeticrnspace that is this column, will anybodyrncome across anything that will sornmuch as suggest, for example, thatrnSEPTEMBER 1999/37rnrnrn