I write to deplore the Special Needs ‘cottage industry’ which currently blights our schools, together with the army of paraprofessionals which services it.
These often woefully undereducated, poorly qualified but eminently politically correct apparatchiks have evolved a veritable SEN Arsenal which can be unleashed at a moment’s notice to absolve feral, illiterate and essentially ‘toxic’ youngsters of any responsibility for their own shortcomings and – in a tour de force of scapegoating – put the blame squarely on qualified teachers who are deemed insufficiently proficient in Touchy Feely Psychobabble. SLTs (whoops, I nearly typed STDs!) are in thrall to these SEN storm troopers because the state sector is crippled not only by the politics of envy but also by a postcolonial cringe which has resulted in an obsession with ‘Diversity’ and an insidious denigration of those ‘British’ qualities which once floated an Empire – chivalry, courage, compassion, the pursuit of excellence, resilience in the face of overwhelming odds.
All of which is not to say that I am devoid of sympathy for the products of a home environment whose equivalent might best be described (with apologies to Tennyson) as ‘Nature Red in Tooth and Claw’. Social Darwinists would have a field day in my own school whose motto should be Salvos Aptissimum (Survival of the Fittest) or Ferias Rursus Hostis Factus (‘Hit ’Im Again’) as opposed to the more commonplace Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (which also happens to be Everton FC’s motto – the student who cheekily substituted Nemo Dat Quod Non Habet was sent home in disgrace!).
Rather than evaluating pupils honestly and encouraging them to shake off the shackles of their disadvantaged and chaotic home lives (privileging Nurture over Nature, so to speak), we are turning our schools into some sort of ghastly paradigm of Benefits Street, bristling with pedagogic doppelgangers of ‘White Dee’ – ignorant, overbearing proselytizers of the Gospel of Fecklessness and Personal Irresponsibility. These clipboard-toting social worker types (aka ‘Mentors’, ‘Inclusion Managers’ etc.) are less concerned to build character and moral fibre than they are to winkle out a medical diagnosis to cover every eventuality – an ‘ism’ which will magically exonerate everything from chronic laziness to sociopathic aggression. The students themselves are now so well-versed in this Etiological Esperanto, that not only do they sport (I kid you not) SEN Passports but they spout the litany of victimhood with unflagging enthusiasm: “I can’t help it (‘it’ being anything from arson to attempted murder) ’cos I’m special. I’ve got a condition innit….” In saecula saeculorum. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh. Turning off the spigot should be part of every teacher’s toolkit. Certainly takes Yuman Rights to a whole new level.
Like poor old Winston Smith in George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984, teachers who can’t get their heads around this deterministic Doublethink are destined for some sort of gruesome ‘reconditioning’. Not rats as in Winston’s case (though, come to think of it, SLT and Rodentia might be considered taxonomically identical), but ideological reprogramming in the guise of Reflective Practitioner Workshops where recalcitrant subjects are bludgeoned with the broadsides of social relativism pour encourager les autres. This soul-destroying process brings the hapless professional to the realization that discretion is the better part of valour and that, in the words of Shackleton’s famous quip, a “live donkey” is better than a “dead lion”.
Now that I am a fully-paid up member of this Brave New World, I think I will try out a few other educational philosophies. Starting with the hands-on approach enjoined by the enlightened Mr Wackford Squeers of Dotheboys Hall : “C-l-e-a- n, clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour. W-i-n, win, d-e-r, der, winder, a casement. When the boy knows this out of book, he goes and does it.” My classroom may no longer be a bastion of academic and moral excellence, but at least no-one will be able to fault me for encouraging the development of practical initiative!