I'm getting very annoyed about education. Not schools, teachers or pupils, you understand, but the word "education".
The word originally comes from Latin, and means "lead, or draw, out". Many years ago when I trained as a teacher, we happily took on board the notion that "drawing out" is exactly what good education should be - helping pupils to draw out the intelligence and talents they have, and providing them with sufficient knowledge and skill to use those talents to the full. I don't think many people in today's educational world would find that too inappropriate.
But what is driving me up the wall is the misuse of the word by the pundits and know-alls who surround us these days.
I attended a meeting recently of a local campaign that is trying to get a bypass built round a group of vulnerable country villages. We were addressed by a policeman, who had come to speak about the "policing" of this notorious stretch of road. The secret, he told us, lay in driver education. If he could just stop all the drivers who exceed the speed limits and tell them why they shouldn't do so, the number of accidents would be greatly reduced.
All well and good, you'd think. But actually the speed limits on this stretch of road are ridiculously low, the standard of driving in my experience is both good and patient, and most accidents are caused by poor layout, poor visibility and frequent junctions on a road that has changed little in the last fifty years. Almost none of them are caused by excessive speed (and let's face it, according to police figures only 7.3% of all accidents nationwide are actually caused by excessive speed).
So what is the policeman talking about? He's not going to "draw out" of drivers the realisation that they are driving too fast, because they aren't. What he's going to do is try to indoctrinate them, to force on them a view that is common enough in the road safety industry but which cannot bear close scrutiny in the light of national statistics - that if everyone obeyed the often footling and unnecessary speed limits they impose, we'd all be safer. Utter tosh - why are our fastest roads, the motorways, statistically the safest?
And it's not just on the roads that we are at risk from so-called "education". We hear health experts talk of the need to "educate" smokers so that they don't smoke. But by now all smokers know the risks they run; they don't need to be told over and over again. That's not education, it's indoctrination. It's bullying people until they do what you think is good for them.
Young people need to be "educated" about sex, too. Amazing - I have the strong impression they all know a damn sight more about it than I did! What does this "education" mean? It means trying to stop them having sex in case they get pregnant or contract a disease. Actually, I rather fancy it just means stopping them having sex in case they're having more fun than we did when we were their age.
We need education about global warming, too, apparently. Despite all the coverage in the press and television, we are still woefully ignorant about it (so is Professor David Bellamy, I hear; he has said publicly that he doesn't believe in it. He obviously needs a lot of education). Of course the scientists can't agree about it - some say the sea level's going to rise by 30 inches, others say thirty feet. Some say our weather is getting warmer, others say the Gulf Stream's going to go on holiday and we'll all freeze. But still the environmentalists want to "educate" us - in other words, they want us to listen to them, to fall at their feet in admiration because they're so wise, and most importantly they want to make sure they have nice cushy jobs for many years to come. It doesn't matter to them whether what they say is rubbish or not - the important thing is that they should be listened to.
The next time someone offers to educate me because I don't hold the same views they do, they might come in for a bit of education themselves. I'll teach them what it feels like to have my boot up their backside.
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