can the lessons of the classroom be applied to politics?

– Start of speech: check against delivery.

Nik suggests that:

Find it difficult to argue with that.

Yet I still hold out – have consistently done so over the years – considerable hope it might be otherwise.

Most of my life, whilst wishing to be a professional writer, I’ve been an almost professional teacher/trainer.  More of the university of life than the university of certificates, I’ve always rather hated office paperwork, office politics, the micro-managing of lesson-planning and that ever-present screwing down to their seats of learners with all the overly programmed damningly deafening predictabilities.

Also, I’m hopeless at remembering names, which for greasy-pole climbers is a terrible disadvantage.

Those are my excuses anyway, well marshalled and trotted out.


As a long-time trainer terribly fascinated by politics too, I informally and amateurishly am always making anecdotal comparisons.  Another one popped up this evening in my conversation with Nik:

It may be a fair observation or not; the reply was reasoned and one the majority of people will share: in our domestic spheres, conflict doesn’t need to exist – shouldn’t, in fact; not to the extent that people get hurt – but in the public sphere, class conflict is inevitable.

I dunno about this, though.  Not so sure.

I remember – anecdote klaxon!!! – when I was at school (though not yet at t’mill), my geography teacher would keep order by creeping up behind us and twisting our ears violently.  He was also quite partial to whistling accurate pieces of chalk across the room which – even when they missed their intended target – would always hit someone deservedly.  The music teacher, meanwhile, was fond of throwing chairs.  Whilst the PT teacher … well … he’d examine our shorts to make sure we weren’t wearing underpants.


However bad schools in England may be these days, and the vast majority I’m sure are – contrarily – much better than in my day, none of them will come close to the kind of casual abuse people of my age and generation were – equally casually – used to suffering.

I look at most learning environments today, and those I am privileged to observe or read about are far more learner- and outcome-focussed than those we laboured under in the 1970s.

Into the profession have come words like “enable” and “facilitate”; out for the most part have gone “cane” and “ruler” (in the sense, that is, of methods of punishment …).

I don’t think children are better behaved these days; neither am I saying I approve of all the objectivisation that goes on.

Nevertheless, things are better.

Nevertheless, the politics of classroom management has changed; and possibly progressed.

So if we can change interactions in learning, if we can introduce more collaborative and consensual ways of working, if little by little we can alter the destructive dynamics of other times, if even the teachers we once feared and hated can now be described as enablers and facilitators of learner-focussed learning paths (at least the best ones, anyhow), why shouldn’t our body politic also begin to shrug off centuries of kings and queens?

Not zero hierarchy.


I’m not suggesting that.

A different hierarchy.

A hierarchy of common interests, where professionals train and learn at the same time so that learners can learn and train as soon as possible.

A process whereby people discover how to search for similarity and agreement in order to build upon them both before sitting down to discuss – in far more confidence, now – the points where violent divergence may arise.

Finding out how to get on in concrete dialogue with real people instead of prioritising the ability to get away from all carefully couched debate at the earliest opportunity.

It’s been suggested to me before that politics is out on its own; that politicians need to be souls independent of their constituents; that their moderately maverick nature is a guarantor of good democracy.

That’s what we’ve had to date.  This is the democracy it’s led to.

This (pardon the language) is a shit argument.

If teachers or doctors or lawyers were to suggest that anyone could practise education, medicine or law, they’d soon be given short shrift.

And up until recently, politicians agreed.

That is to say, we shouldn’t allow anyone to teach, doctor or practise law.

However, as the gap between the above professions and politics has grown wider in an evermore specialised world, politicians have lately seen the threat properly-regulated roles pose to their own political activity.

We’ve seen how teachers, doctors and lawyers have all out-argued their political counterparts in the last four years or so.  No wonder the politicians have decided to attempt a creeping deprofessionalisation of the professions.

Just as the NHS was hobbled at the height of its popularity, so now the integrity and evidence-based mindsets of the professions need to be prevented from gaining too much public popularity.

It’s not true, then, that politics must be about an unprofessionalised, let-anyone-who-wants-to warfare of untidy and primal classes.

Being attractive enough to get chosen and voted shouldn’t be the only qualification a budding MP needs to hold.

Yes.  It is at the moment, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  We could, instead of deprofessionalising the professions, begin to professionalise politics in so many ways.

Learn from the classrooms, the operating-theatres and the court-rooms the lessons of using modern life, modern skills and modern tools to the benefit of a whole society – not just an initially well-meaning, ultimately self-perpetuating, clique of clattering conflict.

– End of speech: delivered without a cheque.


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