Two of my children are in the midst of exam revision; one for the new AS, one for A levels. Their little brother has just sat 14-plus SATS. I dare not ponder how this constant scrutiny, this incessant assessment and comparison, and their consequent position in some broadsheet league table, have damaged their souls.
It is all so unchristian. We do not believe that we are justified by work alone. The educational Pharisees with their jot and tittle of national curriculum and measurable outcomes have lost the plot, taken their eye of the ball, got it wrong. I have an eighteen year old daughter who is very bright and achieved a clean sweep of A’s and A*s at GCSE who now hates school, hates learning and is even beginning to hate life.
Learning is as much to do with being as doing; there must be time for wasting. There must be time for gazing and reading the wrong book. There must be time to play. The Hind Report will produce something similar in theological education. It begins in the same place as the current fascist education system: with improving standards and rationalizing resources. It is so much like the Tower of Babel – and can only be achieved by totalitarianism. The real wickedness lies in the system, by itself, deciding the results it needs in order to justify itself. It is a recipe for corruption and oppression; and we see plenty of both in schools.
Whatever happened to Grace? I seem to remember the possibility – rarely taken up – of the teacher pupil, or the teacher class, relationship being one of openness to possibility, having a certain freedom of expression and development. All my most fruitful learning happened in such a context.
Whatever happened to the pursuit of truth and the cherishing of beauty? At one time selection and training for ordination allowed the possibility that God’s grace could indeed work a miracle, and form a priestly heart and mind from mean material. Now they can only fail.