Michael Gove, we need to teach less competitiveness and more compassion

Published on Left Foot Forward, by TOM LONDON, July 14, 2013.

Eton has a practice known as “oiling”, which as Anthony Seldon has approvingly noted “is learning how to win friends and influence others, and how to clamber over them to get what you want. It’s a mixture of ambition, self-confidence and bloody-mindedness.” 

Seldon was writing in 2011 to celebrate the fact that Toby Young had set up the West London Free School – a flagship for Michael Gove’s educational reforms – and Young “wanted ‘oiling’ to go viral throughout his school”.

The idea that young people must be prepared for a life of constant competition lies at the heart of Gove’s educational philosophy. This week, when introducing a new curriculum, Gove stressed that it would prepare pupils to compete both in the UK and in the global race.

However, if we want our children to grow up to be happy adults we need to teach less competitiveness and more qualities such as compassion. Education should prepare them for life – not just to take their place as workers and consumers in the market.

Gove often speaks admiringly of the Singapore model of education, which is highly competitive and pressurised. It has not led to a happy society. In a 2012 opinion poll, “kiasu” was named as the characteristic that Singaporeans most perceived as existing in their own society. Kiasu means literally “fear of losing” and is variously translated as “competitive”, “self-centred”, “grasping” and “selfish.”

Second, third and fourth characteristics in Singaporean society, identified in the poll, were “competitive”, “self-centred” and “material needs”. Fifth was kiasi – literally “fear of death” – an attitude of being overly timid and afraid, terrified of risk.

When the Singaporeans were asked what characteristics they would ideally like to see in Singapore, their first and third preferences related to healthcare. Their second, fourth and fifth choices were related to compassion – caring for the elderly, caring for the disadvantaged and compassion itself … //

… At Eton and the West London Free School they are teaching the virtues of “oiling” to their pupils. It would be better to teach our children less competitiveness and more compassion.

We should also seek to instill a love of learning, an ability to think critically, self-respect and respect for others. We should teach our children to be decent people with proper values. We should not be teaching them to be successful rats in a rat race.
(full text).

Links:

Progressivism on en.wikipedia;

How to Be a More Active Progressive – in Six Easy Steps, on Forward Progressives, by Arik Bjorn, July 14, 2013.

Building a sustainable progressive movement, 21.03 min, published on rabble.ca, by Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, at a Broadbent Institute Event on May 22, 2013 (also on YouTube).

Progress online.org.uk;

Progressivism on en.wikipedia;

Forward Progressives;

… and this for the soul:

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