The fruits of the ongoing demolition of public education are being harvested around the world:
As a teacher with six years’ experience, you might imagine that I would have been in my element as I chatted about the eight-year-olds in my charge and offered their parents encouragement and advice. Instead I was consumed with embarrassment. And no wonder. The father opposite me — a lawyer — was looking at me as if I was dirt under his shoe.I had been telling him about the new drive to improve literacy standards in our school when he had interrupted me.
‘Can you repeat what you just said?’ he said. ‘I’m not sure I could possibly have heard you correctly.’
I had no idea why he was getting so agitated. To humour him, I repeated slowly: ‘I said that me and the headmistress are doing all we can to improve standards.’
I might as well have told him that we were planning to bring back the birch. Throwing his hands up in the air, he launched into a tirade that left me red hot with shame.
‘Me and the headmistress?’ he ranted. ‘Don’t you know it should be: “The headmistress and I”? How can you call yourself a teacher when your grammar is so poor?’
I wanted the ground to swallow me up. Many years later, I still feel there was no excuse for his rudeness, but I can understand why he was so angry. I’d feel the same if a child of mine was being taught by a teacher like me.
And the shocking truth is that there are thousands of teachers in schools the length and breadth of the country who are just like me. We have degrees in English from respectable universities, yet wouldn’t know a subjective pronoun from an objective one if it hit us in the face.
Public school is dead, it merely hasn’t stopped moving yet. It is an archaic artifact of 18th century industrialization that is technologically outmoded, societally destructive, and observably dysfunctional.