Richard Mitchell goes...
Old Skool
Oh the memory of schooldays!

The smell of chalk, ink, and our fellow students, the excitement the comradeship, the intellectual excitement. A preparation for the challenges of real life - assuming that real life is a precession of bullies, bores, psychopaths, bitter failures, incompetents, and sex deviants. And these being just the teachers.

You don't need a teaching qualification to work this out - after spending 15 years being stuck in school, what kind of person would take a job that puts them back in it for another 40, especially when they know what they are going to be on the receiving end of?
They actually have the front to complain when kids beat them up. What else do they expect - its a perfectly natural reaction to acute boredom, a way any normal kid would choose to liven up a dull afternoon. And they probably did it in their young day.

So you have the dregs of humanity teaching the flower of youth. One starts to believe that schools are actually designed to teach you how to be thick, and ill-equipped to rock the boat.

Lets look at the curriculum...

Bunk. This is official, as it was said by Henry Ford. And if you want to dismiss Henry as a vulgar mechanic, and that only philosophy can know truth, when did you last tool around in a Bertrand Russell Escort Cosworth?

Where is this supposed to get you? Where places are? Why not just go there - travel is cheap enough these days.

They tell you that one and one equals two, but fail to say why, even when pressed. They obviously don't actually know.

Representation? So 19th century. Does Damian Hurst use poster paints? Can Tracey Emin draw a garden gnome (without looking in a mirror)?

Input - reading a lot of dull old-fashioned books, and then writing about them. You could save a lot of time, trouble and paper not reading the books in the first place.
Output - it's either about self-expression or the rules. Both are tricky - but there's no need to bother with it. Instead, use a professional copywriter - you can't go wrong. (See biog. of contributors if you need one in a hurry.)

Grindingly tedious stuff about what insects and flowers get up to (which they can do without having to take lessons in it, despite having very little in the brain department). The only high spots being excretion, which is great for seeing the teacher embarrassed, and reproduction, which has a snigger factor approaching totality.

Learning to speak foreign is a very good idea. However, most foreign kids learn to speak foreign by the age of about 3 with no problem. Why does it take schools 5 years to teach foreign of such low quality you don't even feel comfortable asking for a couple of beers when you go on holiday?

Old foreign
Real old bores like to irritate with what they call the classics, which are some incomprehensible ranting in what claim to be Latin and Greek languages. The Greek stories are mainly offensive, and can lead to problems if you act any out on your next Greek holiday (although they probably won't actually understand what it is you are talking about). Latin is a complete lie. They don't speak it in Rome despite what they claim in the texts, or Latin America either.

Might be useful, if it taught you to run really fast, so you can't get caught by other kids, teachers, policemen, etc, but sadly it doesn't actually teach you anything at all (in keeping with most other subjects)

Media studies
Essentially watching the telly. You don't need lessons to do this. You need a remote, and an armchair. And a telly of course.

Very worthwhile, but sadly always taught on obsolete kit, such as BBC micros with 10½ floppy discs. All proper 21st century kids should have a state of the art deck and t1 connections to the net at home (and probably wear mirrorshades at all times).

Should be rewarding, as potentially highly dangerous, but they never let you make anything interesting, like napalm or methamphetamine. And they don't even let on that ethanol is vodka.

Springs, levers and lies. Do they really expect us to be impressed by the revelation that the extension of a spring is proportionate to the force acting on it? Why not come clean about the real story. Quarks, leptons, cold fusion, weak force, cold dark matter. Ask about any of these and see what kind of answer you get.

Not a subject at all, but a means of preparing for three years skiving at university. Probably no longer recognised as a subject now student grants no longer exist.

But how can we make things any better? There is a way...

Not by attempting to make the subjects any more interesting, but by making them forbidden.

Consider this - for generations smoking, playing cards and swapping pornography have been strictly against school rules, and yet they thrive behind every bike shed, simply because they are outlawed.

Make all that part of the curriculum, and things will change. Picture the school of the future...

We step through the gate, above our head the proud school motto - "Who cares what difference does it make?"

The staff are all late for assembly, so we must talk amongst ourselves, sharing the latest news and opinions. Lessons when they do start are rather different, and include subjects such as goofing off, graffiti, swearing, nicking stuff out of shops, and spelin.

House points are awarded for lateness, scruffiness and general disrespect. Knowing any answers or reading is punished with a caning.

Of course, the effect of this regime on any kid is immediate;

At break, grimy paperbacks are passed among tiny hands, with lurid titles like 'The Rights Of Man' and 'A Brief History Of Time.'

In the toilet bocks, improvised laboratories explore the mysteries of the physical world. Older kids stick younger kids heads in the pans and  flush for not knowing the antecedents of the hundred years war.

Notes are slipped under desks, with sly nudges and winks over expressions such as
T =    c3             
       8 k GM            

Kids bunk off to practise their foreign on day trips to, err, Foreignia. (and catch up on geography at the same time).

Eager boys and girls sprint home (covering a mile in around 3 minutes) when the final bell goes, to play with their Mandlebrot sets.

And the overall effect? Because of the appeal of the forbidden, the arts and sciences flower in youth as never before.

We would have a cure for the common cold and the true identity of jack the ripper in a week, and petrol from seawater inside a fortnight. Give it a year, and all nations on earth will live in peace and harmony, the sixth form will have got antigravity licked, and the girls of the fourth will have cracked the dead languages of the Indus.

By turning off the tap of conventional education, we will create a thirst for learning that no force on earth will quench.

(c) Richard Mitchell 2002
a metalwork project being confiscated
A metalwork project being confiscated
a little biology experiment
A little biology experiment