Notes From the Margins…

The Rings of the Gove

  • May 13, 2013
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Even amongst the reactionary gargoyles in Lord Snooty’s cabinet, Michael Gove is truly a piece of work.     Ever since he wrote his banal neocon screed Celsius 7/7, Gove has presented himself – and unfortunately been accepted in certain circles – as some kind of deep thinker.

The New Statesman loves him for his charm and intellectual ability, which is surprising and somewhat alarming to me at least, since Gove really comes over as an unctuous, shallow reactionary without the shred of an original idea.

This is the man who told Mail readers back in March of his one-man crusade against   the academic Marxist hordes and ‘enemies of promise’ who have kept the nation’s disadvantaged youth in ideological shackles for decades.

In it Gove declared that

Survey after survey has revealed disturbing historical ignorance, with one teenager in five believing Winston Churchill was a fictional character while 58 per cent think Sherlock Holmes was real.

According to Gove, this ignorance was due in part to the kind of academics who had signed a petition criticizing his over-proscriptive national curriculum, since

You would expect such people to value learning, revere knowledge and dedicate themselves to fighting ignorance.   Sadly, they seem more interested in valuing Marxism, revering jargon and fighting excellence.

Goodness, what absolute blackguards, you can hear Mail readers thinking.   What’s the country coming to?

This drivel was accompanied by a photograph of Marx himself, the greatest enemy of promise in human history, a man who – unlike Gove and the Mail –   did not value knowledge, facts or empirical thinking and dedicated his life to making people more ignorant.

But now, thanks to the intrepid efforts of   retired teacher Janet Downs, it turns out that our great educational crusader wasn’t so rigorous after all, and that his ruminations on the ignorance of British children were based on a survey carried out by, ahem, UK Gold on the impact of British fiction, and another by Premier Inn.

In other words,   the savior of British education is either lazy, shallow or dishonest, or a perhaps a combination of all three,   and has about as much academic rigor as Kerry Katona.   Or Ian Duncan Smith, who was reprimanded by the UK Statistics Authority for quoting made-up figures suggesting that his benefits cap was getting more people back to work,   that were ‘unsupported by the official statistics published by the department’.

But then, why shouldn’t a reactionary zealot fake statistics or look to UK Gold or Premier Inn to back up his arguments?   Gove, like Duncan-Smith,   knows what he believes, and what he believes, he knows, and he also knows where to find the information to support what he knows.

After all, we are dealing with a man who wants the nation’s children ‘ to acquire the stock of knowledge required to take their place in a modern democracy’.     Who could argue with that?     And we should be grateful that the Education Secretary has given us all such a sterling lesson in how to do it.

















1 Comment

  1. Richard Carter

    14th May 2013 - 10:10 am

    The bit I liked best in the reporting of this (it was in the Guardian) was this, in an email from the Dept of Education (EDUCATION!!!): “the other survey’s [sic] the secretary of state referred to”

    I’m left speechless!

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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