“We don’t need no education” sings the crowd of convincingly rough and tumble cockney street urchins who provide the emotional hit towards the end of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2). No education, eh? Oh yeah? Really? Try it without the education that enables you to read the bloody words that you are singing in the first place. Yes, let’s see what would happen if you received no education whatsoever, shall we?
I’m pretty certain there must come a point in the life of every teenager, especially if they are going through a period of self-doubt or even self-loathing bordering on total self-obsession (as many teenagers seem to do when they really should be out enjoying the high life), when they come across “The Wall” – the double concept album to end all concept albums that explores ideas concerning isolation from humanity and society, through the story of fictional rock star Pink. As concept albums go, it has all the pretentiousness that you could hope for (and more in bucket loads) but, despite this or maybe even because of this, it is also rather incredible. Yes, there was a period in my life when I would enjoy wallowing in my own self-imposed self-pity as my teenage brain convinced me that life was shit – yeah, try telling that to the starving millions elsewhere in the world you self-obsessed little turd.
“Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2” holds the distinction of being the first number one single of the 1980s. It was the first time that Pink Floyd had released a single as far as I could remember at that time as they were a serious album band, the type that my elder brothers would listen to. As an increasingly hormonal 11 year old, in the final year of primary school, the chanting sing-along nature of the child choir connected with me, and I sung along too.
Go on, you can do it too right now:
It is surprising to hear Pink Floyd, one of the most guitar prog orientated of the grand 70s prog rock bands, doing what is essentially disco. It was not what the band had intended to produce as far as this song was concerned – indeed it was producer Bob Ezrin who worked on the track in secret, including bringing in the choir of local school children to provide the street urchin backing vocals. When he played it to the band, Roger Waters (the dictatorial bass player who took total control of this project) decided that it was brilliant and agreed to put that version on the album.
We don’t need no education.
We don’t need no thought control.
No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
Teacher leave them kids alone.
At that time, I had no idea that I would eventually end up spending over twenty years of my life on the other side of the educational fence, starting as a drama teacher before eventually changing direction and eventually finding myself taking on the responsibility for SMSC education in my school. What? Speak up! You have never heard of SMSC? Ah – sorry, it is a classic example of Oftsed buzzword rubbish – Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education.
Yeah, you still have no idea do you?
My team is responsible for providing relationships and sex education, the drugs and alcohol programme, internet safety, prevention of child sexual exploitation, anti-extremism, British Values, digital literacy, politics and citizenship, and anything else that involves the safeguarding and well-being of our students. Our department also delivers EP which is Ethics and Philosophy (that’ll be RE in old skool money). We also deliver Sociology and Psychology as GCSE and A Level subjects. That is SMSC – as a subject and as a team.
It is not an easy subject to teach because it is not compulsory – we don’t have the protection of being a National Curriculum core subject, or being included in Ebacc performance measures – there are no SMSC exams therefore we have to prove ourselves by other more convoluted and complex means. We prove ourselves by the incredibly low numbers of teenage pregnancies that our school has (especially for a school of around 1600 students where some of our students come from some of the most economically deprived areas of the country). We prove ourselves by standing by our record of low numbers of students who are suspended from school (or even arrested / prosecuted by the police) for drugs and alcohol offenses. We prove ourselves by teaching our students about the increasingly complex interconnected issues of consent, technology, social media and human behaviour in order to protect them from child sexual exploitation. We prove ourselves by teaching our students about the nation’s core British Values, in order to encourage them to actively engage with democracy, and to minimise the chances of our students developing extremist views. We prove ourselves by constantly talking about the importance of mental health, helping our older students to develop strategies to cope with exam stress, and to teach them how to recognise the early warning signs of how to recognise specific mental illnesses. We prove ourselves by battling every bloody day against the preconception that the most important thing that will ever happen to these young people will be their exam results.
I fight and fight every day, with a probable cost to my own mental health being something that I’m only starting to consider and appreciate as I feel myself slowly but surely draining away. I fear for the future of my subject because I recognise that, due to school budgets being eaten away by rising costs and increasing student numbers (despite government continually bleating that school have more money than ever before – bugger off and try to be honest to your electorate rather than being selective with the truths that you offer), the carpet could easily be pulled from underneath our feet. So I fear for the staff that are in my team who work with dedication and expertise in an education environment where the government seems to lack ideas beyond bringing back grammar schools to entrench the lack of social mobility even further.
Yeah, so stand there now and look me in the eyes when you are stupid enough to tell me that “we don’t need no education”.
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
Only a member of the privileged elite who was given the advantage of going to a private fee paying school with the inbuilt “old school tie” network that continues to put excessively high numbers of privately educated students into our law courts as judges, or into parliament as MPs, could you possibly have the bloody nerve to get a load of comprehensive school oiks to sing your patronising bloody line.
Yes, hope the clip from the Alan Parker directed film production of “The Wall” puts the song into a bit more context.
Obviously all teachers are borderline psychotic nutfucks who take no greater pleasure than beating the living crap out of their students, whilst education is simply nothing more than rote learning of a series of facts that are meaningless and worthless. Oh no, sorry that is exactly the preferred vision of education as offered by our current political masters (many of whom have no idea of the diversity and richness of a comprehensive education) as they want to turn the educational and social clock back to pre-WW2 conditions.
Know your place.
The tragedy of the education system is that there was a time, not that long ago, when schools were (in my humble opinion) heading in a good direction where vocational qualifications were being given equal weighting to the traditional academic subjects that have once again gained dominance thanks to the great reforming giant of recent political times, Mr Gove (yes, I am being sarcastic). At that time, schools were exploring ways of making their own curriculum responsive to the needs of their local areas, through developing skills as much as developing knowledge. Schools had the freedom to put their own initiatives to develop creativity and empathy, whilst enabling students to choose career paths that matched their abilities and aptitudes. It was a glorious time and I consider myself fortunate to have been a teacher who really pushed for our school to be radical and develop the whole student – knowledge, skills and character.
Now school have been transformed into corporate style businesses with estate managers, finance management, executive officers and boards of directors. The heart and soul is being kicked out of education by a government that hates the very idea of public service (hey, why just be an MP when you can be an MP, run a newspaper and also run a bank at the same time?).
Nice to see that Roger Waters is still playing “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)” but with a slightly different political slant on the song thanks to the emergence of Donald Trump as the new guiding force in American politics. Yeah, that wall, geddit?
Rant over… until next time.