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What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering The Heart Of Education Paperback – 10 Jul 2008
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"This inspirational book will be of interest to all parents and teachers. It should find its way on to the reading lists of our teacher and training courses and become compulsory reading for any politician connected to our education system." (Oxford Times)
"The book has much worth, not least for its eloquent and powerful critique of today's educational malaise." (Ink Pellet)
"This brilliant book shows the way, as its subtitle puts it, that we can rediscover the heart of education." (Scientific and Medical Network)
"The book has much worth, not least for its eloquent and powerful critique of today's educational malaise."See all Product description
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Though some of Claxton's ideas are laudable, like the notion that education is not merely the transfer of knowledge and children should not be encouraged to think of themselves as either being less able or more able. No teacher would have ascribed to these view before reading Claxton's work. Too much space is spent presenting his arguments as being in opposition to the Aunt Sally of Dicken's characterisation of overly didactic teaching Gradgrind, a figure who just saw education as filling children's head with isolated facts, a figure that no teacher would aspire to become prior to reading Claxton in the first place.
Claxton's methodology is also suspect, he frequently relies on anecdote and isolated incident rather than hard evidence: "At a conference the recently a headteacher approached me, keen to tell me a story" (p.20) or isolated example: "There are thousands of bright willing successful who do or did hate their school days..." (p.21). And his proposals for new subjects (p 31) were formulated following his own informal survey of teachers or students (p.11). When he follows this crude methodology Claxton only achieves to display the collective confusion over educational issues, rather than providing insights into education himself. Moreover, isolated anecdotes such as these cannot be used to justify the significant reforms that Claxton proposes.
The most Claxton gets to rigorous criticism is the notion that GCSE's only "reveal what knowledge young people were able to display on a particular day," but if he states that underwhelming exam grades are the criterion for failure in one instance (p.17) he cannot then dismiss them as an irrelevance in the next: GSCEs can't simultaneously be considered both a reliable indicator of educational achievement and a irrelevance.
If Claxton's ideas are implemented, the danger is that rigorous academic education will become the preserve of those who can afford it. State schools will assume their students need an "education" in emotional intelligence, resilience etc. so that they can meet the challenges of the "real world" (Claxton defines neither the” real world” or the notion of an “unreal world”). Whereas those who can afford private schools can circumvent these theories. Claxton asserts that "palliative" counselling for young people doesn't bring happiness, only achievement and overcoming challenge increases self-esteem (p 14), he should apply these principles to his vision of a school, and look to schools that do succeed in those respects, rather than push for his dream of "The Learning Gym."
Finally, are further problems arising from this work, such as Claxton's confusion of causation and correlation and the patronising way in which he takes epistemological relativism as a given. This book is not a discovery of what education is about but a manifesto to replace education with training and counselling. This work should not be read without an uncritical eye.
Still, it opened my eyes to some current issues in the field of education, and will definitely help in interviews!