Earlier this week I had an inspiring conversation with an experienced education professional. He told me about how Ofsted’s senior staff have, in the past, wondered (nay, even carried out research into) why the schools who get a judgement of Outstanding are so often lead by Heads that one might describe as ‘white-haired radicals’. It was hard for the inspectorate to grasp why individuals who knew the system so well that they also knew how to ‘break the rules’ could be so good. And the phrase really grabbed me, and has been swirling around my head all week, looking for the angle that gets me a blog-post on the back of it. Tonight, I’ve found one.
I’ve often read stories of women and men finding that their becoming parents helps them to locate their internal activism. I’m fast reaching the conclusion that this applies to me, too. There are some great parent bloggers around who are eloquence personified in their campaigning or raging. I admire their nerve. Before parenthood I wasn’t exactly devoid of opinion. Far from it. But there is something about my considering the impact of, for example, the current Dept of Education’s approach to just about, well, everything upon my daughter’s future, that has me more fired up than perhaps I ever have been in my life – and much more than anything I did pre the kids.
Earlier this evening I responded to a request from Debra Kidd via twitter. Debra is a teacher and academic who has successfully campaigned throughout the last week against Gove’s proposed changes to the National Curriculum. I agreed to help out by adding a comment to every feature on education in The Independent from the last week, that leads people to this petition. A small thing, maybe, when compared to standing on a picket line, whistle-blowing, or some such, but it does represent something big, to me.
I don’t think I’ve been one for sticking my head above the parapet. But I have always admired a certain kind of outspoken – but well-informed – maverick. I am especially fond of people who work within a system, from a place of knowledge (and therefore power), and thus make a difference because they have already attained a level of respect from the wider community they operate within. So Michael Rosen tweets away, writes out-loud, about Lord Greed, Sir TrufflyWuffly, and the ‘evidence free administration’ that is Gove’s department. And we listen because he really knows about how children learn to read. Michael Moore crafts his documentaries, having poured over the facts and figures of successive US presidential administrations, and talking to hundreds of people about the impact of the decisions those administrations have made. The Dalai Lama guides us to a more thoughtful way of living having spent a life time thinking about human happiness and talking with every kind of world leader and man on the street.
You get the picture.
My favourite story of this kind is a man who is known for being the only German buried in Israel. Oskar Schindler wore a Nazi pin on his lapel and dined with Nazi officers. But he saved 3,000 Jews from the death camps right under their noses. He knew their thinking, their systems – their weaknesses. And he used the respect he earned to achieve something remarkable.
So, since my son was born I’ve gotten a few more grey hairs along my parting. I keep wondering whether to resort to the colour bottle, but there is something I find strangely amusing about their arrival, and I’m secretly quite partial to them. And this week I’ve found out why. I like being older, knowing more and thinking more, about issues that matter. As the grey hairs multiply, so does my evidence-based activism. A silver-haired radical in the making.
So, I’ll finish there, if that’s OK; I’ve got to pop over to The Independent and start tapping away.