"MY CAT has done more for the war effort than you," Churchill is
reported to have declared to Rab Butler when the coalition's
Education Secretary presented him with his game-changing Bill in
1944. It took a while for Churchill to embrace the idea of
education's being a cornerstone of post-war reconstruction; and
even then he had clear notions of what constituted proper
education: "Tell the children that Wolff won Quebec," he
The story of government policy on education since 1944 is one
which sees these tensions - around school governance, and the
curriculum - played out time and again, as was evident in
Teachers vs Government: 70 years of education policy
(Radio 4, Tuesday of last week).
Presented by the director of the National Education Trust, Roy
Blatchford, this was an even-handed account of the conflicts that
continue to belabour the national education debate. Indeed, the
barracking of education ministers by the teaching unions has become
one of those seasonal regulars.
In fact, the first 20 years were ones of relative calm and
consensus; teachers and government apparently working together
towards common goals. That all changed in 1965 with Circular 10/65,
which was the beginning of the end of grammar schools, and of the
autonomy of local government to decide its own education policies.
There has been toing and froing ever since.
There were many moments in this interesting documentary to
provide a nostalgic flutter; not least archive recordings of
politicians with clipped accents, and the strains of a school
recorder-ensemble playing passably in tune. Both have disappeared
into the irretrievable past.
Still, as Epictetus is said to have said: "It's not events that
make us sad, but how we think of them." Something of a truism, one
might think; but not for whole schoolsof 20th-century
psychiatrists, whose reputations were built on theefficacy of
behavioural versus psycho-analytical approaches to therapies of the
In Search of Ourselves: A history of psychology and the
mind (Radio 4, weekdays) is giving us a tour of therapies that
range from lying down on a couch and talking, to electric shocks.
Our able guideis Martin Sixsmith, the one-time BBC reporter who
retrained as a psychologist. The three weeks are divided between
the different branches of "psyche"-based study; and week one was
given over to Freud, Jung, and the rest.
What is always surprising when looking back at the history of
psychotherapy is how recent are the concepts which are now so
firmly embedded in our discourse. We are all amateur shrinks now,
and incorporate disparate elements of behaviourism, CBT, and
dynamic psychotherapy into our daily social interactions - indeed,
in a way that would horrify the original proponents of these
methods, which were intended as exclusive and comprehensive.
Most parents, for instance, employ behavioural methods when
setting routines for children; but would not go so far as the
pioneer behavioural psychologist B. F. Skinner, and elect to use an
operant conditioning chamber as a crib. In fact, we would suggest
Skinner himself go and get some therapy.