Perfection is a Waste of Time

You won’t believe this but Ofsted has interfered so much in education, with pressure from the government, that at the beginning of each new academic year all teachers in comprehensive schools are obliged to attend the day before to be taught how to teach no matter how much or how little experience they have had. The result is that many of the best teachers feel very frustrated and look for another job or take the earliest retirement they can whilst the worst, who don’t mind being told what to do, stay on. The truth is that teaching, like writing, music and all kinds of creative activities are inherited abilities, just as we all have the mental capacity to be able to learn to speak and we all learn to do so in our own individual way.

So it follows that the the best teachers have their own methods learned from their own inherited talents and experiences. Three of the greatest in the field of language, Saussure, Wittgenstein and Harvey Sacks, were all innovators. They were from different countries: Saussure was Swiss, Wittgenstein was German and Sacks was American. Saussure discovered that words are signs and symbols that stand for all things, people and ideas. Wittgenstein taught us that the meaning of words depends on the contexts in which the words are used and Sacks agreed with Wittgenstein and contributed his work on Conversation Analysis in all social talk in many situations.

Could you imagine any of these great men allowing anyone to tell them what to do? Certainly not. We should show the same respect to our teachers as was the case before the 1950’s when I was at school. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Standards have dropped drastically. Useful subjects are largely left out, especially English grammar, Latin and foreign languages. Note these are all the humanities on which we build the foundations of our ability to think clearly and understand human nature and the bases of our own cultures.

We must not let ourselves be taken in by examination results. Anyone who wants to can rig them and they do. Who are making the judgements? Many of those whose education has suffered from the constantly lowering standards of the last few decades. They are the people who think they are right and that there is only one way of doing things according to their own prejudices.

More than ever standards are dropping in the fine arts.

However it is not all doom and gloom. For example, no-one tells conductors what to do yet they work in perfect harmony and this is recognised by the constantly filled Halls of the most popular music, including those from the past as well as the present.

Simon Rattle is, I think, one of the best. On the radio he was asked the question “How do you manage the orchestra?” His answer was “I’m constantly challenging the orchestra to do better. But they are also challenging me, so it’s a series of continual failures.”

This is a sharp reminder that nothing is perfect. All researchers have to bear this in mind. We learn more from our failures than from our successes. The more times we get something wrong the further we move towards success. What do we do when that is over? All who are worth their salt start to look for a further challenge.

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