There are so many problems with Michael Gove’s recent article in the Daily Mail that I am not sure where to start. I am also not sure whether I have the inclination to engage with something that I consider to be diatribe. But here goes:
After opening with an invocation of Cyril Connolly, Gove appeals to fear:
“Because there are millions of talented young people being denied the opportunity to succeed as they deserve. Far too many are having their potential thwarted by a new set of Enemies Of Promise.”
Gove is trying to claim that he is concerned about the educational prospects of our young people. Perhaps he is only concerned about those who he deems as talented, and therefore deserving of success? Nevertheless, he is concerned about them. Yet, Daily Mail readers should be warned, there are people out there, these ‘Enemies Of Promise’ who threaten to stand in the way of these opportunities to success.
So, who are these ‘Enemies Of Promise’? They are:
“a set of politically motivated individuals”
These individuals do not agree with Gove, therefore they are enemies, and, moreover they are politically motivated, and worst of all, they are ‘Marxist’. Helpfully, the Daily Mail has included a picture of the bearded man himself. Presumably, in describing his enemies as “politically motivated, Gove is suggesting that he is not similarly motivated. This is clearly nonsense.
Gove goes on to outline what he believes is evidence of the poor standards of education in our schools with this rhetological fallacy:
“Survey after survey has revealed disturbing historical ignorance”
His appeal to authority conveniently fails to identify which surveys uncovered this ignorance.
These poor educational standards, according to Gove are concentrated in our most disadvantaged communities, such as East Durham. (you may remember that this is a place where Gove claims to be able smell defeat). Given this observation of differences in educational achievement, Marxists may point out that in capitalism there are winners and losers, and that within this system lies the explanation for differential education attainment. However, Marxists are the subject of this attack, so anything they have to say is subject to further opprobrium in the remainder of the article.
Of course capitalism is not to blame! Gove much prefers to point the finger at the ‘Enemies Of Promise’. One hundred of these apparent enemies are signatories to a letter in The Independent in which they warn of the potential dangers of Gove’s new National Curriculum (which explains why Gove doesn’t like them). Some of these enemies, according to Gove, inhabit a “Red Planet” (they are Marxists after all!). This, according to Gove is proven by their research interests:
“One of the letter’s principal signatories claims to write ‘from a classical Marxist perspective’, another studies ‘how masculinities and femininities operate as communities of practice’, a third makes their life work an ‘intergenerational ethnography of the intersection of class, place, education and school resistance’.”
This is nothing more than an ignorant attack on the social sciences, and one which, presumably Gove hopes the readers of his derision will agree with.
Gove then goes on to describe ‘enemies’ as a ‘Blob’ consisting of “ultra-militants in the unions who are threatening strikes”. This choice of language purposefully ignores the reality that unions are made up of their members, in this case teachers who have collectively chosen to withdraw their labour in summer of strike action.
In short, a fine example of Govian ad hominem reasoning. No wonder the ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers) has recorded no confidence in him.