Sunday, 10 February 2019

Once more with feeling – Question 5

‘Education has got steadily worse over the last few years.’

Write a blog arguing for or against this statement.

There are two running narratives that have grown over the last year or so on Twitter. One narrative is propelled by the idea that secondary schools have become some Gradgrindian institute which sucks out the life of students and actively and intentionally causes stress and metal anxiety in students. Another narrative spread is the destructive quality of the new GCSEs. The new GCSEs have been presented as draining creativity and freedom and leaving students as an empty husk empty of ideas and individuality. Everything has been attacked in the way to propel these ideas. Vocabulary has been thrown under the bus. Knowledge has been publicly flogged too. All for the sake of propelling this idea that things in education are broken.

Now, I would love to write a blog exploring the flaws in each narrative, but instead I think it is a great opportunity to help students to get better in Question 5, because creativity is found under rocks, slipped between the pages of an old book, behind a cupboard and under a desk. Creativity needs to be discovered and found rather than enforced. Or, occasionally, creativity is found on discussions on Twitter. Therefore, in the spirit of creativity, here are some ideas I have had with Question 5 (Paper 2).

One thing you can never argue with is emotions. You can argue with facts, but you can never argue with feelings. That’s why a lot of writing today is dripping in emotions. Those are my feelings guys! I am just telling you how I feel.

I feel shocked, appalled and disgusted with the way that homework is demonised in society.

Emotions also make your writing interesting. If we stick to the facts, we get to the truth, but it lacks flavour. Emotions. You can’t argue with an emotion.

Tyrants and Victims
When presenting a strong case, it is helpful to present clear sides in the argument. Present people as tyrants and victims. There’s no need for ambiguity. Goodies and baddies all the way. A tyrannical system enslaves and oppresses people. A victim is helpless and innocent. One causes hated. The other causes pity and empathy. Present someone as a victim or a villain and you have automatic emotional connection. Newspapers lead on this. We live in a world where people are either a victim or a villain.  

So, if students are looking at a question about sport and its over commercialism, you could easily jump to large businesses as the tyrants and the poor, innocent sports men and women are the victims. Look at what those big meanies are doing to the little people kicking a ball.  

Paint yourself as the victim
By all means, champion a person, but what makes things more convincing is if you are the victim. You are then giving us a personal and confessional perspective. This is the problem from the horse’s mouth. You have experience of it first-hand. That trumps everything. They are all outsiders.

No counter arguments
Don’t go anywhere near a counter argument. Considering the other side only weakens your argument and waters it down. Just bludgeon your way through with your ideas. Take no prisoners. Blind yourself to the other sides. Only talk about the other side to point out flaws, weaknesses or to ridicule.

Yes, there might be some benefits of healthy eating, but you know they aren’t even as interesting as your argument. They are dull.

Use extreme examples to shock. One isolated incident can be indicative of a wider problem. It is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, you are exploring the change of the driving age and I just happen mention that my uncle died in a car he was driving at the age of 17. Like an emotion bomb, that little detail decimates the argument. It is not true, by the way.

Extreme examples have the ability to hide the flaws in an argument.

I’d say that Question 5 is perfect part of the curriculum to address things in a modern age. Some people have criticised the lack of media analysis in English when we are in an age of ‘fake news’. However, I’d argue we need to explore how people present an argument. How they use emotions to manipulate people. How they present themselves as the victim. How they present nonconformists as villains. How they ignore the other side. How they use extreme examples to paper over the cracks. We are no longer persuading. We are now convincing.  

The teacher is the source of creativity. Sometimes it is so easy to attack the system, when we miss out the key thing that is important. The teacher. The teacher is the guiding light. The torch. The lighthouse. The beacon. Let’s credit them for the creativity. Let’s look for the creativity together.

Bleeding hearts on the right of me and jokers on the left, here I am stuck with you.  

Thanks for reading,