Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let them learn salsa

This will sound churlish. A statement from any government minister that sees adult education as anything other than an expensive luxury should be a welcome relief. I know that John Hayes, the Skills Minister, had extensive contacts with adult education organisations when in opposition and, I was assured by others, despite my cynicism, that he actually got it about its significance.

He certainly seems to given this reported statement:
Taking evening classes improved adults' physical and mental health, encouraged them back into work and helped build tight communities, the minister said. "[The classes] aren't just about utility in its narrowest sense," he said. "There are a lot of studies that show the beneficial effect adult education has on health and social interactions."
He also gets it about the utility of non-vocational learning. But, and there is always a but, he is a Tory and ultimately this is translated into a curious amalgam of a lack of substance in terms of policy and a sense of the absurd.
Hayes said courses such as dance or flower arranging were "arguably more important" in times of financial constraint because they made people happy.
So, after New Labour's commitment to make lifelong learning central to the new 'knowledge economy' (and then trashing it), we now see adult education advocated as a new opiate of the masses. Flower arranging as a compensation for losing your job. It isn't convincing, reflects a stereotype of the enormous variety of activities that fell under the lifelong learning banner, whilst the creation of a happy subservience doesn't encompass the vision that made so many of us give our working lives to adult education, before departing with some bitterness and a severance payment.


mikeovswinton said...

Yeah, well I was at University with that John Hayes. He's a minister now is he....? Tell me it ain't so.

The Plump said...

One of my favourite big speeches is about the quality of the political class ... it certainly ain't improving

mikeovswinton said...

And , of course, it isn't declining. Like popular music it merely changes at the level of appearance, but not, to get a bit Hegelian, in essence. I'll trade you a Ray Gunter against a John Prescott. Or a Henry Brooke against - Lord help us - a John Hayes. Or even a Jeremy Thorpe against a Nick Clegg. Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme chose, as they say in Rotherham.

mikeovswinton said...

Or a certain Tory Dame of the 70s and 80s aganst anyone today. I remember a column which pointed out how apt it was that she represented a constituency at the edge of the lakes which had millstone grit as its main physical component. As this appeared to be the material that was between her ears.

mikeovswinton said...

Actually, from memory the idea of John Hayes doing a salsa class has a certain comic potential. A bit like the idea of one of the intellectual greats of the political class of the olden days - oh, say Reginald Maudling - doing one.