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New Left Review I/11, September-October 1961


Tony Crowe

Growing up Together

i took my first post in a comprehensive school because I believed that the majority of our children deserve more than our educational system gives them and possess more gifts than we are normally prepared to allow them. I did this in spite of the advice of my university. It was assumed at the university that you would enter either a grammar school or a public school. There were two of us who wanted to do otherwise. One, I think, now teaches at a primary school. The university was very helpful in fixing me up with a comprehensive school in which to spend my term’s practice, but they were generally rather puzzled. I knew, of course, that grammar schools had opened their doors—if ever so slightly —to the working class child as a result of the 1944 Education Act. Yet this step was by a pacifying gesture: it marked no change of direction. I still found it hard to be complacent about the crude, prevailing assumptions that there existed such creatures as “Secondary Modern Children” and “Grammar School Children”, even though I was a product of that very system. Moreover, in many subtle ways the selection principle seemed to cheapen the quality of education at all stages. Primary schools pushed into prominence a type of mind that was bright, quick, but often merely accommodating. Competition for places further up the system forced most schools to cultivate in the child the flair for those modes of activity which could be marked right or wrong, which shone under the stress of examination—but which offered no guarantee of a capacity for responsive living. Education, thus conceived, grew less a proper and sensitive concern with the growth of a mature, individual personality. It was a sacrifice of all that literature and psychology had taught us about human identity.

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