I was talking yesterday about privilege and how people both with it probably view the world differently. Today’s news that Michael Gove will change the rules allowing schools to to get rid of the six week school holiday is perhaps one example of that.
Of course, I have no love of the six week school holiday now that I’m adult. Behind the house, there’s an area that somebody has turned into a communal play area. For nearly two months, it will be filled with the noisy little buggers screaming constantly for morning to night. Writing to that is like trying to tap-dance whilst somebody’s drilling a hole in your foot.
Yet as a kid, the holidays were the only time I was happy. I despised school and only started to do well once I left and began to teach myself. I feel the same way now. It comes down to the degree to which all that (points out of the window at the world in general) demands control of my life. I suppose deep down I have anarchist leanings, though I’ve always liked Orwell’s description of Swift (and probably himself) as being an Anarchic Tory. What I mean by that is that whilst I value order, culture, and civilisation, I also want to be left alone and believe that we all have the right to some kind of strong independent life beyond those horrible exhausted hours that you’re usually left to enjoy after being twisted rotten working your eight hour shift.
The concept of the working week is fascinating and probably deserves a good book writing about it, if it’s not already been done and I’m too lazy to check. I know the eight hour day is a relatively modern invention, being one of those great innovations the Victorians were so damn proud about. The premise was that we work for eight hours, relax for eight hours, and sleep for eight hours. Of course, it rarely happens that way. In my last job, I’d get up at 7am, out of the house for half past, on the train for ten to eight. In the office for eight thirty, half an hour for lunch, leave around four thirty, train at ten to five, home for five thirty. The eight hour day was, in reality, a ten hour day, leaving me six hours to do with as I would. After eight hours proof-reading woefully written leisure industry reports full of horrible management-speak, I was usually so tired I’d usually fall asleep in front of the TV, waking up in time to go to bed. I was lucky. My friend is a teacher and she rarely finishes work before 8 or 9pm. The holidays are the only time she can live a normal life.
All of which makes me dubious about Michael Gove’s plans. Not only does it feel like another opportunity to hit the teachers and turn them into social workers whose primary job it is to keep youth off the streets, it’s another way to establish a drone mentality in the workforce. Force those patterns of obsequious compliance that authoritarians believe should be hammered into the underclass. The older I get, the more I feel that Aldous Huxley had everything correct in ‘Brave New World’. Establish the patterns of behaviour early enough and you govern the future. Private schools will continue to operate with the best interests of students and parents in mind. Comprehensives, I know, will be overworked, stretched, and crammed full of students who will have even less time to think, to learn, and to discover who they are and what they want from life.