Ken Jones

Ken Jones author of Right Turn: The Conservative Revolution in Education Policy, teaches English at the Institute of Education, London University, and at Barking Abbey Comprehensive School.

The National Curriculum

Ken Jones, 10 January 1991

Two years after the ‘Reform Act’ that was meant to end it, the English education crisis is unmistakably back. The signs of its return are many and familiar: rows over ‘standards’; anxious comparisons with European rivals; despairing accounts of the material state of schools; and fevered plans for a yet-further extension of the market system. All this after a decade of spectacular Conservative victories, in which those held responsible for educational decline were dealt blow after blow. Teacher trade-unionism was defeated and put in legal shackles. ‘Radical’ local authorities were pilloried and, in the case of the largest, abolished. The orthodoxies of an equal-opportunity-minded educational establishment were replaced at the heart of policy by the programmes of the Conservative Right. All to no avail: the wiping-out of the progressive enemy has only served to highlight the abiding problems of English education.

Light and Air

Ken Jones, 5 April 1990

In these unfriendly times, Margaret McMillan, once the subject of such biographies as The Children’s Champion and Prophet and Pioneer, occupies some unvisited pantheon of educational reform. The order of precedence set out in the title of Carolyn Steedman’s book is sign enough that she has no intention of re-establishing the McMillan cult. She has produced instead something much more awkward and interesting. Childhood, Culture and Class is less a life than a set of interconnected essays, which approach the themes and particular difficulties of McMillan’s work from a succession of unpredictable starting-points. Denying the reader the usual shape and satisfactions of biography, it offers through narrative, textual analysis and speculation both a timely questioning of McMillan’s achievements and a meditation on the oblique connections between a public life and its private sources, between political argument and figures of rhetoric whose force arises from their roots in the deepest, shared hopes and disappointments of a propagandist and her audience.

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