and probably should have been

In the first three years of the last decade I struggled, amidst a diary full of speaking engagements and numerous conferences, to write a book with the title of Master and Apprentice: Reuniting thinking with doing.  It was a good book, the MSS of which I still turn back to when I need to reclaim parts of an argument, but the publisher found it too long and, in his view, “too broadly based, requiring too much additional thinking on the part of a reader.”

Later I went on to write The Ninety-nine Theses: Towards finding a new order in education.  Then, as you all know, I wrote Overschooled but Undereducated.  With its emphasis on adolescence it was much influenced by this earlier writing.

Going through the manuscript several days ago I was struck by what I had said in the Postscript in July 2004, as a way of relating theory to current affairs.  That Postscript is now six years old but it can provide a useful introduction to the muddle that England now seems to be experiencing in the run-up to the General Election.

The Postscript starts:

“No book of this kind is ever easily written, for its canvas is broad and the mass of pertinent human detail inevitably entangled with complex and often confusing theoretical concepts.  I have struggled to bring context and coherence to both my own thinking and experience, and to the ideas of the many wise and thoughtful people whose work I value.  My intention throughout has been to orchestrate a message that might just influence the multitudes, inspired by Boris Pasternak’s belief that “No real book has a first page.  Like the rustling in the woods it is borne heaven knows where, grows and rolls on, waking hidden thickets in its path, and suddenly at the darkest, overwhelming, panic-stricken moment it speaks out from all the treetops at once, having reached its goal.

Yet even the most significant message from the treetops can be lost if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.  I’m all too aware that the storm winds that beat across the English educational landscape (and those other countries that seem to be following so closely in our wake) could leave this book stranded, unread on the dusty shelves of distant libraries.”

The Postscript is too long to be regarded as a blog but I commend it to you for your careful attention. It will take less than a quarter of an hour to read and can be downloaded here as a Word document.