What has happened to good manners and reasoned, evidence-based arguments in politics in public debate?
We have complained before about Michael Gove’s use of terms such as “trots” and “enemies of promise”.
The Prime Minister has also employed totalitarian language, attacking those who raised concerns about the blanket use of phonics as using “wrong-headed methods”, on which we commented:
“Because you don’t agree with whatever these unspecified “methods” are so they are not just “wrong” but “wrong-headed”, that is those who hold them are muddled or confused or not capable of thinking properly a patronising, dictatorial and rather dangerous attitude.”
Then a spokesman for Education Secretary Michael Gove said that the signatories of a letter on early education were “misguided”:
“These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools.”
“We need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard problems in calculus or be a poet or engineer — a system freed from the grip of those who bleat bogus pop-psychology about ’self image’, which is an excuse for not teaching poor children how to add up.”
Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson commented:
“These comments are typical of the Education Secretary’s dismissive approach to anyone who dares to question his view of education – labelling them as ‘enemies’, ‘trots’, or ‘bad’, to pick a few examples.
“Describing the signatories as a ‘powerful lobby’ is spin – an attempt to make them sound sinister and dangerous.
“In fact, those his spokesman so casually dismisses “as ‘misguided’ are the real experts in the early years, education, psychology and child development – not a journalist-turned-politician who can rarely be found in a school – unless it’s a photo opportunity – and even less frequently, if at all, in a nursery.
“Unlike Mr Gove, those who have signed the letter have the best interests of children in mind. He should read it again – if he has read it at all – and take it on board.
“It is not the case that the only way is the Gove way.
“Given his love of publicity, perhaps he should have his own ‘unreality’ TV series, ‘The Only Way is Gove’.”
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss then waded in, echoing the Prime Minister by telling The World at One on BBC Radio Four: “I think the campaign is wrong-headed.”
In response to comments from respected academic Professor Robert Coe that schools inspectors in England were basing their verdicts on evaluation methods which might not be reliable, Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said that the claims were “tosh and nonsense”.