Why Mr Gradgrind, thou art updated – my version!

A fellow blogger published an excellent update to Charles Dickens’ character some time ago. The link is below.


However, I thought I would also do my own version, now that checklists and “can do” statements seem to be the vogue, thus ignoring one of the reasons for the abolition of national curriculum levels.

Why Mr Gradgrind – thou art updated!

“NOW, what I want is, Skills. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Skills. Skills alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.” Mr Gradgrind paused for a moment.

“And when I say ‘teach’ what I really mean is ‘facilitate’. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Skills, sir!’ The scene was a multi coloured school-room, decorated with multicoloured display work and a checklist of “Can do” statements, which the speaker’s square forefinger emphasized silently by pointing, in the approved “talk-less” neo-Gradgrindian manner.

“In this life, we want nothing but Higher Level Thinking, sir; nothing but Analysis, Evaluation, Creativity and Progress!” The speaker and the second grown person present both swept with their eyes the knots of little vessels then and there arranged in groups, ready to have Conceptual Understanding facilitated into them until they were full to the brim, or at least until their learning objectives on their Personal Learning Checklists could be self-actualized and triple cross-checked by peer assessment.

“In your cluster groups,” said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, “as a starter, analyse and evaluate what the concept of ‘horse’ means in the 21st Century within the context of productive economic citizenship. Please make full use of all the colours available to delineate your thought-clusters. And don’t forget the thinking hats. You have five minutes.”. Mr Gradgrind started a countdown timer on the interactive whiteboard.

The pips sounded and Mr Gradgrind asked Timmy’s group for their findings. One of the group, a boy called Johnny, had drawn a picture of a horse. It had 3 legs and was smiling in a decidedly unhorselike way. The phrase “Dobbin is a quadruped” was written in very uneven handwriting at the bottom.

Mr Gradgrind refrained from commenting with some difficulty. “Suggestions? What descriptor applies to this?” What can Johnny tick off on his personal learning checklist?

A hand went up. “He can tick off descriptor 5a and descriptor 6c. Not 6b, as he should use the word ‘because’ in every sentence to encourage higher level thinking skills.”

A voice interrupted. “Descriptor 5a says I can draw pictures. Johnny told me he can only draw horses.”

“No – I can do other animals too.” Johnny’s reply was indignant.

“Does the descriptor say what kind of picture? No it does not. Johnny, you can draw pictures!” Gradgrind smiled as Johnny ticked it off on his checklist.

“But . . .” conceded Mr Gradgrind , walking over to the flipchart and putting a big red circle around the word quadruped. “More suggestions? Yes, Bitzer?”

“The sentence containing the word quadruped is a statement of a merely factual nature, sir,” said Bitzer, pulling a sour face as the word ‘factual’ left his mouth.

“Precisely!” roared Gradgrind . He turned towards the class. “And what is the point of writing down facts when–“

“–we can look it up on Google!” chorused the class. Poor Sissy Jupe looked crestfallen.

“Sir, what does quadruped mean?” Sissy Jupe looked puzzled

“Look it up! Bitzer, show us how it’s done.” The whey-faced lad tapped away on his iPad and

read slowly and monotonously “Noun 1 an animal esp mammal with four

limes/limbes…something like that… adj quadrupedal ”

“There you are!”

“Gradgrind gave Sissy Jupe a significant look. “Research, Analysis, Evaluation, Creativity and Progress — that’s how it’s done! Well done there, Bitzer! Learning checklist descriptor 3a sub descriptor 4d – I can use technology to aid understanding!”

Sissy Jupe still looked puzzled. “But sir . . . I still don’t understand!”

Gradgrind warmed to one of his favourite themes: “In the twenty-first century, are you going to need to know that word? Shift happens!. “Consider, young Sissy,” he said, “the skills of 21st century equestrianism are likely to be vastly different from the skills of 20th century equestrianism!”

“Sir – what’s “equestrianism?”” asked Sissy, hesitantly.

Gradgrind turned to the class. “What skills might Sissy need to get an answer to her question?

“Decoding skills!”

“Literacy skills!”

“Research skills!”

“Communication skills!”

“All on the learning checklist!” Gradgrind smiled. “Sissy, we’re teaching you skills that will last a lifetime, working collaboratively, discussing, using internet browsers and how to use keyboard shortcuts on proprietary software to cut-and-paste. Because those skills will NEVER become obsolete, you mark my words!”

The second adult in the room, the normal class teacher, stepped forward, shaking his head in admiration. He drew two baseball caps from his pocket — they both had the words ‘Lead Learner’ embroidered upon them — and both of them reverently donned them

“Now class. Have we met our learning objectives so far? What were they?”

A few voices shout out

“To analyse!”

“To work collaboratively!”

“To evaluate!”

“To show resilience!”

Mr Gradgrind beamed. “Now, I want you to write down an evaluation of whether you achieved these objectives and to tick them off on your learning checklists! Then swap books with the others in the group and evaluate their responses. Don’t forget to suggest improvements! WWW and EBI!!! We must all have our targets written down!!!! That’s how we make progress!

Sissy Jupe sighed: it had been a close run thing, but just for a minute there it had seemed as if someone was actually going to teach her something…


This entry was posted in Pedagogy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why Mr Gradgrind, thou art updated – my version!

  1. Pingback: Why Mr Gradgrind Thou Art Updated My Version | The Echo Chamber

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