"The range of knowledge and skills that tests assess is very narrow, and to prepare young people for them they need a set of skills that are far broader," says Keith Bartley, chief executive of General Teaching Council, in an interview with the London Observer. That sounds about right, but surely it would be better to change the tests, not abolish them. Our own Scholastic Assessment Tests (SATs), for example, have added an essay question to open a wider sample to assess actual learning.
England, like America, suffers from the consequences of political correctness. What it means to be British is lost in a blush of multiculturalism. After the London Underground bombings in 2005 by three native Englishmen of Pakistani origin and one Jamaican immigrant, all Muslims, the government formed a commission to find a way to develop a greater sense of citizenship. The commissioners came up with one obvious suggestion. Along with learning about Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, great men all, English schoolchildren should also study the greatness of David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, and how they led the nation through two world wars.
Themes of British identity are being debated now by Tory and Labor parliamentarians. Gordon Brown, soon to follow Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, sounds like an old-fashioned Englishman, demanding "British jobs for British people" and rebuking firms that prefer to hire low-paid immigrants to Britons. (Sound familiar?) Others have joined him in proposing a national holiday to celebrate what it means to be British.
David Cameron, the Tory leader, urged Muslims to take pride in Old Blighty, and suggests copying the American model of shared values found in the daily Pledge of Allegiance, the celebration of the Fourth of July and the observance of Thanksgiving Day. Guy Fawkes, celebrated for trying to blow up Parliament two centuries ago, doesn't quite cut it. It's quaintly satisfying to an American to see the mother country looking to the colonies for inspiration.