Johnny Man: Widening Views

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This essay will look at and research a key text (The Saber Tooth Curriculum). It will set out to explore and critically review Harold Benjamins renowned satire on the educational and curriculum system of a supposedly Palaeolithic tribe. The essay will create arguments within the text and relate this to the education system of Britain in both an academic and vocational setting. It will look at the educational framework for fourteen to nineteen year olds and how this relates to the text in question. The essay focuses on the fourteen to nineteen frameworks of secondary schools, as this is the field in which I teach in. It will identify lifelong learning through vocational education of construction and how "Really Useful Knowledge" is being used in the Saber Tooth Curriculum and the Construction industry today. The Saber Tooth Curriculum was written against the backdrop of disharmony in America. They had just come out of the depression as a result of boom and bust era. Harold Benjamin was an educationalist who had fought in the Fist World War and became a proponent of educational reform through his pseudonym J.Abner Peddiwell. The Saber Tooth Curriculum imagines the first educational system that is set up in Palaeolithic period by a tribesman called New-Fist-Hammer-Maker. He had gained his name by expertly making a tool that would be extremely beneficial to the survival of himself and his tribe, Benjamin,J(1971,p7) states;

'New Fist gained his name and considerable local prestige by producing one of these artefacts in a less rough and more useful form than any previously known to his tribe'.

The author has used New-Fist-Hammer-Maker as the basis of his story and the message he is trying to tell. Through his innovative tool making skills, he is seen as the intellectual of the group, and his thinking and thirst for knowledge are highlighted in the first passages of the story, Benjamin,H(1971,p8) states;

'He began to catch glimpses of ways in which life might be made better for himself, his family, and his group. By virtue of this development, he became a dangerous man'.

The beginnings of New-Fists education for his children and tribe, evolves around the need for security, comfort and food. The simple task of feeding his children, himself and the tribe was identified three categories of curriculum: fish grabbing with bare hands, woolly horse clubbing and sabre tooth tiger scaring with fire. Through this curriculum the children had learnt the valuable lessons that would give them advantage over their peers. It was not long before the whole tribe had learnt the three fundamentals of the curriculum and for a time they were secure and safe because of the education. One could associate or compare the curriculum New-Fist introduced into his tribe, to the education system of secondary education and vocational education in today's world. The Education Act of 1944 by Winston Churchill's Conservative Government, heralded free education to the masses. The curriculum would have involved the three R's which would have been Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. By studying these fundamentals students were judged to have been given a good, if not fair education to progress into a productive life. It is this foundation in Britain's education system that reflects New- Fists curriculum of fish grabbing with bare hands, woolly horse clubbing and sabre tooth tiger scaring with fire. Benjamin,H(1971,p12) states;

'The best trained horse-clubbers of the tribe went out day after day and employed the most efficient techniques taught in the schools, but day after day they returned empty-handed. A horse clubbing education of the highest type could get no results when there were no horses to club'.

As time goes by the age old curriculum of fish grabbing with bare hands, woolly horse clubbing and sabre tooth tiger scaring with fire is being called into question because new ways of surviving were needed. The butchering of all the natural resources, biological advancement of a species and the oncoming ice age, forced the tribe to invent new technological improvements in their survival skills.

As new ways were found to catch fish, snaring antelope and capturing bears, the old curriculum was sought to be out of date by the majority of the tribe. The radicals in the group opposed the elders and questioned the techniques and teaching which were seen to be irrelevant. One could draw parallels with this argument in the past and present education system, which has its values in the Thatcher Government of 1979 and the introduction of the National Curriculum and all the technical advances that have been made since. Prior to the National Curriculum schools were able to teach "what" and "how" they wanted. It was an autonomous time for teachers and all that were involved in the profession of education. The educational framework of Britain had not changed since the introduction of General Certificate of Education Ordinary level qualifications, and the Advanced GCE level in 1951. It was not until the early 1960's that the Certificate of Secondary Education was introduced, as the O' Levels were deemed to be too difficult for the majority of state education. The introduction of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 can be seen as the major change to the educational system in Britain, and the continuation of that theme in Tony Blair's New Labour in 1997. Thatcher sought to revolutionise the old framework of O levels and introduce an up to date General Certificate of Education. According to Kelly, A (1994) this new qualification would incorporate all the new technological advances and give students the knowledge, skills and abilities to progress into the wider world of employment and the beginning of lifelong learning. As time has gone by the supposedly revolutionary qualification set up under Thatcher, has itself come under questioning and become the old guard. Tomlinsons Report in 2004 on curriculum reform had put forward a radical shake up of the whole qualification framework for fourteen to nineteen year olds.

The author has identified and differentiated vocational training and education through the elder's stance on curriculum change. One could draw parallels with the elders and the construction industry and house building because the necessity to build and construct a warm, stable and secure environment has been fundamental to our survival since the beginning of time, from the dark ages to the middle ages and to the present day. As one generation passes the learnt skills from one to the other, knowledge is being transferred and in time expanded. As history progresses the way in which one constructs their houses will change with fashion, styles and ideas of the time. Through this all the skills that are learnt through new ideas and styles are passed onto the next generation of skilled craftsman. House building and construction has been part of the fabrication of society, and the way in which apprentices have been taught has evolved from that. Knowledge of building different ways has always been fixed but what is "Really Useful Knowledge" are ever changing, depending on the Government initiatives, Sector skills Councils and the policy makers of the time. Currently the construction industries have undergone a major rethink of all their qualifications and through government reform and funding, issues have had to adapt.

The author has brought the argument between education and training and how one is distinctly different from the other, the radicals in the tribe are arguing for an overhaul of their seemingly out of touch practices fish grabbing with bare hands, woolly horse clubbing and sabre tooth tiger scaring with fire. The radicals are arguing for education to reflect what is happening in the outside world and to keep up to date with technological advances. Through the elders the argument for the curriculum is based around social responsibilities, progressive learning and fundamental knowledge, Benjamin, H (1971, p15) states;

"We don't teach fish-grabbing to grab fish; we teach it to develop a generalized agility which can never to developed by mere training. We don't teach horse-clubbing to club horses; we teach it to develop a generalized strength in the learner which he can never get from so prosaic and specialised a thing as antelope-snaring. We don't teach tiger-scaring to scare tigers; we teach it for the purpose of giving that noble courage which carries over into all the affairs of life and which can never come from so base an activity as bear-killing."

The same arguments surrounding the curriculum for fourteen to nineteen years olds are still being asked today, with relevance to the student's abilities to leave education being fully equipped with the right knowledge to progress into employment, training and lifelong learning. The author has used a journalistic style of writing he writes in a way that highlights and sensationalises New-Fist-Hammer-Maker's expertise in making good hunting tools for example Benjamin, J.(1971,p7)states;

'New Fist gained his name and considerable local prestige by producing one of these artefacts in a less rough and more useful form than any previously known to his tribe'.

The author Benjamin has used a range of emotive and descriptive language to describe his story of a Palaeolithic tribe.Benjamin, H. (p7) states;

'New-Fist pushed himself beyond those lengths to the point where cerebration was inevitable'.

By setting New- Fist apart from his fellow tribe Benjamin, H (p7) states;

'He would stare moodily at the flickering flames and wonder about various parts of his environment until he finally got to the point where he became strongly dissatisfied with the accustomed ways of his tribe'.

The whole story is set in a metaphor for life through education and those that administer what is "Really Useful Knowledge". The metaphor used by the tribe is that education is the foundation for life itself and this can not be replaced by fashion, style, technological advances and change in attitudes. The author has used a simplistic way to tell the story of "The First Great Education Thinker "in keeping with the story line itself. He has tried to engage all that read it first a seemingly simple journey about a tribe and their beginnings of an education system which has undercurrents of sarcasm, irony and a tongue in cheek attitude, Goodland,J argues (xxviii,2004) that;

'However the fundamental frustration expressed satirically by Harold Benjamin in the Saber Tooth Curriculum was caused by the wide gap between the prevailing practice what was feasible; between the best and poorest practices; between the verbal commitments to education and the actual support it received; between the urgent need and the response'.

The author has used pejorative words throughout the Saber Tooth Curriculum to cynically tell the story of New-Fist and his tribe. He has stigmatised, mocked and stereotyped the majority of the tribe and those that initially go against the new education system.

In conclusion the Saber Tooth Curriculum was trying to identify how the world was changing in its technological advances. Harold Benjamin was sarcastically calling into question, curriculum change and the different sides that opposed it. Benjamin has used a metaphor for the story and how education is the beginning of knowledge and the necessity to build on that knowledge to bring about change and future prosperity. Britain is in a grip of financial instability and the future looks uncertain for employment, training, education and life long learning. Britain and the nation are preparing for a general election and the possibility of a change of Government looms. The Saber Tooth Curriculum and its satirical arguments and provoking questions are still evident in today's Britain. The Saber Tooth Curriculum poses the idea of knowledge as being fixed and never changing and education being static and unmoveable. This in my view is a romantic and naive view of the world through rose tinted glasses. Educational change is a positive step, only if it is being changed for the good of the people and not by policy makers or politicians.


Benjamin, H. (1971) The Saber Tooth Curriculum in The Curriculum; Content Design and Development. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Benjmain, H (2004) The Saber Tooth Curriculum The book that Changed the way we look at Education. United States: McGraw-Hill.

Kelly, V. (1994). The National Curriculum A Critical Review. Newcastle upon Tyne: Sage Publications

This essay sets out to identify how the idea of modernism and postmodernism fits into the education system of Britain. It will seek to discover how education first began from the enlightenment period in the nineteenth century up to the present day. This essay will highlight the changes that have taken place in education, and how vocational education, and the beginnings of lifelong learning has taken root in todays state education system. The beginning of the education system in Europe and its ideals and beliefs have stemmed from religion and the church. From the very beginning of the religious beliefs, followers and disciples would have required the knowledge and skills to read and follow instructions from the Christian faith. The French revolution in1848 played an important role in determining the enlightenment and modernistic ideas. Prior to the French revolution the monarchs, government ministers, church clergy and the old guard were the most powerful influences on society. The enlightenment project had split from the teachings and beliefs of the church and faith and placed its values in reason, scientific findings, human nature, non religious ideas, free ideas and intellectual thinking. The enlightenment period would be a revolution of ideas that emanated from the old ideas of the middle ages, and religion and the church being the font of all knowledge. Out of the Enlightenment period Modernity was born towards the end of the nineteenth century and they would have viewed the world as scientific, based on universal truths, logical thinking of knowledge and objectivity. This was a move away from reliance on faith to reason only accepting knowledge if their was proof of a move into modernity Bron, A (2002, p42) states;

'Modernism has, of course, many dimensions but central to its beliefs was the emancipatory potential of particular forms of knowledge. Reason and science were to be applied to human affairs, as well as to the natural world, replacing god as the prime basis for human betterment and social progress'.

Modernity mirrored capitalism and the state did not strive for education of the masses to gain social equality but to make the country prosper economically. The industrial revolution went some way to change ideas about knowledge, education and training as workers were becoming more skilled and the necessity to read and write was apparent. For the majority of people, education was seen to be for the privileged few, up until the end of the Second World War. Education of this time was based on a three tier system that included Secondary Moderns, Grammar and Technical Schools. The education of the majority of the nation was left down to the teachers, educators and heads of the educational institution, government and ministers were not involved in the "what" and "how "to teach children. The education of the time would have been based around reading, writing, arithmetic, religious education and vocational subjects like woodwork, needlework and metalwork. This would have reflected a traditionalist view of education rather than a modernist approach. While the move towards modernity had begun, many schools still remained traditionally based around the church. Kelly, V (1994, p24) argues;

'In most societies deliberate attempts are made to use the educational system to promote certain kinds of social and political values- and religious values too, since it is plain that the massive contribution of the churches development of education al provision over the years, along with their close involvement in the planning and management of schools and colleges'

These students would not have left school without a qualification but may have been awarded a certificate of school achievement. As education progressed into the 1950's The General Certificate of Education Ordinary level qualifications and the Advanced GCE level qualification were introduced into mainstream education. According to the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was introduced in the 1960's to cater for a wider spectrum of students. The reasons behind this was that the majority of students were not able to complete the elitist O Levels and A Levels, as the examinations and processes were too far reaching for the ordinary child. The modernistic approach towards education system had not changed since the introduction of the 1944 Education Act under Churchill's Government, until the introduction of the Margaret Thatcher Government in 1979.

The post modernistic movement has come from a reaction against Modernism. This would have been reflected in our culture and, whether that is the arts, literature or architecture, these have stemmed from a feeling of change in our society. The first world has evolved and moved on from the origins of capitalism and industrialism. Managerialism and the move away from the individual teacher holding power in what they taught their students, to the state deciding what should be taught. Technology, whole sale capitalism, privatisation, globalisation would thrive in the post modern world, which had its roots at the end of the Second World War. According to Usher, R (1996, P2) it is very difficult to pigeon hole education with Postmodernism and goes onto state;

'Historically, education can be seen as the vehicle by which modernity 's 'grand narratives', the enlightenment ideals of crucial reason, individual freedom, progress and benevolent change, are substantiated and realised'

Since the Introduction of Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative party in 1979 they had sought to change the education system in Britain, with the Education Act 1988, a new Curriculum was born. The structure of the previous qualification for primary and secondary schools were deemed to be out of touch. The General Certificate of Education Ordinary level qualifications were to be abolished and replaced by The General Certificate of Secondary Education, Usher, R (1996, p25) states;

'Education is itself going through profound changes in terms of purposes, contents and methods, changes are themselves an aspect of the uncertainties of the postmodern moment'.

And goes on to state;

'Thus postmodernism becomes part of the curriculum, incorporated into the modern practice of education'.

The National Curriculum had put the Government at the forefront of educational development. It had moved policy making and educational change into a centrally planned system. The National Curriculum had identified that students would be broken down into key stages, so that they could analyse the progression and attainment targets from each key stage, from an assessment defined by the government. Another fundamental change was the differentiation of subjects into core and foundation subjects. The core subjects would be based around Mathematics, English and Sciences and Kelly, V (1994, p24) argues;

'Thus English has to come known more often as' language', as teachers have come to concentrate on the development of the pupils ability to use language for thinking and for talking as well as for writing, and, in the process of this change, there has been some loss of emphasis on grammatical structures, on punctuation and, in general, on the mechanics of the English language'.

The Governments reasoning to change the curriculum, was to keep in line with the postmodern world and its competitors. According to Kelly, A (1994) the need to educate and train students to become part of society through employment and economic growth was paramount to the ideals of the Government. The beginnings of life long learning for fourteen to nineteen year olds can be seen In 2004 by Mike Tomlinson report on the 14-19 reform of education which was commissioned by Tony Blair's Labour Party following on from his "Education, Education, Education" rhetoric. The proposed change of curriculum is very much centred on young students becoming adults within the qualification framework, thus putting them on the first step of life long learning. The change in ideals and ambition between New Labour and the Conservative Party it had superseded could be seen as an extension of the former regime. Mike Tomlinson had advocated a complete shake up of the current qualification framework of G.C.S.E'S and A Level qualification. According to Tomlinson (2004, p4) the reform was needed to;

'Raise participation and achievement, strengthen vocational routes, provide greater stretch and challenge, get the basics right(English, maths, ICT) reduce the assessment burden, and make the system more transparent and easier to understand'.

Since 2004 Vocational education has been introduced into secondary school, building people into the world of work not modernism education for education sake.

The plethora of courses now available to school children from the age of 14 years old, range from Construction, Horticulture, Catering, Creative Media, Motor Mechanics, Engineering, Hair, Beauty, Outdoor education etc. This continuation of the changing face of education falls in line with Jarvis(2004,p32);

'With this rapid change, it is almost impossible to regard knowledge as a truth any more- we are now talking about something that is relative and can be changed again as soon as some new discovery is made'.

Although vocational education has reached many more students in secondary schools Tomlinson's, wholesale change of the qualification framework for 14-19 year olds has been watered down and have been partially introduced.

In conclusion the debate and arguments surrounding Modernism and Post Modernism in our society have been ongoing since the introduction of the idea. Modernistic views replaced the ideals of the church, and knowledge being placed into scientific findings and truths as the world was changing. The ideas of Modernism and Postmodernism took various forms in architecture, art, literature and education, and it could be argued that postmodernism is just another form of modernism, and one is an extension of the other. As the essay has shown knowledge is ever moving and changing and the education of our society reflects that cultural and ideological movement.


Bron, A.,Schemmann, M. ( 2002). Social Science Theories in Adult Education Research. New Brunswick (USA): Transaction Publishers.

Jarvis, P. (2001) The age of learning. London: Kogan Page.

Kelly, V. (1994). The National Curriculum A Critical Review. Newcastle upon Tyne: Sage Publications

Usher, R., Edwards, R. ( 1996). Postmodernism And Education. Great Britain, Chatham: Routledge.

Department of Education and Skills. (2004) 14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform. Available at: (Accessed: 1st April 2010)

The essay will identify a contemporary idea within education, Marketisation, and how it has affected the management of schools and how they have changed their ideology and structure because of it. It will locate how the school ethos and their long term plans fits into lifelong learning. The essay will highlight the changes in government and how they have affected education and identify key polices within that. The introduction of the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher in the 1970's changed Britain and its core values in terms of its national industries, education and the health service. Before the Conservative Government Secondary schools were able to teach its own curriculum and decide what "Really Useful Knowledge" was for their students. It was in the era of teachers being autonomous and at the centre of students learning. The curriculum of schools from the1950's to the1970's according to Matheson, D (2008), did not have a common core curriculum and was able to choose their own criteria for teaching. Schools were able to teach what they decided and how they were going to teach. Schooling of the 1950's and the 1970's gave power to teachers in the classroom. They could choose their own reading material, philosophy and the way they taught the children. The Thatcher Government and its ideologies and values had crushed the unions in its pursuit of selling of Britain's National industries and breaking the spirit of all those that stood behind it. The idea of privatisation was introduced under Thatcher's Conservatives and Education did not escape their underlying influences, Randle,K argues that (2000,pp140)

'The New mangerialsim can be characterised as a style of management which emerged in the UK in the early 1980's and gradually spread throughout the Public Sector. It began with the civil service in the wake of the Rayner Scritinities and the Financial Management Initiative (Metcalf and Richards. 1987) and has since been established in local authorities, the BBC, the NHS and the Education Sector'.

Prior to Thatcher all secondary schools and further education colleges were under the control of Local Educational Authorities, but Thatcher had given all secondary schools the licence to become masters of their own destiny if they so desired, and enter into the business world of education. Secondary Schools were now part of this new world of privatisation, marketisation and Thatcherism. Kelly, A (1994, p48) states;

'It is perhaps worth noting first the commercial imagery that is a feature of much of the 1988 Acts supporting documentation. We read of the providers of education, of the 'delivery' of the curriculum, of 'machinery' for accomplishing this and that, of the 'users' of the system, of its 'consumers', of our competitors and so on'.

The 1988 Education Reform Act would prove to be instrumental in both, the way in which schools and further education colleges were funded. The National Curriculum was introduced into state education in 1988 so the Government could ascertain the progression of all secondary schools in England. The introduction of the National Curriculum league tables and SATS were soon to follow. In areas of the country that still have Grammar Schools, Comprehensive and Secondary Moderns competing against each other, the National Curriculum set up under Thatcher would always be a stumbling block for the under performing schools that would be at the bottom of the league tables. With the onset of Marketisation and Managerialism of education, Secondary Schools like The Community College Whitstable would have to adapt to the changing values of education. Schools have had to change the set up of their managerial philosophies and become more in tune with the finances of their institution. The management team at The Community College Whitstable is set up as a business with the Managing Director at the top or the Head and the Teachers at the bottom in what could be described as a Christmas tree formation. The head will have their senior management team below her, and 2 Deputy Heads and the chief Finance Officer as their closest confidantes. From the teacher at the bottom one will have to see one level above before he or she can speak to the Head. Through this chain of command the Head teacher will be able to survey and monitor the school and how it performs both financially and academically. For schools such as The Community College Whitstable, attracting a steady flow of students year on year is vital as the students represent a financial gain. The league tables are all important for possible new students and the progression up the league is paramount. According to Ofsted Report (2000) The Community College Whitstable had underperformed academically in 1997, 98, 99, which show that they was in the bottom five per cent of schools. The Oftsed Reports in 2006 and 2009 have not shown much progress from the early days of the transformation of the Sir William Nottidge to The Community College Whitstable. The reasons for this can be seen in the unfair disadvantage of the selection policy and competition from other schools in the Kent area. Hill, D (2001, p12) backs up this argument;

'New Labour policy and discourse on education, on schooling in particular, displays both continuities and differences with Thatcherism. The major continuities are a range of low public expenditure, privatisation, and the maintenance of a selective, specialist and exclusionary education system'.

The expectations from teachers to perform, educate and train students to pass exams has not been greater as teachers performance levels are linked into the school "mangerialism". Teachers are bound to the schools with yearly reviews on their performance management, which are centred on the schools ambition on achievement. Through these performance management reviews teachers are assessed and a yearly increment of their salary is paid.

The 14-19 agenda and the present government policies and funding have had an impact on all secondary schools, they are no longer happy to let their students go to the local further education colleges or elsewhere. The policy to keep students past the compulsory age, are evident at The Community College Whitstable, as the number of post compulsory students have risen each year, from 11 in 2000 to 117 in 2009. The prospect of keeping students post 16 are seen as a must for The Community College Whitstable. The growth of sixth form can be seen as education for educations sake, as the intake of students into sixth form can be seen as an open door policy for financial gain, Evans, K. (2000, p126) argues;

'Currently, both the FEFC and TEC funding models is target driven. If we add in the pressures on schools to fill their sixth forms with students who will achieve and, therefore, boost their schools standing in the league tables, we can see that, at local level, the concept of partnership in post 16 education and training market is not based on caring and sharing'.

As one can evaluate the introduction of lifelong learning is very important to secondary schools, which no longer sees themselves as just compulsory education but institutions of learning. As each student represents money and are costed into the budget for the financial year it is imperative to sustain the student numbers. Not only are secondary schools competing with other educational institutions they are also outlets for outreach centres such as Learn Direct. The Community College Whitstable has incorporated the Learn Direct into their infrastructure, which caters for a wide range of educational courses, either online or as a drop in centre. These centres are fundamental for lifelong leaning or those that do not want to enter mainstream education. Such initiatives are instrumental in the new managerialism and marketisation of secondary schools such as The Community College Whitstable.

In conclusion Marketisation of schools and Further Education are directly linked to the Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Government of the late 70's and early 80's. The radical shake up of the national institutions from privatisation, and the break up of trade unions and the global economy have had a huge impact on the education system. Despite the change in Governments, the ongoing battle for the correct education system is still being sought after. Secondary schools such as The Community College Whitstable have become businesses in education in their own right and will have to adapt and continually change with the wind of power. Secondary schools will and do play an important part in Lifelong Learning as they are the foundations for all our learning.