I have been a headteacher for 17 years and I have never really been at peace with the expectations of the accountability structures I must feed to survive. Indeed I have always seen myself as a “responsible subversive”; playing a foolish political game to buy the space to engage in something truly noble and vital to our collective future: the creation of the next generation of learners.
John Abbott’s book is a significant contribution to education for a number of reasons.
John provides a context for our current situation and therefore our current potential for change. So often we are presented with reasons why things are so diminished. John gives us an astonishingly concise retrospective on why things are so and therefore how we can responsibly respond.
There is a scaled down, but not dumbed down, investigation into how we learn and why things are this way in evolutionary terms.
There is a triangulation of the above with the current science on sustainability and world futures to re-examine the moral imperatives that face us. Knowing what we know now we no longer have the moral authority to act as we have.
So as a headteacher I am provided with a concise and succinct analysis of why my guts feel the way they do. I have known for decades that political leadership in education is short-termist and that, metaphorically, we are required to plant hanging baskets when we are called towards forestry. John gives the research background, in just enough detail, to appreciate why we are in such an inappropriate place and what roads there are out of this morally questionable situation.
This book is nominally about adolescence but it deconstructs a wider topography and lays bare the essential agenda that we must all engage in if we are to find any moral purity in the essential task that education sets itself: to prepare the young of the tribe in the ways of the tribe to create prosperity and happiness in the future for themselves and for all.
We can’t go on as we have been: so what? That is the question John’s so eruditely stalks and lays before our moral and professional conscience.