Things That Get Under Your Skin

When I was recovering from surgery, one of my sisters sent me a beach-toyshop-type plastic orange crab with wavy legs. It took me a moment to clock the reference, and I wasn’t quite sure about the joke, though the package was accompanied by an encouraging little note saying, “Hope you feel you’ve sent this one scuttling” – or words to that effect.

The above is by way of preamble to the homage I want to pay a lovely gobbet of journalistic writing in this weekend’s Guardian. As follows:

On a visit to Massachusetts, Michael Gove seeks answers. How can failing schools be turned around? How should teachers be paid and trained? And what is that creature swimming in the rock pool?

“Is it a spider?” asks the six-year-old boy at Orchard Gardens elementary school in Boston, unfazed by Britain’s secretary of state for education crouching by his desk in the middle of reading tuition.

No, his teacher replies, the creature in the illustration isn’t a spider. “A lobster?” wonders a little girl. The teacher suggests they look at the text and pronounce the word. “Cr-a-b,” the pupils respond in best synthetic phonics style, carefully breaking the word down into sounds, and everyone smiles. Gove soon scuttles away.

How I laughed. The image of Gove scampering off energetically, lightly, insidiously sideways, everywhere he’s not wanted, but without going into anything at any depth. So apt.

But if I wasn’t blessedly shot of our over-burdened education system just now, my laughter might have been more hysterical (read about the lesson that impressed Gove the most – the link to the full article is below – it will make you shiver). Which hapless teacher/educator will be the next to feel his sharp nip? Where and what is he going to get his pincers into next? It could be you.

Another dangerous, unpredictable organism encroaching on our lives and those of our children – with the potential to cause lifelong and widespread damage. Stop him.


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