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Pop Quiz – The Man Who Hates Teachers

This is Michael Gove.


Michael Gove is the Secretary of State for Education in England, meaning that he is the person in overall charge of the UK Government Department of Education.


Michael Gove has never been a teacher. Before entering politics, he was a journalist who wrote for The Times and various other publications. He has never worked in “grass roots” education in any shape or form.


Michael Gove has been a harsh critic of the English education system and of teachers in particular. He has gone on record several times to say that teachers are lazy and that this is why education standards in England are slipping. Michael Gove has, again, never been a teacher.


Michael Gove has spearheaded a programme to send a Kings James Bible to every school in England, describing it as “the most important book in the English” language. He was forced to find private funding to do this as parliament refused to allow tax money to be used.


Michael Gove has fiercely supported the concept of “free schools” in England, leading to the creation of scores of privately-operated schools across the country. Regulation for these schools is significantly more lax than for state schools. At least three of these schools are or were owned and operated by Creationist groups.


Michael Gove’s Department responded to a scandal involving the possible takeover of several Birmingham school boards by hard-line Islamic fundamentalists by launching an investigation. The person chosen to lead this investigation was not an educational specialist, a religious scholar, or an individual trained to deal with sensitive community issues in historically volatile areas. He was the former head of counter-terrorism in the UK.


Michael Gove was implicated in the MPs’ expenses scandal a few years ago, being accused of manipulating his financial allowances with regards to a second home.


Michael Gove has been accused of using private email accounts to conduct official Education Department business in order to avoid legal Freedom of Information requests.


Michael Gove is so despised by teachers in England that three separate teachers’ unions (including the one that represents all English head teachers) have passed votes of no confidence in him over the last two years. One of these unions, the National Union of Teachers, represents the vast majority of English teachers. The NUT vote was unanimous.


Michael Gove is currently spearheading a fundamental and seismic shift in the way in which pupils are assessed in England. He has strongly criticised the current examination system in England, and yet his proposals for a new system have been met with horror and incredulity by everyone from classroom teachers to internationally-renowned authors to the head of admissions for Oxford University.


Michael Gove has claimed that English schools do not teach enough classical literature  and that they do not place enough emphasis on academic subjects such as maths and science. While giving an example of the kind of information that he believed should be known by pupils, he happily brought up “Issac Newton’s laws of thermodnamics”.


Michael Gove refers to his critics as “Marxists” while unironically referring to his gutting of the English schools inspectorate as a “purge“.


Michael Gove inspired this utterly, utterly wonderful video.




I’m fortunate enough to work in Scottish Education, not English. This means that I can’t be directly affected by Mr Gove’s policies and actions. I can, however, watch with horror as my English colleagues buckle under the pressure of working for a leader who genuinely seems to hate them.


For today’s Pop Quiz, I wanted to ask whether you have ever experienced a similar clash between teachers and management. Perhaps your ideals conflicted with those of your administrators? Or maybe you have had to answer to someone who doesn’t seem to understand what your job actually entails? How did you deal with the situation?


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).


 Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia

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Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.


  1. April 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm —

    Pop Quiz: Not exactly management but there’s this organisation called the SQA… not sure if you’ve heard of them. They’ve tried to this weird thing where they implement a new set of qualifications. You’d think something that important and far-reaching would be planned out meticulously and prepared by experts.
    Not so much.
    My strategy to deal with it has been to consider an alternative career as a drag wig designer or cat impersonator.

  2. April 20, 2014 at 5:56 am —

    My BFF works for one of the smaler parties in our State parliament (Germany). She’s responsible for their educational politics and positions.
    She’s a lawyer and much of her work is guided by good will and lack of expertise. Quite often I spend the evening informing her about the scientific background of some thing or the other. And quite often she’s a bit upset when I tell her that I can neither take her (all important official position) nor her party’s politics serious because they don’t know fuckin’ shit.

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