The Universal Panacea

I’ve just stumbled across #blogsync. [For those who like me didn’t know about it, it’s a neat way to get bloggers discussing a monthly same topic]

The topic this month is this: “The Universal Panacea? The number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime”

There have been a number of interesting responses. Pete Jones [via whom I found blogsync] has just written a good article on mission statements. These, or at least mission statements that are both practical and idealistic, are his universal panacea. John Tomsett, Chris Hildrew, Clare Fenwick, and Michael Tidd to name a few.

I haven’t signed up – and suspect I’m (as usual) too late – but it did make me think.

And the number one shift in UK education I wish to see in my lifetime is this:

To stop believing there is a universal panacea.

In a way, the problem comes down to metaphors: cure or cultivation.


To believe there is a universal panacea reduces any “solutions” to uniformly , mass-producible pills or “cure-alls”. The metaphor is that of a factory, albeit a scientific one. I think there are problems with this:

  1. It deems that any solution can proceed without taking into account the character of or the characters in schools and the communities they serve.
  2. It also underestimates the continually changing nature of the challenges there are getting “this thing called education right”.
  3. It is to confuse high standards with standardisation.
  4. It runs the risk of ignoring what works for the sake of what, theoretically, economically or politically, ought to work


Instead, I prefer the metaphor of the garden. I want, in my ideal world, to see the sustained, careful cultivation of learners. I believe if there there are “solutions” to education, then they won’t be manufactured ones. The ones that take root will be varied, colourful, fit well in their environment and, ultimately, be full of life.

[p.s. I’m a little frightened by this – every plant I look after seems to wither at an alarming rate – but I do think it’s the way to improve. Off to mark some tests.]

3 comments on “The Universal Panacea”

  1. Don’t think you’re too late – deadline for inclusion is 31st January. So welcome! In fact, I think your post rounds off the theme nicely, since you are, of course, correct. There is no panacea, and nor can there be! But it made for a nice starting topic 🙂
    Thanks for the link, btw.


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