"Alas, our well-educated young people are finding that their lives are being ruined by a despotic tyranny.
"'Students who failed to understand the words "despotic tyranny" have been complaining about their history A-level exam.
"'It is claimed the question "How far do you agree that Hitler's role 1933-45 was one of despotic tyranny?" was too confusing for some students to understand.
"'A protest group called Despotic Tyranny Ruined My Life has been set up on Facebook.
"'So far 1,151 people have joined the group, leaving comments such as "My life is DESTROYED because of this exam. Seriously" and "This exam made me sad.'
"What's at once impressive, pathetic and sad are the self-righteous complaints of the students. Look and despair. These are next year's university intake..."
Tall goes on to quote a number of these complaints, which will alternately make you laugh and make your hair stand on end. My very favorite:
"...in our wider reading which I assure you myself and other students at my sixth form complete, the focus was not on Hitler as a despot but on how the system of government impacted everyday life and how it operated. Perhaps if we had have been learning about tyrannical leaders whereby we drew comparisons as you describe then we would have read the necessary materials to enlighten us as to what the term despot meant in relation to Hitler. As it was we did not and it is elitist quite frankly to assume every history student is going to have come across such a term."
Poor kid. And I mean that: he's obviously bright, and he's just on the cusp of literacy. But how badly he's been served by the system - which seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to our own system here in the States.
(BTW and FWIW: yes, the question in question was barbarously written, and whatever committee came up with it ought to be summarily sent off en masse to the salt mines with nothing but vinegar to drink. But not because the question included the words "despotic" and "tyranny." I mean, have these kids never studied their own history? Just exactly what words do they use to describe, say, the Tudors?)
Meanwhile, as Peter Hitchens pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the British "educational" bureaucracy is anxious to extend its death-grip to those children who have so far escaped its grasp - i.e., home-schoolers:
"...the 'Department for Children' [is] demanding that prying officials be empowered to force their way into the homes of parents who prefer to educate their sons and daughters at home.
"This is our all-powerful State's angry response to a growing rebellion, by mothers and fathers who are sick of seeing their children bullied, neglected and miseducated in the state education system, and rightly think they can do a better job...
"The pretext for this invasion of privacy is a baseless suggestion that home education could be used as a cover for child abuse. Well, so it could, and so could piano lessons, dentistry or newspaper delivery rounds. But they are not subject to [Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed] Balls's new inquisition. Why not? Because they don't challenge his desire to march all children into egalitarian comprehensive sausage machines, notorious as they are for violence, ignorance and drugs."
Well, indeed. Whenever one finds a "public servant" droning on about the welfare of the children, one must not let oneself be lulled into sleep or stupefaction. One must always keep one's eye on the ball - i.e., on the overriding telos of all such "public servants" at all times: the maximization of the authority and the minimization of the public accountability of their own self-selecting class.
Anyway, I think that Tall's piece adds just one more bit of bite to Hitchens' excellent question: How can the commissars in charge of the Western world's worst schools be fit to judge how well a parent is teaching her own child?"