I’ve changed my mind
Apparently Baroness Mary Warnock has been attacked by Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips for changing her mind. Baroness Warnock, now 81, has had a distinguished career as a head teacher, academic, moral philosopher, and public servant. Melanie Phillips is most well-known for expressing her opinions in various newspapers.
What’s most upset Ms Phillips is that Baroness Warnock has modified her views about the integration of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools. Mary Warnock strongly influenced this education policy in the early 1980s, but has now written that the policy needs to be reviewed. This is fair enough – the idea of educating children all together, to overcome prejudice and isolation, seemed good at the time. The problem was that, if it was to work, it needed smaller class sizes, and, in an ideal world, children who knew how to behave themselves. As most people know, bullying is a serious problem in some schools, and special needs children are often the victims.
So it seems perfectly reasonable for Mary Warnock to change her mind, in view of the evidence and the experience of those who’ve tried to put the policy into practice. Some children may benefit from being integrated in mainstream schools, but not all.
I think there’d be something rather odd about reaching the age of 81 as a thoughtful, intelligent person if one didn’t change one’s mind about a few things along the way. Experience can teach us a lot; if we live into old age loudly insisting that we’re not changing our minds about anything we decided 30 or more years ago, that wouldn’t be very sensible. A lot happens in 30 years.
Mary Warnock, most well-known for her chairmanship of the Warnock Committee on Human Fertilisation and Embryology, is primarily a philosopher, and changing minds is what philosophers do. Melanie Phillips seems to think that once you’ve made up your mind, that’s it; it stays made up, regardless. She also blames Mary Warnock for everything that went wrong with the education policy on special needs, however inappropriately it may have been applied.
Once upon a time, I used to quite enjoy reading some of Melanie Phillips’ articles, but, do you know, I’ve changed my mind about her. I doubt she’s ever likely to admit she got anything wrong.