I could truly weep for education sometimes. I could truly weep for the young people who have been let down. Weep for the kids who started life as bright, motivated, interested children, who become disaffected and dysfunctional through no fault of their own.
That’s what I see happen to so many young people after spending their youth shut up in institutions that have sapped away their spark and replaced it with apathy. That’s what I see happen to so many youngsters in poorer areas where you cannot buy the kind of stimulating education you get in fabulous private schools and where the large proportion of kids who disrupt learning flavours the experience of the rest. Where the enthusiastic teachers leave or become sullied by the challenges of pupil behaviour. Threats as much as challenges. Where the enormity of the problem of failing to provide the right education for these young people is overwhelming.
When we started home educating we doubted it was right – course we did. And many of the people around us doubted too suggesting that kids needed to be in school, that their bright little sparks would soak up the teaching, revel in the relationships there, gain the grades. We lost friends over it.
Now, some of those people see it differently as they witness the damage to their bright young sparks. They see that our kids didn’t need to be in school. They see that the relationships there are not always good ones. They see a system that doesn’t work for many of them, that fails to accommodate the needs of many, that makes those of them who don’t fit into failures. And even in some cases treats them like criminals.
If there is anything criminal here it lies at the door of schools that fail to do what they are supposed to do; support young people.
I know teenagers are not without their blemishes. Are not angels, are not perfect. And external circumstances play a major part. But given all that, given that external circumstances are as they are, I would have thought that the first duty of any school was to provide what a kid needed to successfully learn. To provide for the child’s learning, whatever the circumstances or difficulties may be.
But the ethos of schooling seems to be to make the child do as they are told regardless of their needs. To make kids learn what adults want them to learn however dull. To make them learn it in a systematic way that suits the institution however deadly boring that is. And it doesn’t matter how disrespectfully the school behaves or the teachers behave by humiliating some learners who don’t ‘fit’, the kids are supposed to take it passively.
All these years later the comments made to us about kids needing schools for an education are being rethought. These parents had utter unquestioning faith in the system and the professionals in it. That faith has now been dashed.
All those years ago these parents had bright eager and motivated kids. That has all changed too as they struggle to just exist in the system let alone be motivated by it. And these families no longer believe that schools do the best for the child. They know that schools do the best for the school; they have to, to survive. I hear damning examples of that scenario from both parents and professionals.
These parents now believe something different after their children have experienced schooling. They believe many schools have no interest in kids who won’t get good grades and thus improve their league table position. They believe politicians make policies that will win votes, not enhance a child’s educational experience. And like me, they see masses of disenchanted teenagers who have no interest in learning because the learning on offer is as far removed from their needs as eating cow poo is from mine.
You may think this is a cynical picture. Perhaps unbelievable to those of you for whom the system works well, whose kids achieve well because they happened to tick the right boxes. But while we’ve home educated, and our children and the other home educated children around us have retained their lust for learning, and while other families went through schools who failed their kids miserably, we all see how it is more truth than imaginary.
It is a true picture for thousands of families in less well off areas, tucked away out of sight as far removed from Westminster as the afore mentioned cow poo is from politicians shoes!
It is a picture that is seen too often. A picture that truly makes me weep.