Children, chicken farms and education

  I get insanely cross with politicians.  I get incensed at the thought them sitting in their offices as far away from the lives of children as I am from dinosaurs. Sitting making plans that suit their own adult needs rather than those of kids. And in total ignorance of what it really is that children need to become educated.

Politicians lead us to believe that, in order to become educated, children need curriculum and streaming, tests and exams, resources and fancy equipment.

These things are all useful. But they are not basically what children need.

Since home educating I’ve realised that children actually need something much more fundamental than that. Something much more simple and realistic. And something which almost anybody can provide. And the further I’ve come away from schooling the more I actually see that process as akin to battery farming.

Battery farms are places where large numbers of chickens can be tended by an extremely small number of carers yet still achieve a high output of eggs.

Call me a cynic if you like but it seems schools have become alarmingly similar. They have become intuitions where large numbers of children can be drilled down the narrowest of educational channels by the fewest number of people that the government can get away with paying. This so the children can pass large numbers of exams for the sake of making that same government look good. And the ones that don’t pass they label as underachievers, exonerating themselves and their strategies of all blame.

I don’t see that as an education. And I do wonder what parents are doing allowing this battery farming of their children to occur, completely at the expense of the individual.

I generally believe that most children are not born underachievers. I think schools make underachievers.

They do this by producing a narrow curriculum that only recognises those few who have a gift for academic learning and excluding the rest. Then they set up tests that measure nothing more than a narrow academic performance, not a holistic intelligence. The results of those tests write off the kids who don’t perform parrot fashion at that time, writes them off sometimes for life – labels stick and the process is repeated throughout their school years. Then the politicians wonder why they have a problem with behaviour in school, truancy and bullying.

The government is clouding the real issue. They stun us with more strategies so that they look like they’re doing something. They bring in businessmen and army trainers to run schools as if the development of human beings had anything to do with business or drilling.

And they completely disregard the glaring obvious fact that our children only actually need one simple thing to learn.

All our children need is the time and attention of one caring human being.

Education and learning is greatly dependent on the successful interaction between human beings.

Treating our children like chickens in a battery farm suggests to me that we don’t even care enough about them to see that every child is in a small enough group to get that attention.

I propose a whole new education strategy; stop wasting money on new strategies and curriculum and the latest technological fad and start spending money on giving our children more people to help them with their education.

If we gave every teacher a class of only about ten children, and stopped wasting that teacher’s time with paperwork, there would be hardly any children in this country who couldn’t read, couldn’t write, understand maths or wasn’t computer literate. It’s as simple as that.

One caring adult who has the time to give individual attention is all that’s needed. Not Post-Grads with Firsts, nor flashy irrelevant subject matter, endless paper work, or attainment tests. Not fancy equipment or technology; that’s only of secondary importance.

One caring adult can provide most of the education a child needs. Home Educators are proof of that.

The Home Educators I know are mostly not teachers. They are not educationalists, experts or politicians, they mostly don’t have strategies, do testing, and many of them don’t follow the National Curriculum. They’re just people who’ve learnt the secret: that all kids need to learn is one caring adult who’ll spend the time to talk with them (not at), and help, encourage, stimulate and inspire them. Children don’t even need the adult all of the time, as just like riding a bike, once they’ve got going, freewheeling is just as effective.

There is hardly a Home Educated child who ends up not being able to read. And these children have not read because they’ve been drilled. But because they’ve had attentive encouragement from another human being.

That’s all; human contact. Or should it be; humane contact. Respect and dignity. Not being massed together like chickens and drilled into passing exams for political reasons.

I think it’s time that the government stopped pretending that mass child minding will do instead of attentive caring. And will do as education. Because that’s what schools are in danger of becoming; mass child minding centres. And much of it is of such poor quality and with such high levels of stress that it is making our children sick, ignorant, and unmotivated.

With care this will all stop.

Children are born wanting to learn. They are born curious and inquisitive and keen. Then they go to school.

Many Home Educating parents have removed their children from school just so this willingness to learn can be nurtured rather than deadened by a chicken farm like process. Many Home educators have removed their children from the chicken farms out of care and respect and are educating them successfully in a variety of other ways. Many Home Educators have discovered that all children need is one caring attentive adult. Education comes as a result of having that respectful, nurturing attention.

In no way am I saying that Home Educating is the answer.

Most people’s circumstances are not suited to it. Most people need schools or something similar for their children to go to. Children need somewhere to go to which stimulates them too. But the intense over-academic chicken-farm like schooling we currently have is not the answer either. The government needs to change their emphasis and open their eyes to what children really need.

Giving our children one caring attentive adult who has time for the individual, who stimulates that individual, who respects and attends to their individual needs and encourages their development, is what’s needed. That’s all Home Educators do.

It doesn’t seem much to ask does it? It begs the question; how much are our children really worth?


13 thoughts on “Children, chicken farms and education

  1. Hello, what a brilliantly worded post, I’m kicking myself I missed putting it into the June Education Roundup on BritMums.

    My daughter has yet to start school, so I am yet to fully understand the current state of erm, state education. But looking back to my own school years, I remember being in a small and caring primary school, the class sizes weren’t small at around 32 per class, but there was only one class per year. I still have happy memories of a warm and nurturing environment. This is the polar-opposite to the majority of memories I have of being through the sausage-machine of a state comp with six classes per year. I still did ‘well’, passing plenty of exams with good grades, but as you point out, that really shouldn’t be the main focus of education. My husband and I are thinking very carefully about how our daughter will be educated, you only get one chance to get it right for a child, so it is of the utmost importance.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It is such a worrying time for parents whatever educational route you take. School works really well for some families, as it obviously did for you which is great. But for those for whom it doesn’t….eeeek! I hope that at least I’m helping parents to realise they don’t have to stick with whatever’s not working!

  2. Oh Ross, how you so speak the truth but as you said, not every family can afford to have one caring adult at home, SO, what do we do?

    • If our schools were places where we felt confident that people cared for our kids we wouldn’t have to! Thanks for commenting – always so nice to read them!

  3. I am with you that children are not under achievers – they are born to learn. My heart goes out to children who do not get the right attention with their learning and end up feeling bad about themselves. What a start in life!

  4. Oh, thanks so much Elle for taking the trouble to leave your feedback. It is especially valid coming from you – a student on the receiving end of the processes I’m talking about!

  5. Fab post, as always. And, yet again, you hit the nail on the head. Just one caring adult — doesn’t sound a lot to ask, does it? Its almost as if the politicians refuse to believe that the answer (to anything) can be something so simple and straightforward.

    Read an interesting article on the Freedom to Learn blog, about getting children to spend MORE time in school and how wrong that is; granted, its American, but Britain seems to be going the same way. Here’s the link, in case you want to have a look-see:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s