I love finding comments on education in the most unlikely places. There was I having a bit of escapism with James Rebanks on his sheep farm in the lakes and up pops the subject again.
I wasn’t there in reality, just being bowled over by his fabulous book The Shepherd’s Life; the true and rugged story of his life on the farm, early and current. The writing wasn’t rugged though and his story not without surprises.
I love books that don’t balk at saying it how it is, yet still captivate with a style that moves you to read on. His passion and knowledge of his subjects reignites my own, in particular the idea that there is an education that exists other than in classrooms. He talks about an education fit for purpose and respects that all lives are different, not just lived in cities, worked in banks and cultivated for industry. He talks about his dad whose encyclopaedic knowledge of the landscape challenges conventional ideas of who is and isn’t intelligent. “Some of the smartest people I have ever known are semi-literate” he says.
Some pretty smart people I know don’t have those conventional educational labels either!
He describes his own schooling and how he felt that “the whole modern world wanted to rob me of the life I wanted to lead”.
When I read books like his it makes me think again very hard about what education is and what it’s for.
There are two ways of looking at that question. One from the point of view of society, politics and someone else deciding what’s ‘good’ for people. And another looking at it from the point of view of each of us, the fact that each of us is different – an individual, will lead different lives, and how these differences might be accommodated in a system which clubs everyone together for ease of administration and service.
Finding a balance between the two is the key. I’m not sure the system is doing that effectively right now. It has swung too far towards perpetuating a construction that clearly, for many individuals within it, is just not working well. Creating far too many individuals who feel disengaged, disregarded, disenchanted with learning of any sort, and in many ways dysfunctional as a result of being told they are failures because they don’t comply.
Sod complying with something that doesn’t work!
No one need fail at education – you have a lifelong chance at it. And we need education both for ourselves as individuals, so it’s satisfying enough to be purposeful and ongoing, and for our place within the wider planet that supports us and the society within it.
What is failing here is the system; destroying the natural passion for learning that children are born with by taking it away from them and dehumanising it.
We who are the adults, who profess to know best, should know better than that.