Tag Archive | education system

Beware the biased propaganda!

It’s always helpful – uplifting – to get comments. Most come to me via Facebook, and I’m so grateful and moved to know this work is a help and is encouraging. That’s basically what I write for!

Not everybody likes it – obviously. But it’s also interesting to read other points people raise when they’re disagreeing with what’s written here. I appreciate anyone taking the time – they’ve clearly been moved to do so and other people’s feelings are important. I’m thankful to report I rarely get obnoxious comments which aren’t backed up by intelligent argument.

One such comment sticks with me though. It’s a while back now, written by someone entrenched in the education system who accused me of writing ‘biased propaganda’.

Once I got over the shock, I was totally bemused by the irony of it. For surely biased propaganda is exactly what the education system perpetuates?

All the way through a child’s time in school there’s an enormous bias: towards grades. These are less for the good of the child and more for the good of the system. Grades mean climbing league tables, which means more Points for schools, which means more funding…etc. And never was there such powerful propaganda surrounding the drilling of the children towards that outcome, than the emphasis on the myth that without these grades their lives will amount to nothing. Which is absolutely untrue.

We don't always have to stick to what we're told!

We don’t always have to remain on a prescribed route!

Good grades and qualification are certainly useful and a way of presenting proof of having reached certain standards which employers use as a benchmark. But they are not an entire education and not the only road to successful work or a fulfilled life. Anyway, ‘successful’ and ‘fulfilled’ need defining in individual terms. But schools fail to acknowledge all other routes than those which perpetuate their own desired outcomes.

And as big business takes over education, schools have another developing bias; towards perpetuating big corporate business! Consequently perpetuating the propaganda that this is the only definition of success or fulfillment. It might be for some, but not for all.

Then there’s also the mythical propaganda, which the system perpetuates, that leads people to believe that without schools, teachers, target led learning, and tests young people won’t learn anything. Also completely untrue. But the establishment bias is to keep everyone obedient to the establishment which they do by perpetuating these myths!

Home education is exploding these myths and dispelling this kind of propaganda. Out-of-the-system approaches encourage individuals to learn for learning’s sake and progress in ways that work for them however varied and diverse they may be, however broad and all-inclusive. It opens minds to a multitude of possibilities not available in the confines of the system.

Surely then, by it’s very nature, home educating is as far away from the narrowing of ‘bias’ as you can get? I admit there may be opportunities for bias, towards religion or academic cramming perhaps, when families choose to remain isolated. But these are very rare. Much more rare than the mass propaganda schooling perpetuates.

In most cases, home education gives youngsters the opportunity to free themselves from the narrow, biased, destructive competitive mentality created by schooling and develops in their education and their mind a creative, intelligent, innovative and open-ended attitude towards learning and life, equipping them with the skills they need to contribute to the working, social, achieving world, business included.

Surely the bias comes from the narrow minded people who fail to acknowledge that!

Playing to the system – or not!

If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’m often on about the need for education to develop creative skills (read this blog and you’ll see why it’s important)

20170112_093050And it’s come back to mind again as I’m reading Grayson Perry’s book ‘Playing to the Gallery’. He is of course talking about art – but what he asks about art is exactly true of education; how do we tell if something’s good or not? Is it in financial terms – it’s potential to earn or have monitory value? Do we judge by mass popular opinion, or whether it works for us or not? Does tradition have a part to play in our assessment? Or do we judge by aesthetic qualities – whether we like it – which is of course tied up in all these things?

It struck me that those questions about artwork, equally apply to education.

When you home educate, out of the system of expected outcomes and assessment, you really have to consider answers to those questions. But whether you home educate or not – you should still be asking them.

Consider the financial aspect for a start. Business politics are now having a huge influence on schools and consequently education. Funding was always an issue. But in blinding us with budgets a valuable fact is being masked. The fact that you don’t have to throw money at learning to make it good – it’s the quality of the people involved that’s important and the time they have to inspire individuals. Home educators on very tight budgets are providing an alternative learning experience which leads to intelligent, social and qualified young people.

Our popular acceptance of schooling as the only means to education serves the political economy by looking after kids whilst both parents work – this is what many parents want. Whether it is an education that serves the children well is another matter!

Mass popular opinion also governs what goes on in schools, but being popular isn’t a sign that it is good, as Grayson says of art. We have been conditioned to think that the education children receive in school is going to be a good one because that’s the popular opinion and that’s the only one most of us know. But the politics of it has influenced the quality through demanding constant measurement and measurement has been interpreted as constant testing, which is neglecting true education in the broader sense.

There is also the matter of whether the kids like it or not. Do they have to like it? Certainly do – that’s if you want them to reach their potential, rather than just be child-minded. Deterioration in a child’s achievement, because of their unhappiness in school, has driven many a family to home educate where they can provide a better learning climate, where the child is comfortable and enjoys their learning, that doesn’t cost enormous amounts and can take any form you want it to take to make it good.

So how do we judge whether our home education is good or not?

To answer that you have to ask what education is for.

We had many a discussion about this over all our days of home educating and discovered that the answer lies more in the broader view.

The broader reason we all educate, both schools and home schoolers, is not necessarily for qualification as most traditionalists see it. But so that the children can take their place, independently, in the society in which we live. So they can contribute to it in their own way, be a productive, pleasant and caring member of the human race who is considerate and thoughtful and ever learning and developing their wider understanding of themselves, others and the wider world.

They may use qualifications to do that. They may not. But the archaic, dull and pressurised testing criteria schools use certainly does not have to play a part in it.

The approach you use  as a home educator will be determined by your circumstances, your own beliefs, your child and their needs and the interactions you make. But be assured that the system’s way is just one way to educate and one that’s not doing many children a lot of good. There’s a myriad of ways to learn – some you might not consider learning at all, like having a conversation for example, but which are equally valuable. You don’t have to play by the system’s rules just because of mass popularity and you get more Likes on Facebook!

As Grayson says of art; we’ve all come to it influenced by the system which got us there in the first place. Same with education; we’ve all come to accept the education system because it leads us to do so.

Doesn’t mean we have to play to it, though, to achieve educational success for our children.

Don’t weed your children’s learning!

I find the need to be outside quite hard to accommodate this time of the year. I have to sometimes push myself out in dreary or battering weather to get some daily doses of the tonic everyone needs for indoor spirits. Without it I know I go stir crazy! So I tog up most days and get a daily walk.

Summer memories

Summer memories

It’s easy in the summer. All coffee breaks can be out there. And there’s plenty of light for walking after work hours. And weekends inviting me to garden, even if the format of that is just chopping back the weeds.

I’m not a great gardener. I find it a bit confusing. I’m puzzled by the desire to nurture some plants whilst killing others. Buttercups, daisies and dandelions spring to mind – what a delightful burst of yellow they are. I have great trouble classing them as weeds and pulling them up or worse still spraying them. There’s a hierarchy of plants I just don’t buy in to.

I have the same dilemma with education. There’s a hierarchy that’s evolved around academia which puts some important subjects and skills, like creative ones for example, in the ‘weeds’ category. And I think this is more to do with snobbery than value.

I admit, there are some skills that are invaluable for kids to learn – reading springs to mind. And it is essential for living in our society to have a practical comprehension of language, numbers, scientific concepts and technology. We want to communicate, budget and cook for example and need to skills and knowledge to do so.

But outside those practical applications why should our children’s learning be controlled by what others deem as essential subject matter? Why should the Romans be more important than Evolution. Or non-essential Grammar be more important than creating a story? Or the skill of long division be more important than the skill of inventing for example?

When we home educate we can really examine the curriculum. And this leads to examining the questions; what’s really important to know? And why is it important to know it?

Within the educational system, most of the why has evolved, not from value to the child or developing adulthood, but for the convenience of measuring them and perpetuation of the system – and the politics surrounding it. A truer reason for what we ask our children to learn is that it’s relevant to the child now as well as their lifelong development – what curriculum would cater for that?

What is more important when we’re guiding our children’s learning is not so much what they know, but cultivating a desire to know, to find out, to continue to learn. In fact, that desire is already there when they’re born – our job is to continue to nurture it rather than chop it off like some do dandelions.

We can look up knowledge and facts at any time, these days. Yet we’re constrained by the idea of curriculum that started way back when compulsory education did, when knowledge wasn’t available to all. Far better to consider a curriculum of skills, experiences and a cultivated mind that can be inventive, creative, and which nurtures the desire to develop continually, rather than weeding out the child’s true interests whilst enslaved to subjects for some extrinsic curriculum and killing their desire in the process.

Or maybe not use a curriculum at all and see where your learning life takes you!

What’s normal about The Emperor’s New Clothes?

We’re quite normal really. Although judging by some folks’ reaction to home educators you’d think we were aliens.

But then I suppose this is the common reaction to anyone doing things differently; suspicion, fear and walk away quickly pretending it’s not happening. Most people are afraid of different. Most like to stay within the recognisable confines of what everyone else is doing. Follow the crowd – even when the crowd might be wrong. Most don’t want to confront change.

In schools, change is foisted on staff and pupils whether they like it or not. And most of the change in educational politics recently hasn’t done the staff or pupils any good. You only have to read stories like this, or this, or this, to know that to be true. But parents till go on accepting the propaganda they are told about education, just so they can stay within the ranks of what appears to be normal.

The daft thing is that home educating parents are as ‘normal’ as any other. They want the same recognisably normal things for their children as anyone; for them to be happy and healthy, for them to work hard, achieve and reach their potential, to be educated and intelligent and to go on to find work and pay.

The only difference is that home educating families take a different route to get there. Yet despite that they all still achieve those same ‘normal’ outcomes. The grown up home schooled youngsters now graduating are proving it. They are ending up at exactly the same point as school-users; with good grades, in higher education or work, with good friends and social connections, leading ‘normal’ happy lives where it’s not even noticeable where they were educated.

The only difference was that they didn’t have to endure the bizarre educational policies foisted on them by idiots who have little professional understanding of the subject and are only interested in votes.

In fact, another home educating parent and I were talking about ‘normal’ the other day. She’d come to the same conclusion as me (and I suspect most other home schooling parents), that the longer you are away from the system and educating successfully in other ways, the more you come to realise how totally bizarre the school system actually is when you examine it.

Frankly, it is schooling which is abnormal. Not home education.

It puts me in mind of the story The Emperor’s New Clothes.

You can get anyone to believe anything is normal, like the Emperor’s clothes, if you convince them to do so however bizarre it might be.

And it requires you to look at something with new eyes – or maybe through the eyes of a child – in order to change to a new norm.

Royal babies, kids and the education gamble

A new royal baby on the way, how lovely is that. How lavish will their life be with the  royal couple and their take on parenting. I wonder how hard that is to manage and how torn they are between their royal duties and just being parents.

But I don’t wonder much – I wouldn’t want it, or my baby to be so public.

This baby I guess will never want for food or shelter or the stuff many have to do without. They will no doubt have an exclusive education, never be spoken down to, ridiculed, neglected, lost in a crowd, or bullied by the people who teach them as some of our youngsters are.

So they are luckier than most – but I wouldn’t want to be them. I would want to break out, particularly of the institutionalisation they will no doubt endure.

Like I wanted to break out of the institution of school.

It was never about the work – it was about the irrelevance.

I don’t think it’s about the work for most youngsters. Most youngsters are hungry to learn. They want the learning if it’s relevant, they also want to work because of the pay packet that it brings, as we all do.

But what young people don’t want is all the other stuff done to them in the name of education; the tedious restrictions put upon them by a system that’s out of date, designed by up-their-arse politicians with no experience of children’s development, trying to win punters and using our kids like lab rats in their climb up the political stats.

They don’t want the ridiculous rules which adults impose upon them, not out of usefulness but out of control and the desire to keep the youngsters subservient and quiet and teach a mass rather than an individual.

And they don’t want the gloom of insignificance pressed on them by the violation of that individuality and the total disregard of them as people, in preference to a regard for the institution.

And most of all they don’t want to be shuffled into packs by useless testing schemes, like cards are shuffled into suits, with a hierarchy and self fulfilling prophecy as damaging as a crap hand in poker. Education is becoming a similar gamble about what you’re dealt, rather than what you’re capable of.

I wonder if the new royal children will ever feel that about being royal, as some of our youngsters feel about schooling?

I suppose home educating families at least had the choice to opt out.

The royal children are sadly stuck with it!