Tag Archive | educational politics

A wider educational perspective beyond school propaganda

I’m really feeling for parents.

Whatever your youngsters are doing; school-at-home, home educating, further or higher education, or working, it’s worrying. For all of us. Everyone is suffering from anxiety over the unprecedented crisis the pandemic has caused.

So I kind of feel it’s unhelpful to suggest that one group, whether that’s the tiddlies or the teens, are suffering more than anyone else. It’s hard for all in different ways, adults included. Each group has their challenges. Everyone needs compassion right now whatever stage we’re at in parenting or education, work or family.

However, I do have particular compassion towards those parents who have dutifully invested in an education system via schooling, now taken away, that had become increasingly flawed. And that was before the pandemic and school closures even started. For those flaws are showing up now more than ever, the rigidity of it most of all.

Parents have been driven to believe that schooling is the best for their youngsters’ education. Urged to believe that a rigid structured approach to learning, with targets, tests and continual measurement is the only way to educate. In fact they’ve been hoodwinked into believing that, without it, their children will be failures with no hope of a successful future. Sold the idea that without endless grades their young people will never be employable.

Parents have been sold these ideas through powerful educational politics and emotional propaganda that keeps parents subservient to a system that suits the government. This is not because it’s best for the learners. But because a subservient population is easier to manage.

And currently parents are bombarded with statements about how this time without school will have a dire effect on their youngsters’ long term future, especially if they don’t do what the school wants.

None of this is helpful. And not actually true anyway.

Let’s face it; this crisis is going to have an effect on everyone’s future, not just the school kids. Whether it will be dire or not depends on how we respond to it. It will be different certainly, but different doesn’t necessarily mean dire.

However, I can understand parents’ anxiety about it.

Maybe what would help is to take a step back from this emotional bombardment from schools and see it from another perspective.

Firstly, success does not necessarily depend on grades. There are both employees and entrepreneurs out there who are proof of that, Richard Branson among them.

Secondly, education is not only about schooling, curricula, how many worksheets or work books you’ve filled, about targets, academic exercises, test passes, graded subject matter and the rest of the school strategies used to so-called educate. It is about developing a broad, cultured, inquiring mind that is curious and keen to develop the skills to learn. It requires far more personal skills than the academic – skills which are equally dependent on being learnt out of school, like motivation, communication, intuition, responsibility, independence, for example. (How can school kids develop independence when they’re constantly coerced into shutting up and doing as they’re told?)

And, thirdly, if you take a wider perspective, success is not confined to what happens between the ages of six and eighteen. Not confined to qualifications. It is a life-long, ongoing process that can be constantly developed and updated – independently of an institution – as much as in it. At any time.

Fourthly, youngsters are not necessarily going to be scarred for life by this disruption to their traditional, systematic schooling any more than any of us are. In fact, you could argue the opposite view, that they may benefit from it, as I hear on social media that some are.

We are all having to diversify, be inventive, manage our well being (particularly tricky with being so confined), whatever group we’re in, to get through this. But they’re good skills to practise!

So it may be wiser to adopt strategies to calm the worrying about how to prop up a system that is outdated, consumerist, blinkered and damagingly conservative anyway, ignore these horrible emotive threats from schools, keep in touch with other parents so that you can question and rebel against the abominable practise of fines against those parents not keeping in line. They can’t fine you all. And besides, how did threats and fines and bullying ever become an acceptable approach to education?

Be bold. Do what your intuition tells you is best for you and your family. Question why schools ask of you what they do. And develop a wider perspective on this out-of-school time, the most difficult of which, for the time being, is looking after your mental well-being.

Learn to look at education differently. Look up how experienced home educators have done it so successfully over many years, resulting in intelligent, productive, qualified and successfully working young people, who mostly ignored school practises and did it their way. Look at their approaches and philosophies (Read mine by scrolling down the ‘About Home Education’ page on this site) and develop a different perspective. Take charge of your children’s education for now. Your child doesn’t need to be fodder for school stats.

Try to encourage your youngsters to be busy with a wide range of activities which interest them, which they may never had time for before. Variety develops intelligence and skills far more than a narrow curriculum does. Hang in there until better times are here.

I very much doubt that in twenty years time anyone is going to look back and say I’m a total failure because I missed a year of schooling. Because by that time they won’t be total failures anyway, they will have adapted, updated, found other ways forward, made a different success. Your child’s success isn’t determined by their school years alone. Have faith. Success is a long term thing often based in an ability to diversify and be resourceful, just as we are doing now.

Better times to come!

Then, maybe, as Spring approaches and parents question and demand changes, not only will you see bulbs blooming, but also the burgeoning of a better education system than the restrictive, inhibiting, coercive, political one we have now, a new one that is not just there to serve the politics, but that actually serves our learners well.

Educational blackmail

It’s all getting very intense. Covid, Lockdown, work, education. It’s such a jumble of worries for people.

Working at home, which may have had it’s attraction at one point, is pretty intense too as many are discovering, without it’s lighter distractions, interchange between colleagues, and even just the briefest ‘good morning’. Not to mention the change in environment the commute brought.

This is the same for children in education. Home educating, or doing ‘school-at-home’ if that’s what you’re doing, is also intense. Something home schooling families need to adapt to, some thinking that perhaps children should be ‘getting on’ every minute of the day.

I think many parents fall into this trap, assuming that children are busy ‘working’ at their education throughout the school day. But the reality is quite different. Probably a child in a classroom is only concentrating on making a concerted effort for a few minutes within an hour’s lesson session. The rest is filled with preps, teacher talk, chat and the other distractions of a classroom. And the end productivity is far less than parents might imagine. So, to take away the intensity, it’s best to be more realistic in what you hope to achieve whilst learning at home. There is plenty of time for other things.

This doesn’t mean that children are not gainfully employed. For all the other activities children are engaged in are just as valuable to their development as formal heads-down stuff, including play.

I remember that when we backed off a bit from the push to ‘educate’ over the summer months whilst the other children were off school and left the children to their own devices two things happened.

Firstly, things hardly changed. The kids were always busy, always wanting to do things, always asking questions, curious and learning. And secondly, when we got back to practising those skills we’d consider more formal and I expected a drop in their ability, there wasn’t one at all. In fact, they had developed in many ways. (See chapter 16 in ‘A Home Education Notebook’ where I tell the story of; What About Term Times, Learn Times and Holidays?)

There is much emotional hype about kids missing out on their education, both now with the Covid restrictions and also levelled at home educating families.

The real truth is that most are not missing out in terms of learning, they’re just doing it differently and this threat is no more than emotional blackmail on the part of educational politics.

You’re unlikely to be harming the children’s education long term by them either doing their learning at home for the time being, or by opting to home school. What you will be harming however is the political statistics which of course politicians don’t like and can disrupt school league tables!

Children learn all the time, from all the things they’re doing, even from the challenging circumstances we have now. All are opportunities for discussion, enquiry, conversation and questions. All of which increase learning skills.

But we don’t have to be intense about it. Neither do we have to be intense about doing school type work in these times that are so difficult and challenging.

An intense approach to work, a demand that the kids should be working non-stop from nine till three is unrealistic. Worse than that it is damaging. Damaging to their education as intensity is more likely to put them off learning, whereas learning is potentially such an exciting and inspirational thing. (I wonder how many teens in High school think that?) And even worse, damaging to your relationship with them.

Remember, politicians want kids performing as they prescribe because it keeps their political stats on track. But this has nothing to do with real learning and education at all.

And if you’re working at home too, go easy on yourself and dilute your own intensity with a bit of fun – play with the kids from time to time!