Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Idle Parent - DOWN WITH SCHOOL

I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson.  I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.

Chapter 6 – Down with School

Tom seems a little unsure of what his views are in this chapter.  He is definitely against the education system giving moral instruction (the role of the parent), and our school system preparing our children
for a life working as a drudge in somebody else's office.  He talks about home schooling, which has its benefits in terms of being able to educate your children in the things that are important to you, and he talks about how home educators fill in the social gap, which is so often put forward as an argument against home-ed.  Then he talks about how he actually likes his local Primary School, which is not too big, and where it's easy for the parents to get involved in the fun of their children's education.  He also talks about the positives of private education, where the school does things the way they want to, not necessarily the way the Government decide, especially alternative private schools.  He acknowledges that not everybody can afford private school, but points out that people are happy to spend on hair cuts, holidays, gadgets, interest charges etc. but for some reason can't find money for their child's education - what does that say about their priorities?  What about setting up your own community school, employing your own teacher etc.?  He suggests that our state schools don't educate children, but bore them into submission, and that we should be encouraging our children to find their own path through life

How does this match up to the ink-spots-and-grass-stains life?

I can see why Tom is concerned about our current state education system.  It is really a mess.  Some "academies" are free to control how they run things.  There are schools with particular specialties.  Teachers are kept on their toes with a complete overhaul to the curriculum every few years, and they are expected to squeeze more and more subject material into the same school day, including many things, which are and should always be, in my opinion, the role of the parent.  Children are subjected to test and assessment after test and assessment, and the teachers are forced to "teach to the test" because the results determine whether or not the school has met its targets, and where in the "league table" they sit.  I have been a Primary School teacher, and took the decision to step away from teaching for some of those very reasons, though I haven't completely ruled out the idea of going back to it in the future, and trying to ensure that for my class at least, the education system is about fun and inspiration, not tests and boredom.

However, rather than walking away from state education, I think it is the parents responsibility to try to change it.  We can do this by thinking about who we vote for, and what they think education should look like; and by being part of school governance in our local school.  

I also think that parents leave too much to the schools to do.  If the teachers are having to teach your child to listen, to think, to put their coat on etc. then they don't have as much time to teach them about the world around them, which is what our education system is about.  Instead of trying to insist that its the school's responsibility to teach your child moral education, road safety, stranger danger, about safety on the internet, about relationships, to get more exercise and have a healthy diet, or even to read, shouldn't we, as parents, take on this responsibility ourselves?  I see school as a supplementary education, giving added value to the education my children get at home.  I don't mean to say that we should hot-house our children - far from it!  I think that children should have as much time playing as possible.  That should include playing with the parents!  Going for walks and picnics gives opportunity to discuss and chat about all sorts of things, from local history, natural history, road safety, wildlife crime, stranger danger, current affairs and so on.  Sitting down with children to do homework shouldn't be a chore, but a pleasure as you can support them in their learning and play number games.  Reading together is always a pleasure giving the opportunity to unlock a love of literature, and more opportunities to talk about the world around them.  If your child is obese, don't expect the school to do something about it - it's your job!  


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