The great school dilemma

I have never been one to follow the norm unquestioningly. I think that most things need to be vigorously dissected and pulled apart and shaken around before you accept them. So when it comes to my kid’s education it is no different.

My passion for life extends to a passion and a love of learning; this is where I part ways with the current education system. Nothing kills natural curiosity and desire to learn quicker than being told what, when and how to learn by someone else. They decide when you have had enough, even though you might just be getting into what you were doing and they say it is now time to move onto the next prescribed subject limited by some nebulous authority that has randomly picked some content as more valuable than another and assigned some higher value to it by saying the all import words – ‘this is for marks’. With these 4 little words you change this topic into something now ‘more’ worthwhile of knowing and deem other information less valuable. When in fact the anatomy of the butterfly might be more exciting to some than the chosen locust.

We are taught not to question but rather to blindly do what we are told, learn what we need to so as to get the grades we need for move to the next level of random information. You learn how to answer question to work with the system rather than how to engage with content in a meaningful challenging way.

It is ridiculous to think that everyone of the same age is going to be on the same level or interested in the same things, or that kids of the same age miraculously have great knowledge and skills to pass on to one another. In traditional cultures and in deed in much of life we learn by watching those older or more experience than ourselves and we hone our skills but teaching others.

I read Dumbing us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto teacher of 26 years who eventually quit because he could no longer take part in a system that destroys lives by destroying minds. It is a book well worth reading and contains one of his speeches titled, “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher,” Gatto describes the seven lessons that are taught by school teachers, whether they know it or not. He writes:

The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach dis-connections….Even in the best of schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions….Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working along with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess….In a world where home is only a ghost, because both parents work…or because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny.

The second lesson I teach is class position….The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class….My job is to make them like being locked together with children who bear numbers like their own.…If I do my job well, the kids can’t even imagine themselves somewhere else, because I’ve shown them how to envy and fear the better classes and how to have contempt for the dumb classes….That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

The third lesson I teach is indifference….When the bell rings I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch….Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.

The fourth lesson I teach is emotional dependency. By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestinated chain of command.

The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency….It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives….[Only], the teacher can determine what my kids must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions, which I then enforce. If I’m told that evolution is a fact instead of a theory, I transmit that as ordered, punishing deviants who resist what I have been told to tell them to think….Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm….Bad kids fight this, of course, even though they lack the concepts to know what they are fighting, struggling to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn and when they will learn it…Fortunately there are tested procedures to break the will of those who resist; it is more difficult, naturally, if the kids have respectable parents who come to their aid, but that happens less and less in spite of the bad reputation of schools. No middle-class parents I have ever met actually believe that their kid’s school is one of the bad ones. No one single parent in twenty-six years of teaching.

The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem….The lesson of report cards, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.

The seventh lesson I teach is that one can’t hide. I teach students they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by myself and my colleagues….The meaning of constant surveillance and denial of privacy is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate.

These are not lessons I want my kids to learn, I want their natural curiosity and love for learning to dictate what, when and how the learn. People always raise the same objections to Home schooling, the say that the kids will lack in socializing, that I am not a trained teacher and that it is the norm and so needs to be followed or they won’t be able to go to university.

Socializing: as I said earlier, to imagine that kids of the same age all thrown together have any great social skill so teach each other is crazy. True socialization is about learning how our society works and being able to function in it, no where else in society again will kids lumped with only people of the same ages and experience, outside the walls of school in the real world people of different ages and varying levels of life experience and knowledge interact and it is often only out side of school that we finally learn to function as part of this society. Teaching children to interact with a wide variety of ages and to learn from all sort of people is not something I see as being limited to a school environment. Most of us did not get on with or were friendly with all the kids in out class or year group anyway, children really only need a few close friend with which to grow, disagree, learn and play.

As for not being a trained teacher, I love my kids more than any teacher and have their best interest at heart. Any literate parent can facilitate what a child needs to know, besides basic numeracy and literacy the content is of little importance, knowledge is forever changing and so what children need to know is how to access this ever changing information and how to engage with it is a way that promote critical thinking and is meaning to them. What I don’t know, I will learn with them and what is beyond my realm I will outsource. I guess being a nurse educator and have lectured for a number of years gives me some educational background but it is not that I am more or less qualified than any teacher, it is that I am more interested in my kids.

Getting into university: by the time a child that has been given the responsibility for their own learning gets to the age that they want to go on and study further, they will know that there are entrance requirement and exams that need to be passed. At this stage the desire to obtain a qualification from a university in order to pursue a career that interest them is the motivating force and we will then get the curriculum and information that they need to pass the exam to get into university. It is worth noting that in a lot of countries where home schooling takes place, the top results for university entrance are often home schooled children.

So now to my dilemma, as a single mom needing to work to make a living for us, how to I make the above a reality? Watch this space…

3 thoughts on “The great school dilemma

  1. There are times when I wish I could do more to enhance my daughter’s education. Homeschooling sounds like a great undertaking though, especially as you also need to make a living. Good luck.

  2. The John Gatto lessons made for a chilling read. I dont agree or disagree not having given this all much thought yet – but it brings home how many choices we make as parents and the potential reppercussions of those choices.

    I can see how you’d be torn!

  3. I would have loved to be able to home school the knucklehead… being an ADHDer we battled CONSTANTLY with teaching styles and teachers who refused to acknowledge that children shouldn’t have to learn by rote. My knucklehead is WAY smarter than most kids his age, but because he is a square-peg, he is now a “drop out”.

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