Monday, 19 October 2009

Education, Education, Education

J.K. Rowling came to live with us today. She moved in her dusty Hogwarts furniture to the bedrooms of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, silently. Even before I'd had breakfast.

When I realised by 10am that the house is still, no-one's stirring, and everyone's quiet, in bed, turning pages, one part of me was itching to march straight in there, kick J.K. Rowling's backside and bring my children back to the busyness of a Monday morning.

Today I want to visit astronauts at the National Space Centre in Leicester. Or go to Cambridge and see Darwin. Or we could fight with Greeks at the British Museum. Or smile at the poised Christina of Denmark in the National Gallery, and wave to dusty Faraday at the Royal Institution. We could go anywhere, see anyone.

And I suggest all those options when I coax everyone down for breakfast at eleven, ending with pleeeaase! annyywherrreee! from the pleading position, which is flat out on the floor. And the answer I receive is ssshhhh total silence.

Now one big part of me feels like J.K. Rowling already outwitted me. I am staggering from that preemptive strike. She has achieved a feat unrivalled.

Hours and hours, in this house, of sssshhhhh total silence.

Broken only by the sound of turning pages.

For that accomplishment, the woman deserves my respect.

I guess a key point to this observation is not that Shark, Squirrel and Tiger draped themselves in rooms today for six hours reading what Harry did, while I shuffle off to do the laundry, it is that, if only I can let them alone, these kids are ably equipped to find their own way, discover their own interests, and with any books of their choice, simply educate themselves.

Each of my kids has been a late reader, preferring for the last few years to dig up the lawn, bathe unicorns, and paint cardboard. Squirrel did not bother to pick up a book until last year. And only then with bribes, threats, treats, rewards. But did anything I do really influence this outcome? Nope. Has late reading stopped them today? Not a bit.

But this interest? You can be sure they'll follow it now, regardless of what I do, say, or how much chocolate is on offer. And if I get on the wrong side of that interest, then woe betide me, because aren't kids as ferocious about guarding cherished intentions, just as a starved out Rottweiler guards that stolen juicy marrow bone?

The other point I can draw from this observation - how kids stay with something no matter how desperately they need the toilet - is that the Cambridge Primary Review is yet settling the dust around from where it hit the desk last week. The Review that recommends less formal styles of drill and kill testing, and more time for exploration and play in the early years.

And what an ill informed, ignorant decision government made to reject that report.

Maybe this government sees the first problem. That Tinkertop aged five cannot sit still for an hour to receive her delivery of the state curriculum. She's wriggling ants in the pants!

Then the state answer is not to create a system where Tinkertop can run about, like her body needs, or to encourage her with more flexibility, more freedom to explore her own way, find a path with creativity and play. No. They say, Parents, feel bad that you cannot teach your child to sit still! We have the solution! We'll teach Tinkertop how to sit still aged FOUR. So you, inadequate parent, can be made to feel bad about your parenting, and be forced to depend on the state just a little bit more. And the government can bag those kids into the system all the sooner.

But what happens next? When Tinkertop won't sit still aged four? Bet you can start school at age three. Maybe aged two. Nappies no problem.

The government rejection of the Cambridge Review; their Balls and Badman fiasco designed to monitor and evaluate parents; the new 'consultation' to get your child into more and more daycare - none of it's surprising.

For the government to accept the Cambridge Review meant acknowledging that they have failed in the very area in which they established their core agenda: education.

Education, it seems, is no longer about learning how to learn; it's not about critical thinking, creativity, independence, autonomy. Education - and children - are now simply another excuse for agendas of authoritarianism, centralisation and surveillance.

Give me a choice of Balls or Rowling, and there's no competition. Today, Rowling helped Shark, Squirrel and Tiger create their learning for themselves, become inspired, follow their own paths, be creative, live joyously. And I had to stay indoors and do the sodding laundry. Curses and blessings upon her.

If you've read this far, you can wonder whether I am a bad and lazy parent for failing to march Shark, Squirrel and Tiger down the road dressed in black and white to receive their daily dose of state curriculum.

Or you could wonder whether Tinkertop should be sat in uniform aged four, perched on her nappies, because she's not ready for that change either. Or whether she would be better placed running around the park with a cornflake box wedged on her head, dressed in a fairy outfit and wearing purple wellington boots with home made googly eyes stuck on the toes. Maybe that is the best route for Tinkertop to reach age nine, and settle down for six hours when J.K. Rowling comes to move furniture inside her head.


Maire said...

Oh so wish my 11 year old could do that, for her sake rather than mine. She has certainly not missed out on what Harry did, having been read the whole series, some more than once and having the first six books on CD. But it is not the same and she longs to be able to get lost in literary worlds all by herself. I long for that too as I read to her at 12.00pm because that is when she wants to be read too.

I wonder if I had not subjected her to four years of torture and wasted time at school would she be reading now. I will never know. But either way state education, education, education, totally failed her in every way.

globeonmytable said...

Yes, I do so recognise the laundry situation.

When the children are deeply engaged in something, it is time to roll over gracefully, polish windows, lap top and blog, even start reading the Charlotte Mason Shakespeare play for the term to myself(it's A Midsummer- Night's Dream at the moment and I'm on scene II).........

Never mind, it's a nice thing to be able to complain about and conveniently photogenic :)

Christie - Childhood 101 said...

Hear, hear!