Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Happy and bleak

I sent this article over by email. I received one back in return.

It's clear to me. We out-of-school educators, we won the argument on learning.

Schools can be grim, joyless, factory places; childhood thieves and spirit crushers.

They deal in mass systems, handle lives with minimum cost and maximum efficiency, order everyone in rigid structures and call it individual.

To say they are accountable, show you better that the system works, they intrude into your family, make daily, pointless demands, and thus control the hours and every days of pupils, parents, teachers.

And shutting your children away from the community! We have observed that for years, we people in your High Street. While we have been hiring public halls, taking over common spaces, using your libraries, museums, parks and high streets for learning, we watched the schooled children dressed to a kind and shut in boxes. Who's part of the community there?

So yeah, we won. The home educators were right. School is outdated. The world moved on.

I won't expect that people like me - gripers and misery guts - we who pull kids out from this system and holler from the sidelines, we won't enjoy any credit for shaping ideas about education.

I doubt any thanks will come to any of us for pointing out missed opportunities and putting the pressure on schools to change, even though in my world I've watched people turn lives upside-down, sacrifice friends, and chuck up careers to put into action what they believed in, what they feel is right in bones and hearts.

Nope, not us. It'll be mainstream educationalists in institutions who advance social theories and tell you the way forward. Thousands of inconvenient parents since Joy Baker will be swept away. We're the threatening ones, potential abusers, cranks, outsiders, freaks and loners, remember? Institutions need to keep control, and they don't do that by thanking the opposition.

But I think, in the next stage, the argument won't be about what education should look like. Glance over to some of the guiding ideas in our world. You can see what it's going to look like.

The argument will be about how much state/corporate involvement do you want in your lives.

The state/corporate will seek to assume control over knowledge in new and more fundamental ways than at present. They'll worm down to the organisation, access, and flow of knowledge. They'll want to structure it, order it, supervise it. They'll assume a role as regulator and monitor. When it is accessed by the young, the state/corporate will call it education.

Anyone might welcome that, or not. But where's the line? Where's the cut-off point? At which point will you say enough? A child's learning - their time, play, freedom to ask, explore, think, discover for themselves - this belongs to the child, and not to governments, nor corporates.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I found the comments on the "Race to Nowhere" article particularly interesting (as usual). But both the article and the comments are sad. At least to me. I am always astounded at how determined people are to insist that school is the only real, possible way to educate children. While 1-3 percent of us wave our arms and say, no, not really. Fairly easy alternative over here. Just don't send them! Ever!

And all that garbage about getting into the "right" university, a "good" one. My brother, a history prof, and I have this conversation frequently. The level of research required of Ph.D.s today, just to get a job, ensures that anybody, regardless of what school they go to in North America, can get an "Ivy" education (as compared to, say, 50 years ago, when the case could be made that some universities really were better than others). Yet the myth lives on. To ensure your child's future, you must enable them to get into a "top" university. So much manipulation. The fees at the "good" private university I attended are now twenty times what I paid thirty years ago, outpacing inflation by an astronomical amount. I am again confronted by the fact that this "race to the right university" is all about money. The parents'. Which the universities want.

Unfortunately the "Race to Nowhere" people are only willing to see a tiny part of the problem. They still see the current education "system" as an essential, necessary part of modern society. They are not willing to really discuss how real learning happens.