Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hello, hippies

Yes! Here is another joyous unprompted missive from Grit, mother of all three of them. When will these letters* to the void stop? Not until the offspring reach age 16. Then I can bribe the local college to take them in. I will kick my heels in joy, knowing 'twas a job well done, preparing my innocents for failure in their life chances - a summing up I heard expressed this week by some minister-or-other.

We live in the usual story. The cultural message is: nothing other than school academia can be glorified. If a child is practical, artist, agriculturalist, embroiderer, wood-botherer, then forget it. Your child failed. Failing to bag top grades in at least 10 subjects at school means, apparently, the end of all life chances. Go straight to a park bench. Do not pass Go. Take a bottle of vodka.

Well, failures like us just need to wangle the system. Maybe 200 cash will do it, stashed behind the water pipes in the science lab. If it works, I will let you know.

Enough of that. We noticed Gove went. I don't think this bit of window dressing will make any difference. Just make me more cynical, maybe.

But wouldn't it be a great job if there was some sort of mass rebellion against the bright and shiny Asia schooling system that's coming our way? We can see it shaping up nicely: private companies picking up the testing structures; interview techniques for your 2-year old, to help them get into the 'right kindergarten'; the imperative on parents to prepare 4-year old Tinkertop for her formal class; computer delivery of more subjects; who needs a teacher when you have personalised remote tech support?; a single curriculum; outsourced educational packages which parents buy for out-of-school support. A shift from public-funded education to short-term business investment.

This is a shift to the marketing of the schooling system - they are huge and juicy budget centres waiting to be tapped - and for that to happen, we need socially compliant consumers. Nak all to do with education, and in all the 'personalised learning' there's no autonomy in it. No independent, individual thinking needed. I would encourage anyone to drag the yoof out of school, except that I think maybe there are enough home educators now.

If we have any more, then the government will think it imperative to control everyone. Even me. The feral ones out here will face an imposed curriculum and monitoring.

Except we won't. Thankfully, we have a huge streak of obstinate bloody mindedness that speaks otherwise.

Which means I am at HesFes with the hippies; the annual group of home educators who congregate in a Suffolk field. I am frankly unusual, with my non-blue hair.

Tiger suggested I should keep this a secret, and not tell you, on the basis that if word got round, then undercover educational psychologists will infiltrate the gathering. Shark said this was nonsense. She pointed out that all the ed psychs, ministers of state, and Doreens in local council departments who would come to scrutinise this lot are from financially restrained departments, and they simply couldn't afford to pay the overtime.

* I must remember the point of these letters is not my stream-of-consciousness but an educational record, to show thinkers and wonderers that education outside of a normal school structure is possible and, indeed, FUN. Recently we have achieved the monthly English group, Shark's sub-aqua, Squirrel and Tiger's weekly windsurfing, Tiger's climbing club, the visit to the British Museum mummies exhibition, a trip to the Sam Wanamaker Theatre to hear the Crystal clan deliver Renaissance songs sung in Original Pronunciation (yes, we are that niche), an excellent tour of the Classical Archaeology teaching galleries in Cambridge, the Global Citizenship group, and the fortnightly Latin group (fear ye not, Doreen, at the council desk. The exam is in 2015). See? The world didn't collapse outside the school gates. Life was interesting, and an education can be wrought in any local community.

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