"A logical, structured course of study."
EN: You know what did scare me about the report that Anna brought us, it did sound as if the children were in control...is that wrong of me?
TM: The children are in control, yes. That's my experience. They are dictating how their education should go and what they want to do and what they don't want to do.
EN: That's not a child's place though is it?
TM: I don't think it is. I think when youngsters get out of the primary stage [they] should be following a logical, structured course of study and it's not the case in many of the families I go to.
I'd like to ask Mr Mooney why he thinks secondary school-aged students "should be following a logical, structured course of study", but not primary school-aged pupils. And how exactly does he envisage the transition taking place from one educational method to the other?
Here I think Mr Mooney demonstrates his complete lack of full-time home-educating parenting experience which might, if he had it, qualify him to publicly express such sweeping statements.
In order to impose "a logical, structured course of study" on a young person of secondary school age, one would have to have first established a relationship of 'power-over' authority with the person. This would be impossible, in other words, if the child had spent its early years in educational freedom.
Not only impossible - it would be highly undesirable and I'd be quite nonplussed to come across a parent who wished to suddenly impose "a logical, structured course of study" on their secondary school-aged child after years of autonomy, because it would be a major step backwards in terms of the child's educational development.
By the time my three teens reached secondary school age they were undergoing their own child-led logical, structured courses of study as, indeed, they still are. I had a chat with them about it today and one of them just pointed out that it would be impossible to learn in an illogical, unstructured way because the act of learning always requires logic and structure.
The point at issue, then, is whether it's the adult or the child who creates the logic and the structure of the child's learning. Authoritarian, school-type learning - the only kind of which Mr Mooney seems to have real experience or knowledge - calls for the adult to create the structure and logic, and for the child to follow obediently, being led by the nose through a maze of information. An autonomously educated child, of course, learns to create his own logic and structure. Indeed, he has no choice. In this way, he becomes able to find his own way through any maze of information he chooses, any time, without needing to be given constant direction.
I can't see this as being anything other than a great advantage of autonomous learning over schooling - unless, of course, you are a government or a large employer in need of an obedient and unquestioning, docile workforce. But from the child's point of view with regard to the depth and scope of the learning that takes place, it's undoubtedly the best way.
"They are dictating how their education should go and what they want to do and what they don't want to do."
And this is bad for a young person because...? I just can't see how it could be. Learning is only truly effective when it takes place as a result of curiosity or student-led necessity. Faced with a compulsion to absorb information they neither need nor want to know, most people (young or old) would quite naturally close their mind and refuse to absorb it. My Mooney has been a headmaster, a teacher and a private tutor, as well as a home education 'inspector'. I'm amazed that he has failed to realise this and I'd love to hear a detailed rationale of his viewpoint.
I've been reading some of his articles today on various education-related issues and found the following quotes contained within:
" Apparently there are no critical brain periods for learning. There are no windows of opportunity that slam shut for learning the culturally transmitted skills that children learn at school. So although children in our culture normally learn to read, write and become numerate by certain ages, there is no reason to believe that there is the existence of critical periods for these skills. What is culturally normal is not biologically determined, a principle that ought to silence the critics of Summerhill School."
"Parents should realise that children thrive in a wide variety of physical and cultural environments and that the best thing they can do for their children is to be highly sceptical of any claims to the contrary."
"As a secondary school headteacher, I watched with concern during the 1980s and 90s as the demands of politicians for better measurable school results raised the stakes for teenagers at GCSE. I saw at first hand just how important these examinations became in terms of self-identity and self-worth and I now believe that they are a hindrance to the academic development of our young people."
Hmmm. Am I alone in thinking the above quotes don't exactly square with the opinions he's been expressing on the radio over the weekend?