A significant challenge
"Attendance is inadequate in 14% of the pupil referral units inspected this year. Finding ways to engage these pupils in work that they see as interesting and relevant remains a significant challenge."
- Ofsted Annual Report 2007/2008
"Education, even in the rich world, is failing millions of children. Sooner or later this scandal will have to be addressed, and my guess is we will need to rethink the way we educate our children rather than simply throwing more money at the problem."
- Michael Hanlon, Eternity: Humanity's next billion years
"We, the Rockefellers, funded that. We funded Women's Lib. We're the ones who got it all over the newspapers and television: the Rockefeller Foundation. And you want to know why? There were two primary reasons: One reason was: we couldn't tax half the population before Women's Lib. And the second reason was: now we get the kids in school at an earlier age. We can indoctrinate the kids how to think and it breaks up the family. The kids start looking at the state as their family; at the school; at the officials as their family, not at their parents teaching them."
- Aaron Russo quoting Nick Rockefeller
The above quotes have all come to my attention in the past few days and stuck out in my mind like fairy lights, all linking around the same truth: forced schooling isn't run for the benefit of the pupils.
If it was, it wouldn't have to be forced, for a start. It would be happy for children to attend on a voluntary basis and it would therefore be such an agreeable place that children might not mind attending on a voluntary basis.
Very young children are naturally curious about the world around them. They want to learn. It's only years of "Sit down, shut up and face the front," "You must finish your work before you can play," and "This work is not good enough. You have low marks: you are stupid," that contrive to put them off the whole idea. (OK, most teachers might not actually talk like that any more but the intrinsic message will still be clear, however diplomatically it's phrased.)
Left to their own devices, children have integrity. They know (we all know) right from wrong: what feels good, and what feels bad. And they react accordingly. Children who are supported, encouraged - but not forced to learn - want to learn all the time. They soak up knowledge and information like blotting paper and come back with ideas, inventions and fresh, exciting ways of looking at things. But they know when they're being manipulated and they don't like it.
There is no excuse for our society to treat children like that, as if we don't trust them to want to learn and make good decisions. It's just not necessary, and it's incredibly damaging. Why do we go along with it?
Because we fear for our jobs. Without forced schooling, who would pay the teachers? The university staff? Without "educated" children and qualifications, who would employ anybody? Who would pay for anything? The whole system would break down.
It's tearing at the seams anyway. It isn't a natural, healthy structure. It's an economy based on debt: a society in which most people aren't really happy or fulfilled. Yes, you can go and work in a warm place all day and be reasonably sure of being able to afford to buy a warm meal for yourself in the evening, but is it worth it? And have we really lost all confidence in our ability to get those things on our own terms? If so - why?
It seems like change is coming anyway, whether we want it or not. I'm interested in finding out whether this financial crash is an orchestrated one, or a genuine one. I'm inclined to think the latter, at this stage - in which case the end results are up for grabs and anything could happen.
But really, we've been trained to think that we all need jobs and that without them, we wouldn't survive. I think we need to ask ourselves whether that's really true and who this system of jobs really serves. What alternatives could there be?
I like the idea of a self-taught, artisan society in which everyone is paid for their products, or rewarded for the effect they produce. Did we ever have such a system? Were we ever allowed to get that far? And if not, who stops us and why do we let them?
What about those attendees (or not) of the Pupil Referral Units and "finding ways to engage these pupils in work that they see as interesting and relevant"? I think Ofsted hit the nail right on the head there, as anyone would sooner or later, after years of examining the education system. I don't actually think there's anything much different about the PRU attendees than any other school children except, perhaps, that they're less good at playing the game and feigning interest in the artificial activities that are foisted on them. They've called foul and stomped off the pitch, and who can blame them, when they didn't want to be there in the first place?
What work might they see as interesting or relevant? I don't know. Something real, maybe, that didn't require 'learning outcomes' or similar boxes to be ticked. They must be sick to the back teeth of those interminable boxes to be ticked. Everyone must be.
No wonder more than half the population believe UK children behave like animals. If you try to control people, they're going to react against it and this is a whole generation which has had enough.
We really do need a rethink. We need to start thinking for ourselves, instead of being so easily manipulated and gullible. It's difficult, I know, after a lifetime of indoctrination, but I think we can do it because our instincts tell us what's good for us and what isn't. My instincts have told me that bonding with my babies is a good thing. Having home births, with minimal intervention, and nourishing each new child myself, according to the baby's requirements. This paved the way for me to learn how to respect their wishes as toddlers and for me to want to support their natural learning.
When the older ones were later betrayed by the school system, I couldn't stand by and do nothing because I was irrevocably on their side, as I should have been. With the younger two, home education is just a natural extension of that instinctive early mothering. We are genetically programmed to support our children and to assist them in becoming successful, because it's in our own interests and that of our species that we do so. Anything that thwarts this process is bad.
It's possible that we need to rethink our ideas of 'success'. Does it really mean getting the most money, the most power? I suppose it means something different to everyone. My dictionary says that it's "the accomplishment of a favourable outcome." The question we've got to ask ourselves is: favourable to whom?