Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Badman meeting (and a post about university)

.. this time with Muslim home educators. The details were posted to a mailing list I receive on digest, so I won't be reproducing them in full here: I just want to focus on one sentence from it, about university. Incidentally, I think I know two out of the three people who met with him, though their identities are not completely apparent from the meeting report, only hinted at. I think one is a lady who I recently had a face-to-face chat with at our home ed meeting when she was visiting the area, and another is someone I've known online through blogging and exchanging emails for quite a few years now. If I'm right about who it was, I'm not surprised they handled the meeting as well as it seems from the report! Though having said that, I'll repeat what I've said before: I don't have any worries about any home educators meeting with Graham Badman. We're all essentially saying the same thing and very eloquently and passionately, too. It's hard to see how he's going to squeeze any recommendations out for which we haven't asked, based on talks and other communications he's had with any of us.

Anyway, here's the part about which I want to blog today, unsurprisingly!

B said he felt some traveller children he had worked with weren't fulfilling their potential, by not going to Uni.

I just want to make clear - and I'm sickened that this needs making clear to an educationalist of so many years' standing: Attending university is not necessarily fulfilling your potential!

My sons have both looked into the idea of attending some kind of college for formal study: Ali attending an open evening at the local college a few years ago and Tom thinking about attending university, but in the end they concluded that they'd learn more by continuing under their own steam. I think it's fair to say that their overall experience from talking to both further and higher education staff was disappointing and quite worrying: what stood out for them both was the complete absence of any kind of passion or enthusiasm, either for the subject in question or for the learning process in general. Everyone they've spoken to (mostly tutors, but some admin staff) gave the impression that they were just doing a job, for the paycheque alone.

Maybe they were unlucky in the people they came across, but I think this includes something in the region of twenty individuals, so that's a lot of bad luck, isn't it? More likely, in my opinion, is that they'd have been lucky to have met someone who was still passionate about learning - or had ever been.

Not that I blame the people themselves. I think the whole system is at fault, having narrowed everything educational down to grades on pieces of paper, it has stifled the life force out of the process of learning. This reminds me of the slow and systematic shutting down of my children's natural curiosity when they first attended infants' school, almost as though it was deliberate. (Which of course, John Taylor Gatto - my hero - thinks it is.)

So if you're tenacious enough to apply yourself and stick to the system right to the bitter end, i.e. teaching or college lecturing the wave upon wave of new students year after year, none of whom you ever knew from Adam, let's just say that it's no surprise if your natural spark got up and left the building long ago. Anyone in that position who still has theirs deserves a medal and a million pounds, I think.

But to take the blinkers of prejudice off and talk about people really fulfilling their potential, why does this have to include a cap and a gown? What does a degree ceremony prove, other than the ability to apply yourself to someone else's syllabus for a few years, to a greater or lesser extent? Is that really what we want to consider to be the pinnacle of human achievement? I don't think so. The people we honour and celebrate don't tend to be academics, do they? They're usually inventors, performers or entrepreneurs - none of which requires a university degree.

On a personal level, the people I have the most respect for are the ones who have - usually against the odds in this National Curriculum era - managed to find their real niche in life, whatever it might be. These people are comfortable in their own skin. They have nothing to prove to anyone and above all, they are happy in their work. This is what I wanted for my children. If it included university, so be it, but I would never have encouraged that over and above any other choices they might make. Why would I? We know so many graduates who have nothing to show for their years at uni except a mountain of debt and a drink problem - not even a job.


Blogger Mieke said...

Imo going to uni very rarely has to do with fulfilling your potential, but more often with fulfilling other people's expectations.

9:40 am, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me personally, and I suspect for many other people, going to university is simply something to do when you don't know what you want to do, if you see what I mean. It's not fulfilling any potential, it's just putting off the "what am I gonna do with my life?" question for a few more years. That was my reason for doing A levels too!

9:46 am, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Firebird said...

If you haven't watched this I highly recommend it, the utterly wonderful Sir Ken Robinson on finding your passion (NB not the TED talk, this one was given this year)


9:49 am, April 14, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Ooo yes, Firebird! Now that's something the whole review panel should be made to watch!

10:03 am, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant post.

Having had a run in with a local education centre recently, I understand completely about the lack of passion and enthusiasm in educationalists.

Needless to say uni is no longer on Dee's list of things to do!

Shirl x

10:25 am, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Renegade Parent said...

I would expect people like GB and the panel members to be intimately acquainted with resources like the TED talks, especially the Ken Robinson one (and the Sugata Mitra one).

But anyone who thinks that uni is The Way to fulfil potential, or that effective socialisation is more likely to be delivered by schools (complete with security staff and "withdrawal rooms") is maybe on a different wave length.

I went to uni to fulfil others' expectations and it took a loooong time to unlearn the academic and social lessons it reinforced. I love the master's degree that I am doing now, because it's wholly on my terms. Lisa

10:30 am, April 14, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

Argh this makes me cross. I have a niece who is just about to finish her degree. She's not going to use her degree for a job when she's finished, she doesn't know what she wants to do. I firmly believe she was guided to uni by her parents (mother especially because it was something she had wanted to do but didn't) but her parents now aren't sure that it was the wisest thing to do. She comes out with 18k of debt and that's a smaller amount than many of her friends who are maxed out on credit cards too. THAT is not potential fulfilling, THAT is having a millstone round your neck and creating a need for wage slavery.

10:53 am, April 14, 2009  
Blogger Mieke said...

Now Cosmic Seed, if I was a conspiracy thinker, I'd probably come to the conclusion that the system of student loans has been created to own and chain potentially intelligent (and creative?) minds. But of course that's not true, student loans are there to help young people fulfil their potential!

11:07 am, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made the comment on my review form under the economic wellbeing heading that I suspect the government does not really want our children to have economic wellbeing, otherwise they would not be aiming to get more and more young people into university whilst making it ever more expensive to go.

I went to university but will not be encouraging my children to do so, unless they want to work in a fied like medecine to which access is only available from a specialised degree.

11:34 am, April 14, 2009  
Blogger these boots said...

When I did my uni stuff all my lecturers seemed really passionate and excited about the course, and I found it a really inspirational couple of years. BUT, this was at post-grad level ... I skipped the under grad stuff and went to uni as a mature student later on, doing a PG Dip and then an M.A. Maybe that makes a difference.

My step-daughter has recently been with us for a visit, she's currently doing her A Levels. She enjoys the subjects but hates the teaching. Her teachers have managed to make reading and watching films into a bore (Eng Literature and Film Studies) ... both things she's been doing avidly for the past 10 years. She's been put into a group of 'high achievers' and they are being pushed into doing loads of extra curricular stuff that she has not the slightest bit of interest in - the final straw was trying to force her to give an assembly presentation to the Year 10s. She's now decided she wants out. I don't blame her in the slightest, but it's a terrible waste, as all her potential could have led to something amazing if she'd been left to her own devices. Hopefully, in a few years - if she ever recovers from the school-system - it still will.

2:13 pm, April 14, 2009  
Blogger Elaine said...

To fulfill potential...what carp
everybody has potential.
Unfulfilled potential mmm I have never fulfilled my potential to be a criminal, to hurt people, to waste resources I imagine I have tremendous potential in all these fields.
I have ambitions they change, sometimes many times in a day, some ambitions are filed under 'one day I hope' others have been fulfilled e.g. I can knit an arran sweater , I would never knit another I found it tedious but it was an ambition that I fulfilled.
I have ambitions to help prevent our servants eroding the human rights of families, that ambition is unfulfilled at present or is it? is not each person who listens to you and says ''I agree'' fulfilling a part of the ambition? is not joining a group of like minded souls fulfilling a part?
They are words
I like words but my passion is life and freedom for everybody to live THEIR life . If people are prevented by their servants from living the life they choose then our servants have fulfilled their potential to destroy society.

3:07 pm, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Lucy said...

what a wonderful post - you put so eloquently what I only had as half formed, irritated thoughts about attitudes to uni :)

3:57 pm, April 14, 2009  
Blogger Ruth said...

I wonder what Mr B would say to a HE child who had tried doing a degree and hated it? C did and he has realised it is not his thing and dumped it. Working to someone elses idea of what he should know was too boring. How was that fulfilling his potential being bored rigid and writing assignments on complete drivel? Everyone I know who went to uni did so cos of pushy parents or cos they had no idea what else to do. Most are unemployed now and in debt up to their eyeballs.

5:51 pm, April 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fulfilling your potential is doing what YOU want to do, not what some dyed in the school-wool ex-EWO thinks you OUGHT to do.
I went to University yonks ago, and found it largely a thrilling, awe-inspiring place to be. On the other hand, my husband went to University recently (originally a Polytechnic) and he found it sickening and almost deranged. The 'students' - most of them mothers and home owners - were talked down to like three year old children, told that everything would be terrible, that if they didn't perform (like a dog) to certain standards that they would be kicked off the course. There was no respect for them as people. Their essays were checked by software to make sure they hadn't copied other people's words. Husband trained as a nurse, and nearly two years on he's still trying to get a nursing job. Oh, he gets interviews and, so they say, interviews well, but the interviewers all come out with the same thing: "We hired the person with experience."

University - just an alternate unemployment list really.


8:21 pm, April 14, 2009  
Blogger mamacrow said...

' going to university is simply something to do when you don't know what you want to do'

lol! yes, and that's what I did when I sustained an injury that knocked me out of looking after horses. I left school (minor public school) at 16 to go work in the horse world, not wanting to go to uni - a desicion fully supported by my parents.

After the injury I went back to college, did a few subjects I loved, ended up doing a librarian degree in order to get a qualification (always been obsessed with books, so working in a library was quite palatable) and more money...

ended up coming out not caring a whit about libraries or jobs or money but completely turned back on alive about learning and life and just everything - it was an amazing experience, and I was lucky enough not only to get the last year of grants and free eductation, but also come into contact with some truly amazing professors and lecturers... (I also came out the other end with two children as well as my degree, but that's another story.)

HOWEVER, it is a lottery! And also - SHOULD NOT BE COMPLUSORY - everyone's different, everyone's needs and desires and ways of learning are different, as we all know and has many of us have been vigorously pointing out.

I personally wouldn't change anything for the world - most importantly the bit where I made my OWN CHOICES for my OWN REASONS.

I just wanted to say that uni is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. like everything , it is how it is used, why, and by whom.

10:31 pm, April 14, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Mieke, yes I know quite a few people who went on that basis.

Debs, that one too!

Firebird, I watched it in short spurts yesterday. Thanks for the link. I'd quite like to read his book, now.

Shirl, I found that incredibly depressing when I encountered it at close quarters with Al at the college open evening. Tom went on his own to talk to the people at uni, so I wasn't there to see that, but the tutor on the course he wanted to do was just so incredibly unenthusiastic about it, he said, as were all the other prospective and even the existing students. He was amazed, because they had all this vastly expensive, exciting equipment to work with - he said he'd have been there all the time, using it - and nobody was remotely interested in it. The tutor said he'd had another career which had failed, so he'd "ended up lecturing", making it sound like a really bad thing. Tom said, despite his excitement about the course and the equipment available, he just couldn't commit 3-4 years of his life and all that money, to a bunch of people in that state of mind about it. Too much of a risk, in his opinion, so he decided against it in the end.

The other prospective students were just finishing 6th form, presumably, and were there with their parents, the first time Tom visited. He said none of them asked any questions about the course, and all the parents were interested in were the domestic facilities etc! Tom was the only one there without family (I did offer, but he wanted to go on his own because I'd have had to take the baby) and the only one asking the tutor anything.

Lisa, me too. And "maybe on a different wave length" may be the understatement of the year!

Cosmic, I know quite a few parents who are feeling the same. "Creating a need for wage slavery" - yep, nail on the head IMO.

Mieke, is that a little bit of Dutch sarcasm creeping in there..? ;-)

Anonymous, good point.

Lucy, I gather there still are exciting courses and lecturers, but that they're few and far between.

"Her teachers have managed to make reading and watching films into a bore (Eng Literature and Film Studies)" - That's terrible! I hope she soon recovers.

Elaine, you can knit an arran sweater?? I bow down in homage to your knitting prowess. I can knit a holey handkerchief.

Lucy, oh that's kind of you. Thanks!

Ruth, "Most are unemployed now and in debt up to their eyeballs." I think that when we look at this government's moves to keep everyone in full-time education until they're at least 21 on to emerge from it in debt, we can see what the overall plan is. There was something on the radio news yesterday about the NUT complaining about lack of resources to fund 6th form courses. The spokeswoman was saying: "All of these children will be lost!"

I said to Tom, "What does she mean, lost?"

He said, "Well, they won't have jobs etc. She means they'll be NEET, I suppose."

So I asked him, "Why aren't you NEET then? Or "lost" or whatever? Since you didn't go to 6th form?"

He didn't even have to think about the answer: "Because I hadn't been to school at all since I was 9, so I had a totally different, independent mindset. I knew that I didn't need qualifications to develop a marketable skill and set up an honest business. The people she's talking about have been prevented from working that out."

I think this proves that elective home education, in which a young person is free to find their niche in life - when you think about it from the perspective of that Ken Robinson clip - is the best possible grounding. But the freedom part is crucial, isn't it?

Diane, I'm glad to hear you had a better experience. I know some other people who did too, but they're few and far between and their attendance tends to have been a long time ago! "University - just an alternate unemployment list really." If this is true, it's an incredible scam, isn't it?

Mamacrow, very well said.

7:11 am, April 15, 2009  
Blogger elaine said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:49 pm, April 16, 2009  
Blogger elaine said...

Don't you think the idea that University is the ultimate way to fulfil everyones potential rather offensive?

What about all the skilled hands on trades? Plumbing, building, plastering, carpentry and joinery, catering, gardening, farming, caring etc

Does Badman look down on these trades? All the self employed small business owners? There must be so many people doing jobs such as these who are fulfilled, highly skilled and providing an excellent service.

Elaine G-H

6:50 pm, April 16, 2009  
Blogger mamacrow said...

oh hear hear Elaine, I couldn't agree more. I get so cross about this.

and, what is wrong with being a dustman anyway? society would quite literally fall apart if no one did this job. But if all the kids have to go to uni and get high flying white collar jobs in order to have 'achieved', then what do we do then?

Bus a load of cheep workers in from Poland?

It's just all so bizare. And wrong.
Education systems should be there to support what people want to do, not tell them what they should do. And then make them do it.

10:16 pm, April 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Elaine, very good point. If he believes university to be the fulfillment of everyone's potential, then we must assume he does look down on everyone else. Until he needs their services, perhaps? ;-)

Mamacrow - yes, spot on IMO.

7:37 am, April 18, 2009  
Blogger Gina xx said...

I tried Uni, did it on a trial...hated it. The lectures were too restrictive. I am now doing an OU course in the subjects I WANT TO DO. If I want to do health subjects I can, if I want to do a couple of arts courses, I can do those too. I don't know of any bricks and mortar Uni that offers open degrees which lets you study what you want.
At 18,I wasn;t ready to take a degree, neither was I at 21 or 25 or even 30!

I'm 37 and still asking.."what do I want to do with my life?"

1:12 pm, April 18, 2009  
Blogger cosmic seed said...

Yeah but Elaine, now all those hands on crafts need diplomas and degrees and CERTIFICATION! DH just did a drystone walling course, he was told that to be taken seriously he would need to *at least* complete a 2 year college course and pass the exam. All the farmers he knows thinks it'd ridiculous that you need a certificate to drystone wall, but as the funding for upkeep of walls is about to get a lot tighter, it looks as though wallers will indeed by expected to have the relevant papers. Madness, but it's another job creation scheme isn't it?

1:34 pm, April 18, 2009  
Blogger Merry said...

Oh this really annoys me. I didn't go to university but i've got 4 reading, writing, thinking, doing daughters all with a clear understanding of themselves and their world, all educated by me and while doing that i set up and ran a business that this year will turn over over £1/2million.

I'm the only one of my siblings that didn't go to university - and i'm the only solvent one of the 3 of us - and very happy with my life, job and prospects.

I dread to think what i'd be up to if i'd gone to university and "fulfilled my potential". *rolls eyes*

9:15 pm, April 18, 2009  
Blogger Riaz said...

I found university to be a disappointment. Some of the lecturers were decent people but several others were unfriendly and unhelpful. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get a career in engineering unless you have an accredited degree. There is very little in an engineering degree that you cannot teach yourself outside of a formal educational setting. £9,000 will buy you plenty of books and lab equipment...

1:20 pm, May 06, 2009  

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