Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's Saturday - She's been at the Grauniad again.......

OK. There's this in the Education section:

Hard-pressed parents struggle to help with schoolwork.

Then there's Ann Karpf in the Family section:
"I read David Cameron's pronouncement that all children should be reading by the age of six - and tested to prove that they can - with dismay. Why so late? What's wrong with five, four, or even three? Get the little slackers moving, I say: early reading, early potty training, early dying. It's time to wave goodbye to the preposterous prejudice that people shouldn't be streamlined or time tabled. We're an infinitely malleable species, and tiny minds are sponges: drip phonics into them young enough and they'll swell into expert readers. Nothing controversial about this, surely? The government certainly doesn't think so because its response to Cameron was something along the lines of "we've already thought of that"."

You go, Anne! OK - I believe that a proper education is essential, and enriches us in ways that we may not appreciate until many years after we've left school. We sent our son to a nursery at 3, and we ourselves are both university educated and glad of it. I teach. Education heap big good thing in my opinion.

However, I have severe reservations about the emergence of education as a cult, through which Our Children may be Saved.

Saved from - and for - what, exactly?

Excuse me while I adjust my

I question the humanity and wisdom of putting children into 'school' at 2 (I call it school when parents send their children to nursery, and expect them to start the 'R's and be given homework).

I have serious doubts as to the educational benefits of constant testing in primary/junior schools, apart from the obvious one, of providing each child with early practice in meeting targets and handling academic pressure - useful training for secondary school courses leading to exams at 16 and 18.

I question the philosophy and psychology behind the idea that 14-16 year-olds can and should take 10 exam courses, and that 16-18 year-olds can and should do 4-6 exam courses, plus three hours homework a night.

I am also extremely sceptical about the increasingly popular notion that 'the brightest and best' (Hmm...) should pursue their university education to Masters (An MBA, that is.) or Ph.D level, in order to achieve their goals and fulfil their potential.

There is a strong whiff of a major holding operation: let's get the little ones out of the way while their parents are at work; and keep our teenagers fully occupied and 'out of trouble' for as long as possible. GNP & GCSE .v. ASBO & HMP*. Whose idea was that, then?

(*British stuff: GCSE = General Certificate of Secondary Education, taken at 16. ASBO = Anti-Social Behaviour Order. HMP = Her Majesty's.... Porridge ..... Pleasure ...... Prison)

There's a stronger whiff of acute parental anxiety that the stakes have been raised, and that if children aspire to be more than shelf stackers in the Global Village Shop, they need to be entirely goal-oriented, with a work ethic that makes God look like a slacker for resting on the Seventh Day.

Parents have parenting books, and schools have mission statements: everyone is doing their damnedest to guarantee that children develop into well-rounded adults, ready to take their place in society. It's laudable, and as a parent and a teacher I have given it my best shot. But it's getting out of hand, or so it seems to me.

Micro-management doesn't encourage independence and maturity. Relentless commitment to personal goals does not encourage social awareness, skills or confidence. Relentless academic pressure throughout the formative years may warp or annihilate spirit.

And what price family life - family feeling - when home becomes study hall and parents are cast as monitors and tutors?

So I'm with Anne Karpf on this one: Papa don't teach Forget phonics - that's for teachers. Parents, have fun with your kids.

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