Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I can keep thinking of stuff I'm angry about FOREVER

  • Then I was looking at Guardian Education this morning and they had a piece on these crazy Swedish schools where every pain has been taken to allow children to be educated without emulating the terrible world of work they will shortly find themselves flung into. So the children help plan their own goals, set their own timetables and review their own progress in weekly meetings with teachers and parents. Based more on the university system (if it had decent pedagogical support) than on the 'teacher-led factory method of education'. No bells ringing, no teacher at the front. They wanna bring it in in England- piloting a scheme for a handful of academies. Obviously this is an innovation aimed at the privileged children of a few middle-class families, beneficial chiefly to kids with full academic support outside of the classroom, parents who have the time and inclination to attend weekly meetings and push their fat lazy offspring to develop their own learning goals. If you're poor, or busy, or depressed, or all three, it's probably a help to have your kid sit in front of a stream of petty dictators all day being taught how to function as a near-useless cog in an oppressive society. But this did make pretty angry... as ever. We HAVE the methods. We have the skills. We have a host of teachers across the country who are shocked, demoralised and desperate to get out of education after two or three years, and might jump at the chance to make their and their pupils' learning experience slightly less like forced labour. When I did my CELTA teaching course there were a wide range of teaching aids and techniques to teach young people who were completely unfamiliar with the British education system- in this case Somali teenagers who had mostly never entered any kind of classroom in their lives. It is possible. So why don't we improve our schools completely? Why can a few lucky children learn in a way that's good for them while everyone else must take part in this horrific chaingang/conveyor belt of monotonous routine? Two reasons- 1. The education system cannot support any more intervention in children's lives. Teachers have little or no power to go against the all(?)-encompassing National Curriculum and when they wish to interact with their charges on any other level a host of problems arise. Referrals are the thing- refer the buggers on to the head, to Social services, best of all back to the bloody parents, who will find themselves in court if they mess with the system too much. You guys are there to get them through their SATS. You are a '5 A to Cs' machine- don't get any other ideas. And we'll give you a five grand sweetener if you don't leave to work in sales within the first four years. 2. Why the hell would you want children to think for themselves? What are we preparing them for? Life. In Society. Ring that fucking bell, make them wear a uniform from the age of three, stream them and give them merit points. When you think about it, it's perfect. OK, let a handful go to posh schools where they can make up their own rules- that kind will probably make up their own rules for the rest of their lives anyway. But for everyone else, it will save a lot of effort training them up when they hit the labour market if they have the system bashed into them from the first time they can toddle into an orderly line in the playground. What part of my school education was not restrictive propaganda aimed at making me see the world the way they wanted me to? Possibly the bits I bunked. I guess these Swedish schools are not some kind of fucking Utopia anyway, just the educational equivalent of those trendy offices in PR and shit where everyone wears jeans and there are free bagels in the fridge. You can participate freely in the monthly meetings, but don't kid yourself there isn't a hierarchy, or that you stand anywhere other than the bottom.

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