Sunday, 15 November 2015

Since I started this blog, in June 2014, I have stated, probably over-stated, my case against school as we know it.  Change does happen slowly, but at the moment the system is heading speedily in the wrong direction.
I have repeated myself too many times, and as such, I have decided to give the blog a rest for a while.  I would rather add a post when I feel inspired to do so, rather than adding a post 'religiously' every Sunday.
I could extend the scope of my blog, which I may well do and soon.  Any feedback about this would be welcome.
In the meantime, for all those interested in real education, I recommend that you read the following:
Ivan Illich, John Holt, Bruno Bettelheim, Bertrand Russell, Homer Lane, A.S.Neill, Sir Kenneth Robinson, and John Taylor Gatto.  These wise minds have been largely ignored by governments and cultures around the world.  So what's new?  Whenever have great minds been heeded and acted upon by history?  All too rarely.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

After last week's post , I was confronted with the usual, and understandable, challenge to John Gatto's plea to abolish all schools:
"But that would mean chaos!"
Gatto doesn't believe that there wouldn't be chaos, for a while, but unlike the majority, he doesn't have the 'original sin' view of humanity.  As he put it:
"Let them manage themselves".

History has shown us that, whether in politics, religion, or education, most people believe that we are incapable of behaving in a good, positive way unless we are told what to do - by a tiny minority, who claim to have all the answers. Unless we are guided and commanded by our 'leaders', we would be lost souls.  So goes the evil concept of 'original sin', the biggest con trick in human history.  I say 'evil', because of the immense damage such a view can inflict.

In  the film 'Life of Brian', the character of Brian sums up the mistake of being led when he says to the crowd:
"You don't need to follow me.  You don't need to follow anybody!". 
Although large numbers of people still consider the film immoral, Brian's statement of reality is deeply moral, and at the heart of the story.
The same applies to school.  Most believe that the only place we can learn is in school, and be taught only by professional teachers.  Well, most learning takes place outside the classroom, and every single person in the world is a teacher - of whatever skills and knowledge they possess.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Today I wish to continue broadcasting John Gatto and his views on education, and the best way to do this is to quote 3 of his most insightful observations:

"Children learn what they live.  Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important or worth finishing; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even.  The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly." 

"I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt.  We suppress genius because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women.  The solution, I think, is simple and glorious.  Let them manage themselves."

"I don't think we'll get rid of schools any time soon, certainly not in my lifetime, but if we're going to change what's rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance, we need to realize that the institution 'schools' very well, but it does not 'educate'; that's inherent in the design of the thing.  It's not the fault of bad teachers or too little  money spent.  It's just impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing."

Sunday, 25 October 2015

John Taylor Gatto is such an interesting thinker on education that I intend to devote two posts to him.
He was an American teacher for 30 years and won 4 awards as 'Teacher of the Year' in New York City and State.
Like John Holt, the more he experienced the world of the modern school, the more he became convinced that the mere construct of school was anti-educational.
He is best known for his classic book Dumbing Us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.  Wade A. Carpenter, associate professor of education at Berry College, called Gatto's work 'scathing' and 'hyperbolic' but not 'inaccurate'.  Despite his criticism, the professor says that he is in agreement with Gatto.
JTG lectured for years on the benefits of homeschooling, unschooling and open source learning.

I cannot resist supplying a quotation from Gatto's book on dumbing down.  More next week.
I have noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet.  No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes.  The truth is that schools really don't teach anything except how to obey orders.  This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic - it has no conscience.  It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

John Holt was one of America's most perceptive teachers and authors on the subject of school and education.  The more he observed children in school, the more he believed that school was actually a hindrance to education.  He wrote his findings in two excellent books, entitled 'How Children Fail' and 'How Children Learn'.  He questioned how an entire system could 'turn a torrent into a trickle' when it came to human potential.
Eventually, he became an advocate for home-schooling, a movement that now includes millions of children in the USA and thousands in the UK.  The issue of home-schooling is a hot one.  Its critics voice two main objections:
 1. It can create unsociable young people.
 2.  It can be used as a means of indoctrinating a child into a political or religious creed.

Of the few cases I have personally known, the children did not become unsociable and all had a circle of friends, most of whom were deeply envious of the home-schooler.
The second objection is a serious one.  I would guess that in some cases, home-inculcation occurs.  But if parents are hell-bent on indoctrinating their child, then they will do so, irrespective of school.
Millions of home-schooled children have done very well, in exams and in life.

I would like to end by quoting a review of Holt's 'How Children Learn'.  It puts into words, better than I could, John Holt's view of 'education':
"Left to themselves, young children are capable of grasping new ideas faster than most adults give them credit for.  But they have their own ways of understanding, of working things out; and in most cases this fresh, natural style of thinking is destroyed when the child goes to school and encounters formal methods of learning".

Sunday, 11 October 2015

When I suggested, in my post of 27th September, that I hoped that one day school would be no more, I roused the ire of several friends and commentators.  For that reason, I plan to spend two or three posts on this subject, to explain more fully my statement and to convince some people that I haven't lost my mind.

When I suggest that no school is better than any school, the reaction is either laughter or disbelief, as if I concocted such an idea one night while imbibing a bottle of gin.
There are three teachers/authors I wish to write about, since all three saw clearly how school is the enemy of education.
The first is Ivan Illich, who wrote a brilliant book in the 1960s, entitled Deschooling Society.  He describes how learning can be integrated into society, so that 'school' as we know it would become superfluous.  Illich saw our system of education as deeply anti-educational.  Given enough resources, he believed that children would become much better educated without the hidden curriculum of school. "Universal education through schooling is not feasible", he maintained.  When people reacted to his idea, calling it 'mad', he would reply that sending children into a building to learn what they are not interested in, and yet must obey rules set down by others, is truly mad.

Time is against me today, so I shall leave until next week my post on John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, both worth looking up online.  They were forceful opponents of school.  Such a pity that the powers that be continue to trudge along the same, wrong path, deaf to such wise, experienced voices.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

As an English teacher, I frequently emphasised the importance of 'subtext' - which in today's vernacular sounds like a hidden or underwater text message.
Subtext is vital in understanding literature, grasping the real meaning under the surface of the story.
I have found the same applies in life.  What lies behind an action is far more significant than the action itself.  A furious argument between two people can look like contempt and anger, but is really an expression of their interest in each other, if not mutual attraction.

A friend of mine's son, when he was 15 years old, complained to me that his mother was too worried about him all the time.  This used to bother me when I was his age, and I'm sure that it still irritates thousands of adolescents.  It took me quite a while to see that the opposite of concern is neglect.  Kids whose parents couldn't care less what they do, are sending the child a terrible message, one that will reverberate throughout their lives.
In an extreme example of this, a serial killer once said:
"When I was young, nobody cared at all about me, so I grew up not caring about anybody else."
This is not a simplistic excuse for his actions, but is perhaps the beginning of an understanding of why such people exist.
A parent's concern might be annoying and seemingly restrictive to a child, but the subtext of concern is a caring and loving attitude - and that goes for all our close relationships in life.