Sunday, 11 October 2009

Independent review of Elective Home Education - DCSF page

The DCSF says:

"All children and young people are entitled to a good education. This doesn't necessarily mean children have to go to school: many parents choose to educate their child at home'.

I have to take issue with the first part of this. According to Protocol 1 Article 2 of the ECHR 'No person shall be denied an education'. OK, a person should not be denied an education and nothing is mentioned about a good education. The state provides an education but scarcely anyone agrees what a good education is and many voices would howl me down if I said the state provides a good education.

How do we actually know what a good education is? Other than some helpful judges with an almost impossible task, no one can define what a good education actually consists of. If I were like my father, I would say everyone should have an education in the classics and in Maths, and maybe have a run around a football field once a week for a bit of a diversion. If I were a P.E. teacher I would probably say that English is a natural thing for English people, and we should be doing more push-ups, football, rounders, cricket, cross country running, ski=ing...

I would hate both definitions of a good education because I am not good at Mathematics - oh, I can get along and I can excel myself if pushed, but I'm not a cleaving-to-numbers-natural mathematician. As to P.E., I was one of those children who dreaded the lesson, unless it involved dancing, and hated the idea of being at the mercy of several bullies who knew how to take advantage of the opportunities advanced by the myriad wonders of Physical Education, indoors or out.

So, for me, unless you're a budding Steve Cram or you loaf about doing Calculus in your fun time, don't ask me to vote for at least two members of the National Curriculum.

The convent school I attended had Sewing classes (don't laugh, it did). Oh, the humiliation. The pricked fingers. The continuing and absolute hatred I had for my kit, my uselessness and the horror of having to 'make a dress' for the 'fashion parade' at the end of term. It was a term already contaminated by the terror induced by the prospect of having to emigrate to unknown Canada at the end of it. I laboured: I did labour on that darned dress. I learned to detest the material I'd bought - the cheery bright yellow mocked me, the patterned yellow leaves and flowers irritated me. I heaved at the thought of more endless, boring tacking. In the final countdown, my dear aunt who was a dab hand with a needle took pity on me and finished the garment. I wore it on the catwalk. Everyone was underwhelmed. I was embarrassed. I was sick at heart, but relieved to get the ordeal over and relieved that I wouldn't be 'tested' on something so foreign to my nature again.

So what makes a good education? I think it comes from inside yourself. I think it's your motivation. I think it is what interests you, and what interested me was reading, reading, reading, other people, history, French, reading and writing, more reading and, gradually, even more writing. In my adult life, people now pay me for my writing. Putting pen or word processor to work was an 'out of school' habit. I didn't write at school. I did the minimum amount of writing I could do at school because my writing, my real writing (my love) was private. It did not belong to the school, it belonged to me. I didn't want my adoration of the written word to die prematurely because I was forced to write.

So it was a secret. All those years ago it wasn't ready to flower and grow and be stomped upon by the foot of criticism it would probably have received in school. You get very little encouragement in school, I found. It was all 'Well, you should have/could have done it this way' Or 'that's wrong'.

Or even, once, after one of my short stories was marked, I was asked, "Did you copy? Is this your own work?"

Mrs. English Teacher, no, as I told you at the time I didn't copy. I read everything like a pig enjoys truffles and I got good because I did what I enjoyed doing and enjoyed getting good at, and your severe, distrustful look and your swingeing insult could have blighted the little plant beneath the bushel but, thank the universe, it didn't.

It was mine and you didn't put your big feet all over it while it was growing - my talent was buried under a bushel until it was ripe and until I felt confident enough to let it try itself in the full glare of light.

Then it flourished. As all true real passions have the ability to flourish when they aren't trampled all over by strangers with gigantic damaging assessing criticising destructive unsympathetic plates of meat.

I gave myself the best education I could give myself. I gave me the education I would wish schools had given me. I did what I was good at and I wasn't put off what I loved until what I loved became what I was good at.

Most of what school gave me was heartache. Years of time wasting. Hours of droning boredom.

My life gave me my education.

How do you deliver an education? You are fooling yourself. You cannot deliver an education. You can help someone through their thoughts and emotions and finding out information, but never ever stomp on their little talents.

Those little talents might, one day, save the world.

1 comment:

  1. Yep, I think the only person who can truly judge whether or not they have received a good education is the person who has (or has not) received the education - and each individual will use different metrics to ascertain this. Douglas Carswell wrote this blog post: which I think is pretty pertinent to what you've said here. Lisa