Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The law of the institution

It came like a flash of a bolt from the blue this evening.

Institutions always protect themselves.

Every institution behaves like an organism, and what an organism does is struggle to stay alive.

Every institution wants to stay alive; more than that, it wants to grow and acquire more power, more reach.

Schools are institutions. When you challenge them, they recoil from you. They argue the toss. They subvert your power. They deny culpability. They seek to extend themselves into your personal lives, your home territory.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in December 2008, in the UK, the average person worked 37.0 hours full time. The average five year old in school is supposed to put in ten minutes of homework time each evening so he or she works 32.5 hours (9 am to 3:30) in school and has 50 minutes of homework in a week. That's 33.3 hours an average five year old spends working a week. I've not allowed for breaks because those can be as stressful for some children as the actual schooling part can.

It's even worse for older children. At 15 or 16 the student can expect to devote at least 2.5 hours a day to home work. Therefore a young person works 45.0 hours per week, longer than his dad or mum spends grafting for mortgage money.

The institution of school not only controls with homework, it demands that your child's attendance record is perfect, unmarked by days off sick or visits to the dentist. Parents are now fined, or threatened with fines, if they decide to give their toiling young a holiday in off-peak time.

I recall the ferocity of attacks delivered by two representatives of my daughter's first middle school. The battery was swingeing and nasty, hitting below the belt, nearly reducing me to a state of impotent ire. These bombardments were directed at me because one of the teachers misheard me saying that I would sue the school (which now I would do) for failing their duty of care. What I actually had said was that I was considering suing the parents of my daughter's tormentors.

The institution took exception to my attitude. In a classroom, two teachers stood in front of me and slandered my daughter and myself after luring me in by telling me we were going to 'discuss the bullies.' The bullies were never discussed. They weren't the problem. My daughter was for being bullied. I was for defending her and righteously demanding a swift end to the abuse because bullying is abuse.

Institutions defend themselves. They don't care about your child. They don't care for your child. They don't defend your child's rights; they are only interested in protecting themselves and acquiring more power. They grow. They are aided in this growth by funding from the government which is ultimately our money.

The thought 'Throwing good money after bad' comes to my mind as I think about the institution of school. The thief of time. The robber that steals a child's joy and freedom. A place that is defended and congratulated on socialising many children into the habit of bullying.

What kind of society cheats a young creature of its play? Animals play. Our young do homework.

In return for what?

What kind of bargain have we made to sell our children's youth?


  1. Yup, it's a sad time when a puppy's needs seem to be more important than a child's.

  2. This is so right. Even worse when the parents are paying for the education and therefore demand Results with a capital R. I've just totted up the average weekly hours our wee lass put in for the couple of months she was in a scholarship place before we realized this wasn't life, this was hamsters on a treadmill. Ready for it? Including homework and compulsory extra-curricular activities - 65 hours per week. Anywhere but within the context of school that'd be abuse and/or child labour.

  3. I heard that school parents acually need to apply *for persmission* to take their own kids on holiday!