Sunday, 23 May 2010


Strange how the US and Britain are so coterminous these days.

What the Americans do we seem to copy or amend. "No Child Left Behind" shout the Americans. "Every Child Matters," we reply, nodding in agreement.


"Our nation is at risk," the report stated. "The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people."

After hearing from President Reagan's blue ribbon commission in "A Nation at Risk" I had an epiphany:

Alternative education could end the rising tide of mediocrity if it was available on a large scale. Alternative education contains the nutrients children and youth need to excel: an understanding for the way childhood works, intimacy and close-knit community ties, and a well-rounded curriculum with arts and social-emotional learning in the core curriculum. "

Yes, pet, we've been stating that for some time. How can you fit an generic education to each individual child? You can't.

Joan Jaekel goes on:

"I am a systems thinker, and understand that when a system senses the need to self-correct, it tends to first swing to the opposite extreme. You decide to go on a diet and pig out on pork chops. It wasn't surprising, therefore, that "A Nation At Risk" resulted in the federal government taking over with high-stakes standardized testing, scripted teaching, the narrowest possible curriculum, and sanctions and rewards, not only for the child but for the teachers, the whole school, and, eventually, entire districts. "

We've experienced that too. Here, the SATS are under fire from those who are required to administer them, but really one test more or less in a constant stream of assessment... what difference does ONE test make when they are legion. Danae shrugs.

"Our efforts to 'reform' public education out of its mediocrity by imposing strict centralized rules has resulted in even greater mediocrity and our goal to "leave no child behind" is as elusive as before. "

Indeed, Joan Jaekel. The goal of not leaving any child behind or stating that every child matters is as elusive as ever because it is an undefined goal. What does it mean? Where do you even start defining such blatantly ridiculous rhetoric? How can you want to sweep every child along on a tide of achievement when a) you haven't defined achievement and b) society is a pyramid with the majority of its citizens being a platform for the lucky minority who are maintained in their place at the summit by the labour of the rest.

But it's all words, isn't it?

Back to Ms. Jaekel:

"Mediocrity is the inevitable result of a system that is too closely controlled and micromanaged from the top. Ironically we, as a compassionate society, send 'at-risk' children to schools that eliminate all forms of 'competition' so that it will be 'fair' to everyone, but because of these traits, they tend to be 'fair' but mediocre.

Excellence happens when a system has room to self-organize and self-correct. The anti-individualistic, un-personalized design of the system itself undermines a sense of craftsmanship and personal commitment that results in excellence."

Yippee! Precisely, Joan. What we home educators are saying is leave them alone to get on with it - not as a lax parent would by providing minimal childcare (a neat and minging insult from Mr. Badman to autonomous education) but by parents being there, available, involved, engaged, helpful, supportive, interested in and encouraging of the youngsters' learning.

Sheesh. It's so simple. Mass produced isn't good enough any more. Individually crafted people, that's in vogue now and forever more.

" We have to look at the challenge to fund every individual child's education as a necessary commitment by citizens towards our collective, healthy future. This needs to not just be an ideal, but a practical reality. As Terry Mollner, co-founder of the Calvert Family of Socially Responsible Mutual Funds and one of the earliest pioneers of socially responsible investing suggests, capitalism, unrestrained, inevitably leads to poverty for some just as socialism, unrestrained, inevitably leads to mediocrity."

We've consumed under capitalism for some time. It doesn't work. It doesn't. If you wish to stay human and believe that every soul has the right to be the best it can be, then capitalism isn't the way.

The film-maker Michael Moore's excellent documentary - Capitalism: A Love Story (I hope you saw it last night or video-taped it or will buy the DVD) - points this out.

"Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" comes home to the issue he's been examining throughout his career: the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans. But this time the culprit is much bigger than General Motors, and the crime scene is far wider than Flint, Michigan."

As one interviewee said she doesn't know how they sleep at night. I always think how many millions do you need to have a 'good' life? Don't they know that public service - to give of yourself to help another human being - is that which makes us happy?

As for socialism, we've seen Mr. Balls (how's your new campaign going, Ed?) as proponent of socialism and he would force children back or into schools to cleanse them of their unique qualities and roll them out as dough under the cookie-cutting National Curriculum.

What we have now in schools doesn't suit PEOPLE.

I'll be watching the US for more encouraging signs like the poor folk who were evicted returning to squat in their own houses and the ex-workers in a factory staging a sit-in to get their company benefits restored (cheered on by President Obama).

The banks have had enough out of us. The meddling politicians have sculpted and resculpted the system enough. The likes of BECTA and Ed Balls have told us what to do with our children's education enough.

We're tired of being poor and we're weary of being mediocre.

And, Lord knows, we've had enough of it all.


  1. It is one of the mysteries of life that the UK feels the strange need to copy all that is pretty naff from America while generally shunning anything good.
    Perhaps it's just part of the general collapse of Western culture. I don't know.
    I do know that what happened last year has sharpened my view on how destructive Government sponsored education is. How mediocre and unsuitable for children's welfare it all is. Of course it is fit for purpose and does indeed produce what it sets out to produce; miserable thoughtless people who can only shop and own.
    It's just sad.
    As you say, we've had enough of it all.

  2. :) well said - as ever !!! xxx

  3. I always feel the opposite - that America tries to emulate Europe too much. And our government is continually trying to take our kids away at earlier and earlier ages. Obama wants to start some kind of "High-Quality Zero to Five Early Education" program. Apparently we can't even be trusted with infants.

    A chicken in every pot and a government monitor in every home!