Tuesday, 14 November 2017

School - what's the point?

What do these successful people have in common?

If you haven't already guessed it, they were not successful at school.  Either dropped out, were labelled as not amounting to anything,  were bottom of the class, hated school, or even worse, expelled.  At prizegiving every year, I remember, in my role as a leader in a college, sitting in the front row on the stage in my black gown, groaning as yet another successful guest speaker got up and told the students how he/she was hopeless at school, but succeeded anyway, and here they were, trying to inspire them on to greater things in their school years and beyond.

So why do we still have this ridiculous system that moulds people into compliant citizens - "prepares them for the world" as we are so fond of saying? 

My guess is that we retain a schooling system for convenience.

  • It is convenient, as parents, to have all of our children out of our way so that we can get on with the job of making money.  
  • It is convenient, as teachers, to have large groups herded into manageable lumps to incubate compliant students.  
  • It is convenient as a learner to have everyone educated about the same things so that we know what each other is talking about.  
  • It is convenient for politicians to slip inadequate sums of money to institutions to bulk-educate our masses.  
  • It is convenient for the economists to prepare our young ones for the same kinds of work that we all know about, to make the financial world, as we know it, go around.
We are one of only a small group of animals who prepare their young for the real world by handing them over to others.  Fish do it, send them off on their own in schools (lol) and a large pack of African wild dogs will all take responsibility for bringing up the pack young, as do ostriches, but relatively few hand over responsibility for prolonged periods of time, like we do. Dominant meerkats will force submissive ones to wet nurse and look after their brood, even going so far as to kill off any progeny that the submissive ones have. 

I am not really into anarchy - I do think we need some sort of order in our communities.  But, I do think that we could be a bit more imaginative about what goes on with our progeny.  I am not saying everything that we do at school is bad.  But, honestly, to those unconvinced members of the public, we need to get real about some of the reforms that we are trying to bring into schools, like MLEs (ILEs) and start thinking maybe there is a purpose for differentiating, individualising, and personalising learning.

So let's be relatively pleased about the convenience of school and start supporting different ways of thinking and doing in schools that will develop individuals who have their own strengths and skills. 

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