We don’t need no education We don’t need no thought control No dark sarcasm in the classroom Teachers leave them kids alone
Most of you will probably recognise those lyrics as belonging to Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’, which I was listening to last night surrounded by candles (LM’s doing, btw) and those lyrics, no matter how many times I hear them, always hit a chord with me.
I’m a believer in free education, y’see. By that, I don’t mean education that doesn’t cost anything, although I do believe in that too; what I mean is education where youngsters are allowed to form their own opinions and conclusions rather than having to go along with what teachers and text books say is right, where the pressures of ‘performing’ are obliterated and where kids can be free from bullying, not only by fellow pupils but by teachers too.
Mainstream education may well be the right choice for some but for many it isn’t. I remember Lise’s first year of Junior school, and how she was reprimanded for not writing ‘joined up’. Oddly enough, the same teacher had earlier commented on how beautiful my hand-writing is, so I went to the school and asked her how she could punish my daughter for not writing in the way the school had decided was correct when my handwriting was perfectly acceptable and so was hers. The teacher had no answer other than “it’s school policy that children should be taught to write this way”. Not good enough I’m afraid. I pointed out that hand-writing is individual (hence why we have graphology) and the teacher had to admit defeat. I was not going to allow my daughter to be pressured into writing in a way that didn’t come naturally to her.
There have been many such incidences that, on the surface, may appear petty and insignificant, but they can have a huge impact on a child’s sense of ability. Everybody isn’t good at sport, math, language, science etc. We all have our areas in which we thrive and we all have things that we really don’t enjoy. By utilising the subjects that our children do enjoy, we are, I believe, giving them a far greater chance for the future than by pushing them to do well in areas that just don’t come easily to them. By doing so, I believe we’re bullying them - pulling rank - into being something they’re not.
And then there’s the playground bullying. I don’t care how much a school’s administrators insists that bullying doesn’t exist in their school, it does. It exists in each and every mainstream school I’ve ever encountered (and my kids have been to a fair few) and it isn’t easy to stop. Kids are bullied going to and from school, in the playground and in the classroom (just a look can be enough) and too many kids have already ended their lives because of it. My own children were traumatised by it and eventually I realised that there was an alternative - home education.
I’m sure there are good private schools around too, such as Steiner schools. I don’t have any experience with them so I couldn’t say, but a good friend of mine was once a teacher in a ‘free thinking private school’, teaching philosophy to five year olds in order to open up their minds and allow them to think for themselves, thus drawing their own conclusions and forming their own opinions. That has to be a good thing but we can do it ourselves too. Children need to be able to explore their minds, make mistakes and learn from them without chastisement, and learn to be true to themselves. This, I’m afraid, rarely happens in mainstream state schools.
All too often they’re ‘educated’ to be Just Another Brick In The Wall.