Sunday, November 13, 2005

Private Schools Not the Answer

From The Observer :

"Private education: Is it worth the money? Fees at independent schools can reach £23,000 a year, a price many families, unhappy with the state sector, are willing to pay. But, reports Amelia Hill, more and more parents are protesting about the quality of private education"

On top of all the usual devastating problems with schooling, such as the coercion and suboptimal learning environments, the article fingers the fee fixing cartels, some unusually poor teaching, the "Stalinist" attitudes, the emotional sterile environment, the performance anxieties, the educational neglect, and the fact that the more you pay, the less likely your child is to get a first at university.

In seeking to justify choosing private schooling for her child, one mum is quoted as saying about her state school experience:

'The 'lifeskills' I learnt at that (state) school included how to be made to feel awful for wanting to learn, how to be bullied because you have an unusual name, how to cope with the tedium of being forced to read 101 Dalmatians when I was reading Jane Austen at home, how to be ignored because you're generally quiet and get on with it, how to be abusive to teachers and how to be spat on when you got off the school bus. I now work my fingers to the bone to send my daughter to a private school.'

Quite why this mother thinks that these problems are unique to state schools is baffling. Being an academic success at our equivalent boys' private school was a complete no-no. Pupils were regularly bullied in both boys' and girls' private schools for any imaginable difference. Knifing was not uncommon in the boys' private school, though the stiff upper lip and shame meant that more often than not, you hid your wounds. Drug abuse and tedium were endemic. Being ignored, unless you were very unlucky, was the norm though unusual interest and interference by the teachers was a feature of life for some students. OK so on the girls' side we couldn't abuse the teachers, but that was not for lack of wanting to.

Another mum, in despair at all the schooling options, writes:

'Sometimes I think the only answer is to give up my job and teach them from home; how else can I be sure both their education and their emotional wellbeing is cared for? But then what about my life?'

Which sort of begs the question, "why is it only sometimes that you think like that?" and "Can you not imagine yourself into a situation where you can not only manage this, but can also have a life? Home Education is fun for all the family.

Incidentally, author Jilly Cooper writes:

" And the pupils I know from Cheltenham, for example, are always very polite and good mannered".

Which is just asking for trouble really...


C said...

I never understand the 'what about my life?' argument for anything regarding children. Why have children if you don't want a life that includes them?


Carlotta said...

I agree. It does seem extraordinary. Perhaps growing up in a world where age groups are so routinely segregated, and you are way too busy to have any time playing with younger siblings, means that whole generations of adults fall into parenthood without making an informed decision about it...simply not realising what it entails.

I remember being so struck by a remark made by a 12 year old African girl and sole carer of her toddler brother to the misguided question from Divina McCall for LiveAid or some such. Divina to the effect: "so is your brother a complete nuisance"....Girl: "No. He is absolutely adorable. My whole life. I love him so much."

Anonymous said...

It's sad if people see children as a nuisance. But it seems rather harsh to tell parents they are not entitled to their own lives anymore. It just promotes the martyr mum mentality.

As much as we don't want to admit it, schooling did help our society evolve. How would the industrial revolution have been possible without it?

Early on I was fully dedicated in just being a mother. I thought I would never want to draw again or write stories or be just be alone for 5 seconds.

But now I feel more inspired to do other things than mothering. I want to do those things and they happen to be incompatible with giving unconditional attention to a child 24/7. Should I repress my individuality and comform myself to serve my child? Or should I find a way to solve the problem?

Carlotta said...

I do agree entirely that the martyred parent is never a good idea. Children are aware of it, and the conclusions they are likely to draw from it are unlikely to be healthy - eg: that they are the guilty party, or that adulthood is one long grind of duties.

I am convinced though that solutions to the problem of feeling overwhelmed by intense parenting (which may be exacerbated by choosing to Home Ed) do exist.

As the children mature, I am finding that the option of sharing time with other HE families becomes increasingly viable. The children are also powerfully self-motivated to the point where I often feel as intervention on my part is actually hindering their thought processes rather than aiding and abetting.

And there are easy common preferences where I do find that I can profit enormously whilst doing exactly that which the children would most want to when socialising with other HEors, or when investigating something that interests us all.

Technological advances could also make this possible problem more tractable, I think. Interactive learning via the internet (not curriculum or coercion based, naturally enough, but purely spontaneous learning) has worked very well for many older HE children, many of whose parents are able to work part-time, for example.

This certainly is an area that demands scrutiny but is likely to become less and less of a problem the more people decide to opt for HE, since I think that easy access to others with knowledge about Home Ed ethos is likely to render this problem either trivial or entirely obsolete.

Anonymous said...

Martyr Mum..hmm I think I have one of those ;-)
Not only was I and my sibs sent off to one of these fee paying boarding schools in the hope that we would end up being young ladies/ gentlemen , but in a recent conversation she said for once in her life she felt free to do what she wanted.
She was not going to be a hands on granny for my children because she wanted to be free of ties and demands from others.
She feels she has done enough for us all and it is now her time.....fair enough I suppose. She only wanted 2 children but ended up having 5!

Boarding school, I feel, is just a posh childrens home where you learn to survive in an enviroment devoid of warmth and affection. The result is the familly unit may be split forever in some circumstances .


Carlotta said...

So sad re the Gran situation :( Generally speaking, I was rather hoping that grandparents could form a significant part of the solution to the economics of a home educating society and I hope I do stand by my current commitment to help my children's children to HE, should they want to, of course.

re: boarding schools splitting families...Yes, I do agree: children returning at the end of term with entirely different mind-sets, utterly alienated from their parents and yet insufficiently supported in their other environment of school and am sure this happens much more than is generally recognised.

Anonymous said...

The statement that Cheltenham Ladies are very polite and well mannered did make me giggle :-)))


Carlotta said...

Me too! Fiction writing is clearly in her bones and she should stick to it and make it clear that she is sticking to it, imo!