Friday, March 03, 2006

The Schooling Meme in the UK

From a perspective outside the school system, this sort of story looks depressing. Apparently, "parent satisfaction was excellent, very good or good in 88 per cent of primary schools, 77 per cent of secondaries and 92 per cent of special schools".

The BBC has a slightly more sceptical take on these figures, mentioning parental loyalty to the school as a reason for the response and the commentator on Sky News was of the opinion that the kind of parents who filled in the forms were a self-selecting group of the contented.

All in all though, parental satisfaction with schools is reported today as being up on 1996-7.

You can bet they haven't asked the kids what they think of the whole thing. According to the Beeb, truancy rates have never been higher, despite the massive investment in anti-truancy initiatives and in another report from British Journal of Psychology, 24% of English pupils become victims of bullying every week.

So what is going on here? We see in many of the schooling families we know, a complete disregard for what is going on in the lives of their children. Their children often do not report terrible instances of bullying, violence and vandalism to their parents. If the child does report such things, the parents persist with the woefully entrenched meme that because school is the right thing, the child must somehow adapt.

It's time those form-fillers woke up and faced the real world they are so often keen to tell home educators they are missing out on.


Anonymous said...

"Wake up!"
"No, you wake up!"

I am not sure if this is the right attitude to have. Schools serve some families' interests. Not all parents ill want to be child carers full time. Do you want to force them to be?

I knew many truants in my time and few were the ones that actually wanted to be at home with their parents.

Carlotta said...

Hi Leo,

re: wanting to force parents to be child, of course not. Rather I meant to express the idea that the very common situation of parents not listening to their children and having no idea about the experiences their children are actually having, means that children are often being neglected to the point of severe damage.

Parents persisting in denial and pretending schools are "oh so lovely" will not help their children, though as you point out, it sure helps many parents. Parents often have a strong vested interest in this sort of denial but they will have to snap out of it if there is any hope of the situation genuinely improving for their children.

I know at least 3 families very well who would be happy to fill in those forms saying they are satisfied with schools, when their children report HORRIBLE things to me. The parents do this because they have an embedded meme that school is good, that their child is often wrong, that they cannot be bothered to listen to their kids and they have organised their lives so that school must do the day care.

Their children, meanwhile, suffer and are clearly diminished by their experience of school.

I would only wish that parents would wake up to the problems and try to find alternative solutions. This does NOT mean that I believe it right to force anyone to care for their children when they don't want to. One would hope that this would come spontaneously from parents.

merry said...

A year or so ago, the BBC ran a story about child happiness i schools - they quoted proudly that 67% of primary school reported they were happy and interested in school.

I could never understand how 1/3 of children under 11 being unhappy or bored was acceptable, but that wasn't the spin they put on the story.

Carlotta said...

I seem to remember that too, Merry. Combine that with the stats above and it would seem to point to parental denial or disconnect of some sort or another.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carlotta,

I know what you are saying, but do you really think that the parents of those children you know would have any ability at all to home-educate? Would the children be happy with their parents? Do you think it would be enought for the parents to snap out off the school meme for everything to be alright?

Do you think once a person is a parent it has to quit on growing and conform to ageing? You don't want to force parents but you point them as immoral if they are not kind enought to home-educate.

If there were no cruel truant laws and children were allowed to miss school, they would be happier bunnies. If they could miss classes... If they could go out and about in the street during the day without being harrassed by police and idiotic adults... If they were allowed in public establishments during the day like the rest of human beings... If there were no stupid signs rejecting children from establishments like they were dogs...

But no, your culture treats kids like shit and on top of it disguises it with science.

You have to take a stance against that, not just the parents. Parents don't adopt memes out of the blue, it's all around them.

It's your government wanting to control everything kids do and pressuring the parents to control everything they do. From what they wear to what they eat to what they do.

Children usually survive parents ignorance when society is permissive enough to let them have a life.

Parents do not have to be Gods and do it all for the children. Society has to be sane for everyone to be able to grow and thrive in it. It would be insane if all people would just focus their lifes in taking care of the next generation because all social resources are so bad!

Becky said...

Most parents I know in this part of Alberta graduated high school, so they shouldn't have too hard a time with the current curriculum, which if anything is considerably dumbed down from what it was in their day. I can't imagine the UK is too different.

Few children in the three local schools seem happy to be there, in great part because the work simply isn't challenging and they aren't learning much. But most of their parents don't notice, or rather, I suppose, don't make the effort to notice, because that would upset their own apple carts.

I also tend to think that people should -- as Leo wrote, and I'm certainly taking it out of context -- "focus their lives in taking care of the next generation because all social resources are so bad". Well, I'd substitute "inadequate" for bad, and add the idea that I don't think we should (want to) expect the government to take care of the next generation.

But then I'm a breastfeeding, organic farming, home schooling, independent radical type lol.

Anonymous said...

Becky, you wrote:

"But then I'm a breastfeeding, organic farming, home schooling, independent radical type lol."

That's very cool. I can only farm in computer games and not even then I do it very well. LOL!

I'm an artist who wants to be sucessful, not just do it as a hobbie. I don't find home-education very compatible with this ambition. That makes me less cool as a parent?

Becky said...

Leo wrote:
I'm an artist who wants to be sucessful, not just do it as a hobbie. I don't find home-education very compatible with this ambition. That makes me less cool as a parent?

Leo, I'm not sure I understand why home educating your children would not be compatible with being a successful artist, nor why such an ambition would make you "less cool" as a parent?

Though admittedly "coolness" isn't a factor my husband and I often consider in our roles as parents : )

Anonymous said...

It takes time and concentration.

Anonymous said...


Many years ago I had to stop painting because many factors made it impossible for me. (Maybe I lacked creativity in solving problems but it's too late to rectify that now and I still can't think what I could have done!) One of the main obstacles to painting was the fact of being a mother. Whilst I don't regret the time spent raising a family for a second, if a way had been found of doing both satisfactorily (I think you are right re: painting, it requires as much time as a child takes up to do it well) this would have been a much better outcome. It could be, imo, better for children, too, to have parents who have followed their dreams. This fact alone could inspire them to do the same.

I think the only scenario I can even begin to conceive of that would accomplish this is not so much school as a moderate level of wealth and an incredibly understanding and supportive partner. Otherwise, it is a choice between the child and one's own ambitions...

I do also agree that we have to be able to make mistakes. In fact, we *will* make mistakes so we might as well accept that whilst trying to make as few as possible we will need to forgive ourselves for many.

Something that made me re-think my opinion on the black and whiteness of home ed being good is that when I asked my ds whether he felt convinced that having been home-edded had changed his life for the better, whilst he agreed that it was a great solution for him he felt that he would have found good things in many other outcomes, e.g. school. He believed that the creative mind would win out whatever the situation. This is a little bit what you have said I believe. Perhaps, though, his optimism and creative outlook is due to having been listened to and this wouldn't have existed with more coercive experiences?

Actually, as a last minute thought, I think that if I had been able to truly include him in the situation and ask for his input in solutions he would have wanted to help me achieve my goals as I would him. (I must have automatically used the old parents know best and make all the decisions meme.)

Therefore, the suggestion that I would make to anyone on the subject would be to say that from the rational age (5-8 whatever it is for your child) include them as much as possible in the process of making decisions that suit you all so that you don't end up self-sacrificing too much... In fact, when I think about it, I've seen people do this very successfully.


Anonymous said...

Re: Children being part of family decisions, I have never said otherwise. The issue is when you give them such a negative image of school they don't even want to consider it even if they are bored at home.

I have no wealth and no partner. My life is not an utopia that looks good for HE activism. I don't care. Enough said. :P

Anonymous said...

I don't think people are saying that school is never a good choice for a child. Or are they? And, of course, people shouldn't demonise school in general when offering choices to their children. As you say, it could be an awful lot better than being miserable at home.

Anonymous said...

Anon, people point out home-education as the ultimate ideal. When you point something as an ideal, you put all the rest under it. That is bad enough.

Telling the truth to children about school makes it demonic enough in their light. The only children happy to go to school, must be the ones who believe they must obey adults to some extent and there is valuable learning there they cannot find anywhere else.