Thursday, November 02, 2006

Adult Involvement is the Key

According to the BBC news this morning,

"Britain's youth are among the most badly behaved in Europe, a study by a think-tank has suggested. On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top, said the Institute for Public Policy Research. "

And the reasons that are suggested as being contributory?

"Nick Pearce, from IPPR, (a left leaning think tank) said these figures pointed to an "increasing disconnect" between children and adults. He said youngsters were learning how to behave from one another instead of from adults. "Because they don't have that structured interaction with adults, it damages their life chances," he said. The researchers concluded that the lack of adult interaction has left British teenagers increasingly vulnerable to failure. "

Well there we go Home Educators everywhere: this is not our problem and in fact we appear to solve it rather well since one of the things that distinguishes HE from schooling is that children do spend much more time in the company of adults, with all the attendant advantages that this can confer.

And of course, HE kids not only spend more time in the company of adults, they often spend a great amount of time with much younger children, which we suspect is also hugely important in terms of developing a sense of empathy and responsibility for others, as well as learning about parenting skills. I watch my daughter caring her dolls with immense skill for someone of her age, and I suspect it comes from a combination of playing with children younger than herself and watching all those other mums at HE groups parenting their babies so well.

You can only conclude that despite the prevailing meme, school appears NOT to be the perfect place to learn to socialise since pupils spend almost all the time mixing with people exactly their own age. And what with adults working ever longer days, and the recent proposals to extend school hours without more adult involvement, it would seem we have a recipe for disaster.

HEors can afford to make these points as widely as possible, I believe!


Sarah said...

It's just amazing to me how long it's taken anyone to work that out ...

Carlotta said...

Yep, absolutley.. and so sad! It seems the force of prevailing entrenched memes cannot be underestimated!

I've found that the only way other people have managed to shift my own entrenched yet unfounded memes is to go on at me, presenting me with evidence and good argument over and over again. Suddenly, usually when lying in the bath, a light bulb goes on and depending on the size of the idea, I effectively have to do a sort of Eureka moment, though have yet to run naked down the lane!

By which I mean to say, that I think there can be real worth in repeating old arguments again, particularly in the light of new evidence. So though HEors have been saying the above for at least 20 years, it may be that it is worth saying again, in the light of the new evidence that something about the prevailing memes appears not to be working!

Leo said...

At the "Have Your Say" thing, the most popular comments seem to fall on the "liberals are to blame" and "parents and schools are not allowed to smack/ punish effectively anymore" pattern.

Clare` said...

Re. spending time with younger children - I wholeheartedly agree that growing up with children and adults of differing ages around you is so important and is so clearly helpful to our children. My own 3.5yr old positions her teddies perfectly at the breast, yet no one has sat down and taught her how to breastfeed (of course!) - she's 'absorbed' it from spending so much time with me at bfing groups. This is just a very obvious example of the many, many other things she is 'absorbing' just by spending a lot of time with a huge variation of different people. If I sent her to nursery, the only people she'd learn anything from would be people her own age, with approximately her own level of experience. With HE growing as it is, the groups we attend clearly provide the most 'natural' communities that most children around the world get to grow up in and most Western children never have the chance to experience!

Anonymous said...

If you take the comment:
Britain's youth are among the most badly behaved in Europe....On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top,.."

and replace the word 'youth' with 'adults', isn't this just as accurate? How can we be sure that our culture as a whole isn't responsible for encouraging this behaviour?


Carlotta said...

You are probably right...but why could this be, I wonder? My guess is that school could be a source of ongoing difficulty for adults because it divorced them from the real world at a critical time in their lives and set severe limits upon the development of their autonomy and sense of responsibility.

Schools quite possibly didn't produce social breakdown in days gone by when pupils were birched, terrified into submission with tales of eternal damnation or were otherwise coerced into docile behaviour, but in this day and age when we rightly can no longer contenance such treatment, we simply have to look for better ways to impart a sense that life is worth living well.

This theme reminds me of that idea that came to fruition a few years back (which I probably won't be able to source) where teens who had a bit of a history (so to speak) were given charge of young children. The effect was extraordinary. The teens uniformly switched into responsible, caring mode and developed new skills which they had never learnt anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I find having a supportive, interested, involved person/people helping me to do what I want with my life works everytime!

I read a report of research on achievement in school (boo, hiss) that found parental involvement was the most imporantant predictor regardless of class. I suppose thia may relate to similar findings in h.e.

sarah f

Carlotta said...

I bet that would pan out. Paula Rothermel certainly seemed to suggest that this is the case for HEors.

Incidentally, SF, I know you know that I feel bad writing anti-school diatribes without making it quite clear that I am SO happy to know of and see children who are genuinely happy in school...but I just wanted to make that point publicly. In fact, will blog it too as it isn't a point I have made often enough, and as you rightly point out elsewhere, it could be very funny in years ahead should Dd decide to go to my alma mater and found herself just loving the very place I hated so much!

(The place is VASTLY different, I should point out. The current headmistress recently even made a joke with a sexual innuendo!!!)

Anonymous said...


The idea you are talking about where teens 'mentor' younger children is a very active practice in schools at the moment.

I still think it is not possible to say school is responsible for thuggery - at least not entirely - there are other factors. When tooth isn't hurting so much will try to think more about this!


Carlotta said...

I do agree that school isn't entirely responsible, but I think it could be more contributory than simply putting kids into a volatile situation without much close adult input, since it could be that parents, in handing over their children to the system, also hand over all responsibility for their moral education.

If these parents were to realise that they really are responsible for the moral education of their children and that they cannot simply pass on all the work to school, it could be beneficial: the effect of recognising one's own power can be to realise that one has serious responsibilities.

Of course there are parents who don't shrug off responsibility, and I know of parents who may even find quite substantial fault with the moral education in schools, who still offer appropriate remedial help and whose children clearly thrive, but I think this is an even more skilled balancing act than simply taking all the responsibility oneself!

I keep finding instances where school epistemology is not good and unless the parent is really on to it, this could lead to problems. Am just off to blog this one!