Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Deschooling

When opening my eyes to the reality of the schooling system and the negative impact it has on children's lives, I often notice anger arising in my mind. When I say anger, I mean the whole spectrum, from mild irritation to outrage. Sometimes I even feel righteous and justified in my anger; after all, things shouldn't be the way they are! And, of course, 'should thinking' is bound to result in feelings of anger...

On the other hand, I know by now that getting annoyed doesn't change anything out there; it simply ruins my peace of mind. Like the Buddha said, "holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."
There are some role models out there that embody patience and tolerance. A Tibetan monk who was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese talks about his experience in this way:

"The people who tortured me and hurt me, they were not acting under their own control. They were acting under the influence of a mind filled with a misunderstanding of the nature of reality. (...) Many of these people are acting under duress. They are acting under orders from higher-ups and so forth. They don't have a choice about whether they are going to torture me or not. They just have to do this. This is their livelihood. This is how these people survive."

The same applies to teachers, headteachers, SENCos, educational psychologists, educational welfare officers, social workers, GPs, paediatricians, psychiatrists, child psychologists, family therapists, parents support workers, occupational therapists, counsellors, politicians, policy makers, you name it! They're all merely following orders from above and trying to survive. Ignorance is all pervading, to the point that most of them are actually convinced they're having a positive impact in people's lives. Some cogs may have a kind heart but, at the end of the day, they're powerless parts of a useless, sometimes dangerous machine.

Talking about the recent killings in the US, this is what the monk said:

"At a deeper level, this incident helps us understand the importance of raising our children in a society that emphasizes compassion and empathy. This kind of tragedy signals where the hearts of our youth are. And it clearly reminds us that we need to be models of compassion and empathy for them from a very young age, whether as parents, as teachers or other mentors. If we ourselves embody compassion and empathy, our children will quite naturally develop these values and it will be much more difficult for tragedies like this one to take place." [as seen here]

If children learn from who we are and what we do rather than what we tell and teach them, it follows that we really have to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk! A good starting point is to ask ourselves what traits do we want to be modelling for our children right now. Once we are clear about that we can think of specific actions we can take that will embody the values we want to encourage.

It would be great if our society and our institutions embodied such values, but that will never happen for they don't have a soul. They may pay lip service to them but they are, by their very nature, unable to go any further. So it's up to us, individual parents, to take responsibility for that.

The same applies to learning. What kind of role model are we? Are we curious about life and passionate about learning? Are we clear about what we mean by 'learning'? Are we open to the possibility that maybe we're not? Because it is from this acknowledgement that the wish to learn about learning will arise.

Anyway, enough said for today. I'll leave you with a great quote from Carl Rogers:

"I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that is crammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity! I am talking about LEARNING - the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improve the efficiency and speed of his 'cruiser'. I am talking about the student who says, "I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me." I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line: "No, no, that's not what I want"; "Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need"; "Ah, here it is! Now I'm grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know!"

Resources
Maths Dictionary
Learn about electricity
KS3 sustainability resources
Link: Education and schooling - the differences

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