Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On The News

I found out that the precedent is being set for the corporation control of schools, with a US firm managing a UK state school. Meanwhile, other schools resort to all sorts of tricks to cope with the management by numbers approach, including urging pupils to drop maths.

We are also reminded that when it comes to the education system, the reasons why we do certain things have no really valid basis; rather, they are "habits we rarely question." I didn't know, for example, that the reasons behind the longer summer holidays was to enable children to help during harvest. Here's an excerpt of the article, by Estelle Morris :

"And why do we make most of our children change schools at the age of 11? Because it is good for standards? Or because it is bad practice to have 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds in the same school? Not really. Half a century ago we decided that 11 was a good age to select a child for an "academic" or a "practical" education. So children change schools at the age of 11 because of the 11-plus, and it seems to have become a habit we rarely question.

But is it the right thing to do? There is an argument that both academically and socially it can be a bit of a disaster. The evidence tells us that academic standards are likely to drop back when a child changes school, and we know that children need stability. Changing schools at 11 means changing their physical environment, their teachers, their friends and the very structure of the day - in one fell swoop. Overnight, they go from being the oldest to the youngest, and from learning in a small community to learning in one perhaps five times as large. It doesn't do a lot for children's emotional security."

My school experience was very different. School started at 1pm and finished at 6pm. That meant I could stay up late and wake up late. I never had a uniform. Revising was something to do whenever I chose to. I never, ever, throughout all my schooling, had a single piece of homework to do. That didn't stop me getting a first class degree, so I'm living proof that the theories about homework are nothing but bullshit. The Homework Myth looks like a good book...

School summer holidays lasted 3 months, which were spent at the beach. There were no half-term holidays. Truancy was never a big deal. If children skipped lessons, parents would never be blamed or perceived as responsible for their children's truancy. Rather, the children themselves were implicitly encouraged to take responsibility for their own behaviour. We were allowed a fixed number of unauthorised absences, which I made the most of, and it was our responsibility to stay within the limit - we knew that if we didn't we might end up having to repeat the same year!

There was one school up to year 4, another up to year 6, another up to year 9, and finally another up to year 12. The transition to secondary is a particularly difficult time for children with Asperger's Syndrome. But then, apart from parents, who gives a shit? Not the teachers, not the schools, not the system. That is, unless children become so distressed that they end up acting out their suffering. The saddest thing is that, due to staff's ignorance and lack of empathy, this is inevitably misperceived as a behaviour problem. Typical example of projection! What we see is what we are. In this way, vulnerable children, the victims, are blamed by the perpetrators. As institutions, schools' main aim is their own smooth running, not children's education or well being, so there's only one possible solution - expulsion! Hmm, and I thought lack of imagination, empathy and flexibility were supposed to be autistic traits...

Anyway, lets go back to the news. A teacher who went undercover to expose violence in UK schools finds herself in trouble. Whistleblowers beware! There's a link to another interesting article, where a teacher admits that her role was one of crowd control. The teacher said: 'My role was simply one of crowd control. I felt useless and inadequate.' Her estimate was that, on average, she failed to teach anything at all in 4 out of 6 lessons a day. Other teachers confirmed that they lose around 3 months a year of teaching attempting to control children's behaviour.

Obviously, such an environment is not conducive to learning. Much less so if you are, like most aspies, hypersensitive to sound and thrive on quietude and calmness. My guess is that all children, and aspies in particular, would struggle to "rise above the chaos" and get used to "a cacophony of noise." But never mind, if things get too much, the school can always kick them out. Or call the "experts", who'll do their very best to get the child to meet the needs of the institution, and not the other way around.

And finally, if children manage to survive the ordeal, make sure they have realistic expectations: after all, school leavers don't have much to look forward to.


[xXx...Ms Esther...xXx] said...

I'm home educated 2

Astryngia said...

Great post! Expressed my feelings exactly. Very cathartic.

On TV tonight I heard a critic of the education system point out that government targets actually require 85% of children to be average. "That can't be right." ;-)

Zaecus Celestis said...

lack of imagination, empathy and flexibility are also organizational traits of institutions of all kinds; schools, corporations, hospitals. They get worse the larger the institution, and it seems it might not matter if your particular branch of it is a small one.

Meaning that a very small school that is a connected part of a large school system could show all of the same problems of the large school system even though the more intimate environment and expected familiarity of teachers and students should actually encourage imagination, empathy, and flexibility.