Friday, 30 April 2010

Education Versus Schooling

I believe that education and schooling are not the same thing. Schooling teaches particular subjects better because of being able to call on specific expertise and having the necessary resources around – nevertheless the controlling element is paramount and it is completely overriding. Whereas education takes place outside of four walls and is delivered unmindfully for the best part, simply through a child’s natural inquisitiveness and eagerness to try new things and experience things first hand.
The transferring of knowledge from a teacher to pupils of his or her class, or a home educator who structures the day similar to that of a school, has obvious limitations.
Schools are criticised for constantly comparing and measuring children’s abilities, perhaps it is necessary, so that failing schools are exposed through the process of testing, allowing opportunity for problems to be addressed and things to be turned around so these schools do not fall through the net. As a home educator I try to remain relaxed and nonjudgmental over stuff my children might not know. It does not matter to me that a particular fact has not stuck with them, or that they do not demonstrate having specific skills. They can relay all kinds of information and have strong opinions. Yes, they may have gaps in their curriculum based knowledge, but they know of other worldly things. They are wiser to different information. It is bound to work that way.
My idealistic views about education have been challenged of late however. They have been challenged by my eldest, K who has spent the best part of ten years educated at home, and the last seven months, in school, attending sixth form. It is interesting because K has seen both sides of the fence so to speak and she is finally forming her opinions and putting things in place in a detached way. Of course, as she grows older and her situation changes so will her views swap and change about her upbringing outside the box.
Her present standing is erratic: K sometimes thinks it cool to have been home educated and sometimes she finds it awkward to talk about it. Rather frustratingly K feels she does not do the subject justice when she responds to questioning. She often finds people’s inquisitiveness invasive. She finds it tricky to talk about something so personal and to justify decisions that were on the whole made by husband, J and I on her behalf. At times she sees and feels differently about learning related issues and lifestyle choices etc.- and she embraces the fact, yet sometimes all she wants is to pretend her road has been the same as that of everyone else to avoid being set aside.
K has made a few implications to me lately; she has suggested my anti-school stance has not been helpful now she is registered in school. I have often stopped to consider whether or not I am anti-school. I don’t think I am. I do have a problem with institutions and figures of authority sometimes. I make no secret about that.
Some may criticise me and say, ‘well, it’s not all about you’. And on that point I’d argue that my comfortable complacency has done, is doing, and will do, my two children more good in the long run.
I watched a documentary with interest called Malcolm McClaren - ‘The Artful Dodger’ screened since his death. McClaren was one who delighted mocking the establishment. What struck me about him was how he saw positivity in failure. He said people should not be afraid to fail or they will never do anything. It is funny, but people would often say to J and I that we were brave to take on the Home Education. Yet we feel it would have been a braver thing to have put our children through school, so it is one of those glass half empty, glass half full situations.
K says her teachers are totally pre-occupied with exams and results and that is all that matters to them. K is someone who has always grabbed opportunity. She has failed sometimes. But, she has always bounced back and moved on to the next thing. School has knocked her self belief at present, but the seeds were sown long ago. She’ll have her day.
The documentary ended with an interview in which McClaren expresses this soulful notion, and I quote ‘Better to be a flamboyant failure than any kind of benign success.’ Malcolm McClaren RIP

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