A recent conversation with a friend got me thinking about the justifications for telling home educated children negative things about schooling. I said it was necessary to counter the misguided societal perception (aka propaganda) that school is a wonderfully fun and enriching place where you can gain a wide-ranging and deeply fulfilling education that will serve you well throughout life, as well as providing you with life-long friends. It’s what most people would like to believe, and it’s what they tell us misguided misfits whenever possible. She thought you should keep the negatives about school to a minimum, to not try to influence your kids too much, which is the standard answer. However, thinking about it some more, I started to wonder just why it is that we feel censored from sharing our views of school with our children. Why is it so important to protect schools from criticism that many dedicated home educators feel they cannot speak a bad word against school to their own children, in their own homes?
In other subjects, such as religion, we can tell our children whatever we like. We can tell them that God created the world, Mohammed was the prophet, we will cycle through rebirth guided by our karma, or that the lot of it is made up by people needing an explanation for things we can’t explain. We have the authority to explain faith in whatever way we choose, consistent with our beliefs.
So why not with school? I think school is a terrible way to get an education, is more likely to result in abnormal behaviour than well-adjusted socialisation, is a violation of freedom and personal rights, and is all around fairly abysmal. So why can’t I share those (well-founded) views with my children? Why is school seen as somehow sacred, indeed more sacred than religion? Why should I bite my tongue (I don’t) while other people tell them how wonderful school is, how much they’re missing out on, and wouldn’t they love to have a schoolbag?
What does this say about society as a whole, that we’re so determined to protect an institution that has a rather average track record of doing what it purports to be its aim? Why is it that we can say that the system needs to be overhauled, that we need to do more of this or less of that, that failure is the fault of the students/teachers/method, but we cannot say the the entire system has proven itself a failure? Why don’t people take a long, hard look at their own experience and wonder if school really did contribute to their adult happiness and success, or whether it has left more negative legacies? Why don’t people wonder if their precious time, a whole 13 years of compulsory attendance, or over 1/6 of their projected lifespan, could have been better spent?
Or, for the million dollar question, why do people accept anything unquestioningly? Keith Farnon has some excellent ideas on why.
Now I have my justification clear-they’re my children, and I can tell them whatever I like. It doesn’t have to agree with your views, or the majority view of society. As long as I am telling them my honest views with no ulterior motive of manipulation, i’m not doing anything wrong.
School’s crap. So there. Just ask my children!