Schooling the world

Someone passed on this link:
Schooling the World
The film looks fascinating and thought-provoking.

I admit: schooling makes me hideously uneasy.

Not least because I disliked school myself; from the first day, feeling like I’d been thrown into a place not unlike a prison yard, with its numerous gangs, each with their own mysterious and threatening codes. The teachers (at our school always kind and friendly and slightly pitying) seemed to sense my unease and try to reach out through it, but that wasn’t much help.

At the time, I never questioned that the shortcoming was my own. It is, after all, a badge of normalcy, fitting in at school.
I simply channeled my energies into winning those other badges: the academic ones. If one could jump through the hoops of attaining A-pluses on every test and project, at least there was the guarantee of a certain amount of approval from those well-meaning teachers.

So: a breeding ground for competition and approval seeking. Personally disastrous, but academically passable, certainly for its time.

Much later I encountered the idea that school isn’t necessarily, unquestionably, the only way of educating children. And the idea that schooling itself might be based on quite a lot of questionable historical forces.

These days, I remain sceptical of many aspects of modern schooling. The uniformity of the approach: bring large numbers of children to a single institution, and teach them to listen to a single authority, to conform.
The style of it – channeling kids into bands of same age (sometimes same sex), often same background. The focus on “discipline” – so often code for fear.

The history of modern schooling is also disquieting. Until relatively recently, there was no such thing as the kind of institutional one-size-fits-all school that we take so for granted now.
It was the Industrial Revolution that set up the need for a uniformly compliant workforce with the requisite literacy and logic to follow instructions and operate machinery. One of the key principles was obedience. The emphasis on discipline is entirely an organisational requirement: in a mine or a factory, it’s crucial that people are trained to stick with rote tasks, no matter how dull. And trained to listen to those higher in the chain of authority. Fear for authority is very useful in this kind of setting – although it’s also entirely necessary in a school where a single teacher has to maintain a semblance of order amongst a large group of charges.
The missionaries set up schools to pour British, Christian values, ideas and customs into the children of the colonies. The rows of school desks were not unlike the pews of a force-fed congregation imbibing the norms, values, aspirations and practices of their colonisers.

Schooling has changed a lot since those days, and pedagogy will speak glowingly of child-centred learning, of fostering creativity and problem-solving, and life skills. But it seems to me that the institution is built on a badly flawed foundation. The original foundation of the schooling system was intended to create compliance, obedience, uniformity. And, in a sense, that’s still what it does. It’s a convenient outcome for the big business that dominates our 21st century. The dynamics of the school playground are such that no child can easily escape the marketing machinery focused on creating a hungry mix of consumerism and brand loyalty.

I’m interested to view the film.

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About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
This entry was posted in home education, media, parenting, society, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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