"All things are wearisome, more than one can say." - Ecclesiastes 1:8

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Educational myths exploded

I think I'll make this an occasional series. Everyone seems obsessed with education these days and the amount of completely untrue stuff you read in the press (especially if it has been written by Mel Phillips) has got out of hand. So here's one or three that occurred to me while reading some piece in the Times designed to add more acid to the ulcer being incubated in the average middle-class parent's stomach:

Myth #1: Parental involvement in schools is a good thing. No - it's a very bad thing. Don't get me wrong - we could do with more parental involvement in their children's upbringing, I'm all for that : if the average parent could teach their brats some bloody manners; teach them to speak, rather than grunt; and try and impress upon their little darlings that the world doesn't revolve around their needs and wants, ("because I don't want to" is today considered a perfectly reasonable excuse for being completely inert) I'd be enormously grateful.

However, once through the school gates, they need to: leave the rest to the professionals; try to refrain from elaborating on their wildly inaccurate - and usually fairly idiotic - assessments of their children's educational needs; and relax a bit - I get stressed just watching them getting worked up about how much freakin' homework their kids are doing. Which brings me to the next point.

Myth #2: 15-16 year olds should be doing 2 hours of homework a night. This was a government guideline a few years ago. I can't remember the details except if anything it recommended more than two hours. Parents are absolutely obsessed with homework and I'm always being told by some uber-stressed parent that their spotty-offspring "never seems to have any homework". I want to say, "Madam - that the indolent and aesthetically displeasing boy-child you have sired can muster up enough energy to dress himself is a minor miracle in itself; I would be absolutely astonished to discover he did any homework because he does bugger-all in here". That's not allowed, of course - but since I'm being made surplus, I might go for it before I leave. What are they going to do - sack me?

Myth #3: The state-sector is full of "trendy-teachers". I've said it before and I'll say it again - they don't exist, they're a tabloid myth much like the "looney left" running around in pink tutus promoting homosexuality in LEA schools in the 1980s. You may get one or two but the rest of us throw stuff at them as soon as words like "proactive" dribble out of their mouths.

Myth #4: Schools are failing "brighter kids". Schools - or rather our political masters who run them - are failing everyone but no-one more than the less able and those from poorer backgrounds. The one's at the top do okay. So what if the bloody Scandinavians do it better? Who wants to compete with the most boring people on the face of the planet? The problem with our school system is one of inequality. I can almost hear you saying "trendy-teachers who want all to win prizes...holding back the most able blah-de-blah". Cease your internal wittering, disagreeable cretin - you're wrong, wrong, wrong! And if you've been reading Melanie Phillips on this subject, therein lies the path of complete and utter madness.

Myth #5: Schools should enable every child to reach their potential. Not if they're potential murderers and rapists, they shouldn't. "Oh, I don't mean that of course", people always say -"but don't you think schools should encourage kids to go for their dreams and be all they can be?" Oh, sod off! They've already got wildly unrealistic expectations about what they want to be. The number that say they want to be lawyers, footballers, actresses, surgeons etc. - I think I'd be doing them a great disservice to encourage them in their near-pathological delusions about themselves. Which brings me to the last point...

Myth #6: Children perform badly/misbehave/get involved in criminal conspiracies because they're suffering from "low self-esteem". Or so social workers/guidance...sorry, pastoral care teachers keep telling me. Well, I'm sorry but rather a lot of them seem to have rather too much self-esteem. Apart from their ludicrously unrealistic careers ambitions, occasionally a pupil will complain I'm "picking on them" - completely oblivious to the fact that I have neither the time, inclination or interest to involve myself in such a self-evidently pointless activity.

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