In a post I wrote about socialisation, I mentioned that “the focus needs to shift from being cast on risk and harm minimisation to instead asking ourselves do we need to take this direction at all?” and I really wanted to get us talking about that further.
When we began to look at kindergartens for Imogen, she only had a handful of spoken words and communicated with us mostly through signs. Having a child who didn’t meet expectations really made me think about mainstream education. It triggered a snowball of introspection that has never stopped.
Have you ever noticed that if a child cannot write by 6 or read by 7 then they are kind of out of luck. Teaching methods are so dependent on the early development of these skills that there is not nearly enough room to bend. And instead of figuring out how we can adapt more conscientiously to each child, we focus on how we can bring that child up to speed and claim it as a method of meeting their individual needs. However it is framed, the child is pushed to fit the linear progression that only exists as standard because it has been artificially reinforced by the very system we’re trying to fit them inside. Circular logic.
Children don’t particularly have a need to read or write at young ages…. except for the purposes of schooling (or the misplaced ego of a parent). And I bet right now you’re trying to think of all the reasons that they might. But all the reasons would either be a child who WANTS to do something that requires one of these skills or for the convenience of others. When a child actually needs to learn something comes down to just two variables: when they develop a desire for the information/skills or when the person who is filling the gap for them stops; the later of which is something that has been exploited by school’s since their conception.
It is always said that babies learn to sit up and crawl and walk in their own time as a parallel to other skills such as reading and writing in an unschooled setting but what is also true is that babies do not need a parent to stop providing assistance to learn a new skill. No matter what “child experts” might assert, I’ve experienced first hand that a parent need not stop providing help in falling asleep for a child to be able to develop the skills to do so themselves. And that they don’t need a parent deciding to stop breastfeeding for them to wean. Nor do they need a parent to decide to stop carrying them to crawl and walk. A person’s world does not need to be limited or controlled to develop and learn.
When we drop kids into the depths of school it is a huge gamble because the support begins to stop as decided by curriculum, not by a child’s individual needs — at some point whether you’re ready or not it’s on you to be the reader, the writer, the calculator, the knower of facts. To sink or swim in school is largely up to chance; a question of whether the curriculum happens to coincide with what the child actually needs. And even if they happen to succeed in the formulaic approach of mainstream education; can we truly claim we are investing generations of children’s time in the most beneficial and useful way? Not for the convenience of parents or teachers or society. But for them. For their talents, their aspirations, their motivations.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. — Howard Thurman
We’ve created this system, we’ve invested in this system and every time we are shown cracks in its effectiveness we throw bandaids — intervention, medication, aids, tutors, new standards, new curriculum, new objectives. We take further freedom from children, we take further time, we chip away more and more pieces of who they are in the quest for more uniform results. Because we have decided that those are our goal posts, we made it up and now feel bound by it because we have forgotten as much. We’ve literally set up expectations and then forced ourselves to cram within them. And why? Really, why? Is the society structure we have now really worth the sea of broken and lost people it leaves in its wake? Doesn’t it kind of defeat the whole purpose? Yes, we get to the other side but at what cost?
And these broken people exist, they might not even realise it. I was one of them and I see them. I hear them. And you know what they say? If only I’d tried harder, if only I’d paid more attention, if only I’d been more organised, more committed [to all the things somebody else decided you should be]. If only I hadn’t wasted the opportunity [you know that opportunity that was 100% forced and expected of you]. If only I’d been different. But what if school was the one that let you down? What if school was the one who had the responsibility to adapt to you and failed? Concepts are created with the intention of serving humans, not the other way around. Schools should adjust to the needs of humanity, humans should not need to adjust to the needs of a manufactured concept. We should be loyal to our children, not an idea. And if we viewed things from this perspective, it is clear that school is completely out of touch.