A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Category archive: Play

Monday March 24 2008

From the Telegraph:
image

Nine years ago, when Honoré and his wife - travel writer Miranda French - moved into the area, it wasn’t as it is now. “But somewhere gets a name, then a critical mass, and becomes more that way,” he says with a sad shake of his head. At 40, he now feels like the last of the old guard, surrounded by younger, richer parents who are even more steamed up than he is about their children hitting milestones earlier and faster than ever before. “Everything has to be perfect - houses, teeth, clothes. There’s lots of input, lots of tutoring. Childhood is turned into a rat race.”

What better place to write a book about how we can rescue our children from what Honoré calls “the culture of hyper-parenting”? This global movement for the destruction of childhood has crept up on us so insidiously, and is now so deeply embedded, that most of us scarcely know we are part of it until we have an “Aha” moment. In my own case, it was not until several of my children - then under 10 - had wailed piteously about not wanting to go to violin/tennis/French lessons that I began to wonder whether they were learning anything other than early neuroticism from my eager attempts to expand their minds.

I’m rather suspicious of this “destruction of childhood” notion.  This is one of those phrases laden with ideological baggage, suggesting to me a quarrel between two ideologists, one proposing a new version of childhood and another defending an established but equally unnatural one.  In this case it’s “calm down” versus “push them”.  Previous versions of the same sorts of arguments have involved sex education, and before that television.  Now, along with test scores, it’s also the internet and computers.  Children having a “right to childhood” becomes an excuse for forbidding things.

Nevertheless, he has a point.

Aware that the competition for the best jobs is not just hot but international, we start by playing Mozart to our children in the womb to speed up their synapses and carry on from there, loading four-year-olds down with homework and 16-year-olds with extra-curricular activities to enhance their university applications.

There’s another button of mine, in the form of a rather incontinently used “we” there.  How many people, really, play Mozart to foetuses?  But, again, I get the point.  Some parents are too pushy.

Casual pastimes, such as kicking a ball around, are transformed into tense semi-professional ordeals, and children are hedged about by so many pressures and restrictions that the specialness of childhood - a time to muck about and discover for yourself - is lost.

What seems to me odd about that is the clear implication here that adulthood is not a time to muck about and discover for yourself.  For me, the great joy of adulthood is that for at least some of the time, I get to muck about and nobody tells me to stop.  But again, point taken.  Certainly children like to muck about also.

The result is a generation of children who are wired, pampered and constantly monitored. Creativity is lost. Rates of depression, self-harm and chronic fatigue are soaring. University teachers report that prospective students, unused to independence, hand over their mobiles in the middle of interviews saying: “Why don’t you sort this out with my mum?”

Britain is in some ways worse than other countries, he found. “On schooling we are close to the mad end of the spectrum: we start as young as possible and believe that the supreme yardstick is a high test score. We are right up there with the exam-hell cultures of the Far East, except that they have been doing it for longer and are now trying to get away from it.”

“Exam-hell cultures”.  Good phrase that.

He has a blog.

Monday January 21 2008

Bishop Hill, to whom deep thanks because there is no way I would have spotted this myself, has this picture on his Blog today, and plans to watch what it advertises, and since this blog could do with a few more pictures, I hereby steal it:

image

And the Bishop comments thus:

If you’ve never heard of it, Summerhill is a school in Sussex which is famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for not making its pupils attend lessons. In fact they don’t make the kids do anything. This would have been fine but for the fact that their exam results were rather above the national averages. One can imagine the horror with which this was greeted by the bureaucracy. The result of all this was that the schools inspectorate tried to have them closed down, a battle from which the school has only recently emerged the victor.

Worth a look, I would have thought.

Definitely.

Blogs don’t replace the Mainstream Media.  Well, not yet.  And maybe never.  But meanwhile, they do steer you through the media jungle by your own preferred path.

Tuesday December 18 2007

Indeed.  Mostly when I link to something from here I am tempted to copy a bit of it, and then a bit more because that’s interesting too, and then to say what I think, and what started out as a posting as short as this one extends another screensworth or more downwards.  But this time, my title pretty much says it all.  Why does Boris think this?  For the same reasons everyone else who thinks this thinks this.