Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

Albert Einstein


Moon over Tennyson Down

OK – this is going to turn into something of a rant….

Last week one of my children, whose school topic of the moment is “Space” came home having been encouraged to consider whether the reported 1969 footage of astronauts walking on the moon was fact or fiction. Fantastic! This was a ten year old being encouraged by a creative, confident and far sighted teacher to actually question what he had hitherto assumed to be a fact.

It was brilliant – isn’t this what education should be about? Challenging, not taking the written or spoken word as gospel, critical thinking. It’s ever more important in the age of global communication where (as I mentioned in Skinners Pigeons) the research shows that the majority of young teenagers actually believe without question what they google. Given the internet is to a large extent unregulated, aren’t skills to question, to objectively evaluate what they’re being told and act accordingly, what we should be instilling rather than filling the curriculum with facts to be regurgitated when required and as a result ticking the boxes of “normal” development – with those kids who don’t tick the results somehow being made to feel less than.

I went through an extended essay with one of my older kids recently – initially it read rather like a Phd thesis – it didn’t flow, the child didn’t really understand what she was trying to say, it had a “copy and paste” feel about it – even though it wasn’t. When we tried together to work on is, I constantly came up against “The marking scheme requires….” The marking scheme is the thing that gets “points” and the points are the things that determine overall grades. The sad thing is that in this case, the marking scheme seemed to make no allowance for individual interpretation, for a fresh way of structuring the writing in a way that made sense to the child. It was actually discouraging individualism.

We want to teach our kids to be themselves, to celebrate their individualism, to create, to explore, to get it wrong sometimes and to learn resilience. This is not in any way a criticism of teachers – who I think are actually trying to develop these things in their pupils but are fighting a constant battle against lack of time, funding, testing and constraints of the curriculum.

So my thought for today is to celebrate and encourage the individual – don’t get caught up in feeling that you – or anyone else “should” be a certain way. Keep testing, don’t blindly follow the flock, learn and encourage a pragmatic, suck it and see approach to life. Don’t live “through a glass darkly” for fear of being seen to be different.




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