I am a fool to myself. I went and turned on the news again, and spat at the screen. What got on my nerves this time was the discussion about when to allow children back into school. It’s not so much the issue of timing, but the endless whining about children falling behind that got my goat.
“It is feared that many children from disadvantaged backgrounds will fall behind…”
Fall behind whom? I ask myself. Fall behind what?
The answer to the “what?” I assume is the curriculum, the curriculum that’s written by adults and I guess educational ‘experts’. Woe betide the little boy or girl who falls behind on these educational impositions, especially if they’re from disadvantaged backgrounds, children for whom being absent from school in a global crisis appears to mean sliding down the league table and coming perilously close to relegation.
Not only do I think this is rubbish, I also ask the question: “Why is it particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who could “fall behind”? The answer to this is once again unclear, but in my opinion none of it matters anyway, and furthermore, I argue, the curricula should be scrapped.
The reason I say this is that the Coronavirus pandemic is a leveller, affecting every one of us, and every child. As a result, there is a wealth of knowledge learned by our children that can be explored in depth once it’s safe for them to sit at their desks again. Topics such as what did you learn about lockdown and what it meant for you? What it meant for your family? Did it bring your family closer together? Did it bring your community together? Did you participate in the Clap for Carers? What did you learn about the importance of the NHS? How did you feel about not being able to see your friends? What has lockdown told you about economics, given that your parents might’ve been furloughed or worse? What implications do you think social distancing will have on how we live our lives post-Covid? Will there ever be a post-Covid? How important is healthy eating and regular exercise? I could go on…
So there is a wealth of material here, covering all subjects to be found on a timetable, which if the teachers thought creatively enough, would in my opinion be of great significance to a child’s education, and something that’s much harder to “fall behind” on. In fact, stop saying those words, because they’re inherently negative and give off all the wrong messages – the moment you tell a child (or for that matter an adult) that they are falling behind, there’s a danger that they might give up. I speak from experience because when I was at school one of my teachers told me I’d amount to nothing, hence I believed I’d amount to nothing and questioned the need therefore for studying things like algebra. I just gave up and eventually chose not to go to school at all. If I was to amount to nothing I would amount to nothing without the need to sit in a classroom smelling of testosterone and bad wind. The kids were even worse.
Admittedly things have moved on since I was at school a hundred years ago, but perhaps they’ve moved on too much, or changed too much. Education, in my view, is not something you can measure by any yardstick or curricula. Education is subjective, not all children are the same. So scrap the curricula and allow the child to flourish at their own speed in space to explore the wealth of knowledge they’ve learned over the past three months.
During the Second World War, many children were evacuated, meaning their schooling was impacted. But as far as I recollect from my mother’s stories, nobody talked about falling behind, nobody felt they were particularly stunted academically. She got through her experience and learned from it, and went on to become an adult and a brilliant mother and a professional chef. My mother, incidentally, was from a “disadvantaged background”, in other words her family was poor.
Finally, back to the question “Whom?” Well it’s a question I’m still struggling with so I’m afraid I’ll have to fall behind. But one thing I do know, is that when people come on the news and say these words I spit at the screen because more than anything else, they’re offensive to the many mums and dads who’ve somehow managed to cope, with limited funds, with staying safe, with saving lives, and yes with teaching their children too.
Their children who, like me, will amount to nothing.