With our son at his last year of kinder before heading off to prep next year, one item at the top of our agenda and the agenda of our peer parents is the question of which school we/they should be sending their kids to next year. I have already touched on what I consider the sad option of private schools, but even ignoring that I still find myself amazed by some of the arguments I hear from other parents. Take these two for example:
“I prefer this school because they separate boys and girls at math and science classes as of year five.”Girls and boys learn differently, true, but does separating them increase their studying achievements so significantly it is worth the social price of the division? I have been a victim of a “mostly boys” high school myself, and I definitely think it had damaged my social skills; I don’t think it made me any smarter. Besides, in a society that is already too blatantly chauvinistic for its own good, do we want to encourage that further?
“I prefer this school because they emphasize discipline.”I recognize the importance of discipline; however, I do not want my child to spend his childhood in the military. More than anything, I want him to learn how to think for himself, not how to obey and conform. If thinking for himself means he stumbles here and there then so be it; I’ll be there to help. Besides, I would be very two faced if I was to say I was any different myself, so why should I wish extra discipline on my son?
Looking back at those two criteria, my feeling is best summed up with: Really? Are these the criteria parents use to choose a school for their children?
The combination of the above two arguments makes me think parents don’t really know what they send their kids to school for in the first place. Perhaps it's a mirror of their anxieties. If any systematic thinking is to be identified, it is that which argues sending their kids to school is the first step they take in ensuring their kids’ future financial success. All’s fair in this quest, including doing things they would not want done upon themselves – such as the application of rather grim “educational” practices.
Parents really owe it to themselves to look up and see what factors truly matter in the educational achievements of their children. If they do, they will find their own involvement matters most, as well as the quality of the teachers. Yet these same parents will vote for the party that wouldn’t raise teachers’ pay and tries to reduce the number of permanently positioned teachers, steps that would clearly reduce the quality of teacher talent at hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these parents seek the schools perceived to be of the highest status mainly to clear their conscience as they fail to become involved with their children’s activities: "I can work till late with a clear conscience because I fork out $20,000 a year on my child's private schooling".
None of that represents what I would call worthy education. I prefer to think of schools as tools to help produce decent members of society. A good school is one that does so while helping the kids enjoy the process. Granted, an even more important purpose of schools is to help their parents be productive by providing child minding services, but that is not an objective by which I would like to choose my son’s school.
By definition, decent members of society are rational, educated thinkers. Clearly not what the powers that be want to see too much of! Clearly not what they want us to choose our schools by, either.
Image by wallstalking.org, Creative Commons license