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March 9th, 2005

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01:07 am - School ...
Reading the comments here and reflecting back on my own school days, I can't help thinking (again) that current school systems are in need of radical overhaul.
I'm not sure if there's a good alternative, though. Homeschooling ? How many parents have the aptitude, time and interest in doing it right ? Done badly, it could easily result in worse outcomes than normal schooling. And yet, it could avoid the poisonous socialisation that goes on in so many schools. I've read suggestions in a number of places that we should do away with age grouping, which sounds simply sensible to me. Not all kids of the same age learn at the same rate, or play well togehter, and yet we shove them in to a system which pretends that they do (and generally caters badly for those who are slower or faster than average). Also, mingling kids of different ages might break up some of the worst clique-forming and social exclusion that goes on.
(I should think about this more, research more, and write this post more clearly ... but it's late, I'm tired, and I want to post it now, so ... over to you)
Any thoughts ?
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(10 touches | En garde !)


[User Picture]
Date:March 8th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
I've always thought that homeschooling would work well if:

1. The parents could be sufficiently objective about their child's progress to give them a good education.

2. The parents were happy to accept when they were wrong and correct themselves.

3. The child was still heavily socialised with other children and didn't grow up purely in the company of adults.

I'm not saying people who homeschool do or do not do this at the moment but these are the basic things I consider to be important.

My take on schools is that teachers should be paid more and should have free educational upgrades available to them so that they can keep learning and developing, hence passing some of this benefit onto children. Teaching should be something that people strive to do and it should have very high entry standards.
Date:March 9th, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)
Teaching should be something that people strive to do and it should have very high entry standards.

Unfortunately this means it needs to be high-status, and nowadays this is synonymous with high-pay. And it needs to be maintained. Currently I can see standards going down because as each new generation comes through, they are worse educated than the previous, and the lower wages means you attract the bottom end of candidates - so many (not all) of these young teachers are less competent than the previous, make up for it by teaching easier things, leaving the next generation in a worse position to start from as they are worse educated. Rinse and repeat. We are all dooooooomed!
[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2005 07:29 pm (UTC)
The Netherlands and Sweden (and to a lesser extent Germany) seem to be doing wonders increasing the status (and pay) of teachers. they've realised that you need to be able to attract and maintain good teachers to ensure future competitiveness.

Meanwhile in Oz, the public school system is little more than a child-minding service according to most of my teacher friends. Even if you do want to teach (and these are quite dedicated teachers), the environment (both in terms of student culture and infrastructure resources) simply isn't there any more.

[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)
Although what will be interesting is if they go ahead in Oz and issue vouchers for student education (it's actually purpose is as a nasty trick to increase private school funding). Students (well, parents anyway) will be able to take their vouchers to any school, thus introducing darwinian evolution to the school system.

Personally I just think the good schools will be unable to cope with the increased load and the whole system will crash in flames. [1]

[1] Then again, quite a number of people bought/rented housing in my high school's feeder zone simply to ensure that their kids were able to go there.

Date:March 10th, 2005 02:10 am (UTC)
This sounds like the torie's plans for the UK. Though the housebuying thing already applies.
[User Picture]
Date:March 8th, 2005 09:28 pm (UTC)
It's interesting (and bloody disturbing) to read some of the stories of bullying. There was bullying at my school - obviously, name me a school that doesn't have it to some level - but it was always cracked down on fairly quickly. Which seems to be the difference from a lot of the stories there. I remember reading somewhere about the differences in English, Canadian and US schooling, and the consensus was that the bullying was worst in the US system. I don't know why, but we really didn't end up with the same 'popular' clique system - there were groups, but no one group was really regared as being any 'better' than the others - they were all just different, with different interests.

I tend to agree that cross-age groups aimed at levels of ability would be helpful, although difficult to do sometimes. There is a strong push to cross age groups particularly at the start of primary and high school with the buddy system - an older student is paired with either one or a small group of younger students as a mentor, but obviously this is more an integration/reduction of bullying thing and not so much an educational thing.
[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2005 02:22 am (UTC)
Reading things like that always make me very happy that the worst that happened to me was 5 and a half years of loneliness. And the last 2 weren't too bad cause a new girl who was popular took me under her wing.
Date:March 9th, 2005 12:06 pm (UTC)
I don't think the article really reflected problems with the education system, and none that would be solved per se by home schooling. As haloumi points out, home schooling would only properly work with adequate socialisation and peer group integration, and the activities described are pretty much par for the course in girls around a certain age group (have also myself mixed in mixed-age social groupings, these problems do not go away even then).

The best "defense" to this sort of activity (in my view) is to educate your children to be independent enough that fitting into peer groups doesn't matter and that the concommitant insults that come from not fitting in again have no impact because its from a group of people who are conformists. This is potentially good for the individual, but less of what society is trying to achieve - as millions of individuals are much more difficult to govern and control (in principle) - people who will make their own decisions threaten the status quo and those in authority. It also breeds a type of arrogance, which can easily be misinterpreted and does restrict some future social interactions unless efforts are made to overcome this. (your milage may vary) Otoh, it does seem to attract people worth talking to, as these seem to be also as individual, opinionated and unlikely to take things at face value :)

Thus, in both primary and high-school, most of my run-ins were with the teachers, rather than my peers, the latter of whom I am sure regarded me as some sort of nerdy unshaven poor child. I can't remember even if they did hassle me about it, it was that unimportant. I am, however, aware now that there are social interaction issues I still need to resolve.

This solution also only applies really where there is no physical threat - being beaten up still hurts even if you try to logically dismiss it.

As for my views of homeschooling - I agree with haloumi in many parts. I think in modern society, this is generally only an option though if you are superbly rich (in which case your kid will likely be popular at school anyway and have few problems), or you are a religious nutcase (again, there may be instances where neither is the case, so I'm happy to be corrected). Most days two worker families are required to maintain a household, especially if you want to have any sort of life in the UK.
Date:March 10th, 2005 02:12 am (UTC)


is to educate your children to be independent enough that fitting into peer groups doesn't matter

This of course assumes that their personality doesn't have a strong genetic component, for which there appears to be some evidence (apparently parents of more than one child can tell you this).
[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2005 04:30 pm (UTC)
More thinking about the whole bullying thing: between Dean and I we could only think of two people (both at his all male school) who were bullied by an entire year level. Both had..um.. behavioural problems (pre-bullying as well as post- and having met one of them in the last 5 years, he still needs the meds - and sadly, I still wanted to slap him.)

There was bullying at my school but it tended to be more the one group of people (usually up to about 5) picking on one person. There wasn't any of the 'entire year level/class led by one small group' thing. Thinking about it there seems to be two reasons: 1. small school and 2. no one popular clique.

The small school probably helped in that the teachers had a fairly good idea of who was doing what (and what all our names were) and interfered quite quickly.

The popular clique thing: there were a lot of friendship groups, but there was no one group that everyone aspired to be and that was recognised as being the 'in' group in the same way that seems to happen more in US schools (I'm going by the stories and pop culture here, I've obviously never actually been to a US school. Well, actually, I have, but not as a student, just to a market or something that was going on). So in order to get the clique-led bullying of one person you'd need to have gotten about 5 or 6 groups in alliance... and it just wasn't going to happen.

The uniform thing probably helped as well - I remember that it was getting very cliquey based on dress in grade 6 (we're talking girls here, the boys were still totally oblivious) which was all wiped out when we were all wearing the same incredibly daggy uniform in year 7. More so I think because almost no one had an entirely 'new' uniform: pretty much everyone had either homemade stuff or a second/third/multi-hand jumper (no point spending good money when the bloody kid's still growing), or their older sister/brother's trousers/shirt/dress. There was still some level of fashion victim (plain clothes days were incredible - everyone turned up in their bestest, newest outfit) but for day to day we were mostly seeing how much we could get away with in terms of make up and extra jewellery.

There were certainly students who were generally less popular, but they also had friends that they could cluster with, and groups that they were on the edge of. There was also a multi-age group who hung out in the library and/or computer room, who were probably the prime bullying candidates. But even them I can remember being part of other groups outside at various times.

I dunno, on paper you'd have said I was a prime candidate for being bullied (parents both worked at the school, one of the youngest/smallest in the year level, interested in things like reading/writing/learning, top end of the marks). Maybe I just didn't notice people attempting it (um, not unlikely - I can be completely oblivious to things at times, particularly if I'm not paying attention to begin with), combined with having a reasonable interest in at least two of the groups (I sort of alternated between the 'daggy' group, who I lived near and walked to/from school with and the 'intellectual' group who I mostly had classes with and a lot of after school activities with). I also had connections via sport - I played netball and tennis with and against a lot of people who I didn't socialise with - and guides and church... and it's a small town, what can you say.

Also going troppo on the one girl who tried anything's arse may have helped. I didn't actually push her down the stairs, she was backing away from me and fell. But she didn't try anything again after that (and we ended up being fairly good friends working on a project in year 9). It was also the first time I'd literally seen red. Sometimes PMT is your friend.

Again, talk to someone else from the same school at the same time and their perceptions will undoubtedly be completely different. I may just have either forgotten or wandered through without noticing the first time.

I will say though, girls in year 8? Insane bitches. :-)

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