I’m *almost* back to school full-time. Things have come up and I’ll be out of the classroom for a few days this week and a couple of days next week. I guess I’m being released slowly back into the tank, kind of like you do with a new goldfish.
Yesterday I spent the whole day at school. Being away from a place for a while makes it seem quite alien/foreign when you return – you see things with a new pair of eyes as it were. What I kept seeing was hundreds of young people doing what they were told to do. I guess for many that’s a sign of a great school – a productive school that runs well. And it does and it is a great school and it is well run (I had the pleasure of telling this to a mother from my son’s school yesterday as well). So where am I going with this? I suppose I just can’t get out of my head the image of the hammers and the child-meat grinder from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.
I visited my son’s classroom yesterday as part of Open Week celebrations. Or is that Education week? Who knows. What did I see? I saw all of the desks facing the front – my son is in Year 2. I saw neat workbooks full of completed (and half-completed) worksheets. I saw ‘art’ displayed in a ‘gallery’ – all black cardboard framed and tidied into neat rows. We all marched to the playground when the bell went and ate lunch with our kids as a special treat. When the second bell went we allowed our kids to go off and run around the oval or swing on the play equipment. When the final bell went the parents filed out of the school and the kids filed back into class.
OK … maybe it wasn’t as bad as I’m making it sound. I did read an amazing poem written by my eldest son. It blew me away and I was thankful that poetry is still being valued in school but then I asked him how he wrote it and he showed me how he followed a model and it made me sad. I don’t know why. Poets have always used models, rules … haven’t they?
Last night someone I know posted on facebook about his fear that his young daughter might have her creativity squashed by school. Right now as a pre-schooler she’s free to walk silly and sing nonsense songs in public. We all know neither of these will be tolerated in school for very long. He is justified in his concern. I am continually surprised by how accepting parents and children are of their ‘education fate’ … the ‘this is how it always has been and this is how it is and will be forever’ attitude. The blind acceptance that this system we’re all caught in is normal and acceptable. That there is nothing wrong with how things are.
But they’re wrong. It isn’t right. All you need to do is talk to parents and children and you’ll discover the unhappiness. The frustration with testing, with being treated like a battery chicken, with bullies running rampant and the disinterest of teachers. The students know they are just numbers jumping through hoops trying to become bigger and better numbers. The students know the system is broken. They know that it’s all a game and at the end of it all the only lessons they will remember are the ones when the teacher farted or their best friend got her hand stuck to the table in Art. They know that ‘school’ is glorified babysitting so Mum and Dad can earn money to buy dinner and pay for the wifi.
I just don’t understand why we can get THOUSANDS of teachers to ‘protest’ about funding cuts to public ed and we can’t get any parents or students to protest again the SYSTEM itself. Why is it up to teachers to protest about the failure to implement the suggestions of Gonski? Where are the young people firing up at the fact that once again their rights and needs are being ignored? I can’t understand why there isn’t a riot – of at least a refusal to send young people to school en masse. Oh, that’s right … they’re all anesthetised by the fucking Olympic Games.