Yes my daughter dipped her little toe into the culture of our education system today – she went to her first day of pre –school. The first of many. Time has run away from my wife and I – our baby has entered the education system and nothing will be the same again.
Okay, I know, I know, it’s only pre – school; games and play and fun. It gives our daughter the opportunity to learn how to socialise, communicate with others, gain confidence with her peers, learn something about independence, understand group dynamics, blah, blah, blah, all fundamental life skills that she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life. I know.
But despite all that I can’t help but feel we are at an important juncture, a time when she heads off into a system of education that will try to eradicate all sense of individual thought, critical thinking and creative play. It stands to reason. We live in a country that promotes learning by rote and whose education system has a predilection towards science and mathematics – all subjects that are the apparent basis for the successful economic state of our country.
Problem with that narrow outlook is that we are not solely an economic state, an Ireland Inc (last time we bragged about that we went down the toilet and still remain there), we are a people and yes, science and mathematics are important, but surely what is more important is that we inculcate into our children the importance of place, of community, of where they’re from, their history, a sense of who they are and where they’ve come from. If you don’t know your past what hope is there of the future?
And equal to that cornerstone of education should be the teaching of critical thinking. We live in an age of mass stimuli, of innumerable technological platforms through which information is disseminated at micro speeds to the masses. If we want our children to have the ability to deal with this deafening overload then we must give them the tools to do so.
It isn’t enough to say
“Well in my day we made do with what we had, we were never bored”,
“When I was a kid we played outside and climbed trees”
That world has gone or is at least not reachable for most kids as societies are becoming more urbanised, globalised and gentrified. But while the realities of the world continue in flux, the education system remains in statis, fixed, avoiding the uncomfortable truth that not only has the means of exchanging knowledge changed forever but the content has too.
Our world is becoming more fractured, individualised, globalised and materialised our children more disillusioned and what does the education system do? What is its answer? To increase the pressure on children in an effort to churn out young adults ready for a market place that doesn’t even exist.
The consequence of this action? Millions of kids on prescription drugs for ADHD and Bi – polar disorder, millions of kids who have no sense of anything other than a material world in which everything can be bought and sold and trashed, millions of kids who have no chance of getting out, are increasingly marginalised, millions of kids who can’t think for themselves.
We underestimate our children, we rush to claim that their attention spans are somehow shorter, that they get bored quicker, they’re spoilt, technology has made them lazy, the internet is the devil incarnate, that they can’t think for themselves and their values are appalling. In short we blame everything but the education system which we put them into for up to 14 years of their life. The same education system that no longer encourages children to think critically, the same education system that no longer views history, geography, art, music and play as important, the same education system that has become so reductive – that it seems to me anyway – that its sole job is to create automatons that believe that success lies in material gain and wealth creation.
So there we have it. She has entered the system. She had a great day, didn’t want to come home and can’t wait to go back. I can only hope that as time marches relentlessly forward I can keep challenging her, keep her from toeing the line, keep her asking questions, challenging preconceived ideas and not accepting that there is an answer to everything. I want my daughter to question the world she lives in not accept some preordained role in it
688 total views, 2 today