for an article on a newspaper item
on January 31st, 2003, reports the campaign to restrict the liberty
of parents, especially middle class parents, who use their own
judgement about whether or not it is in their children's interest
to take time off school for ski trips, or other holidays. The
headmaster of a school is quoted as saying, 'Children don't learn
if they're not in class.' The General Secretary of the National
Association of Head Teachers, said: 'But whether children are
on the ski slope or spending the day at shopping malls, it adds
up to the same thing -they're not in class and they're not learning.'
However, there is no reason why they should go on holiday without
any books, and they could easily do themselves more good with
a book in an hour or so in the evening after a day on the ski
slopes than they would be able to manage after a depressing day
spent, attending classes or otherwise, in a school building.
There is no
reason to suppose that they learn anything in a classroom where
their time is at the mercy of stupid and badly motivated teachers.
I certainly regarded any time I was forced to spend at the Woodford
County High School as damaging my preparation for the exams which
I would be permitted to take in the remote future, rather than
contribution to it in any positive way. In addition to the question
of whether there was any acquisition of skills or knowledge, there
was also the question of how much psychological harm was being
done to me, and of course the same questions apply to any pupil
at any school, even if the answers may be less obvious than they
were in my case.
It is typical
of the stupid, authoritarian (dare we say 'working class'?) mind,
proud of its ability to associate one or two factors in a situation,
to wish to impose its pontifical judgements on people who may
be less stupid themselves, and take a wider variety of factors
into account. One headmaster pontificates as follows: '
parents are determined to take children on skiing holidays in
I believe this is wrong. Our staff work very hard
to give pupils the best possible start in life and parents are
continually undermining this.'
Proud of having
grasped the fact that the ostensible purpose of lessons in state
schools is to teach things, as a cover for their real objective
of doing psychological damage, especially to middle class children
with high IQs, this headmaster and many like him identify 'learning'
as identical with 'being in a class', leading to a belief that
attending classes is automatically valuable, and that it is impossible
for any process of learning to take place outside a classroom
under the auspices and direction of a qualified teacher, with
the sole exception of work carried out away from the classroom
which has been prescribed by the teacher inside it.
I know some
middle class people who thought that most of their school lessons
were boring and demoralising. We may notice, of course, that headmasters
are particularly keen to restrict the freedom of action of middle
class parents, whose children are the most likely to be having
negative experiences at school and to be able to work much more
effectively without supervision.
There is a
plan by the Education Secretary Charles Clarke to fine parents
for every day of 'unauthorised'absence by their offspring ('authorisation'
having to be obtained by application to the school, no longer
the employees of a fee-paying parent). Formerly parents paid to
get their children the right to be present in an environment they
hoped would be beneficial, now they may have to pay for keeping
them away from one that they consider damaging.
1 Feb 2003
education\skiing holiday truants and cot death 1 Feb 2003