Celia Green.com
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Monthly Column, February 2003

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Notes for an article on a newspaper item

An article 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 January … 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.

Celia Green
February 2003

1 Feb 2003
education\skiing holiday truants and cot death 1 Feb 2003




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