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Category Archives: Life

What about social development?

When I talk to people about our educational philosophy, the most common response is: “what about the children’s social development?”. There are at least two assumptions behind that question:

1. Children cannot socialise outside of school
2. Children need to be exposed to a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and points of view in order to develop a critical mind Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Life

 

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Our home-based vacation

My wife Anne-Marie and I have been married for nearly 12 years, and we have only ever been on vacation once! After a long and difficult year, we’ve decided to take some time off and do some fun things as a family, things we haven’t had time to do.

So where should we go? What should we do?

Well, I had a crazy idea, and Anne-Marie was crazy enough to think it was a good one! Why not have a holiday at home? Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Life

 

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Learning by doing

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Joshua, 2 1/2 years old, learns to use a sewing machine to sew a felt pouch for his toy fire engine

Joshua will not be going to school, for reasons I have explained earlier. He will not be “home schooled” either. When I told a young lady about this today, she appeared horrified and muttered “You can’t do that, it’s illegal!”. I hope she thinks about it a little more, but shock is a good start.

What is Joshua doing in this video? He’s learning, and loving it! He didn’t have to be bribed, threatened or praised, he just wanted to do it. That is how children learn. We are not here to educate them, but to provide them with the resources, guidance, safety and autonomy they need to explore the world on their own terms. Joshua will be “educated” that way. It works. Some call it “unschooling”. I prefer the term “natural learning“.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Life, Psychology and Sociology

 

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Why Joshua won’t be going to school

This post is long overdue, the main reason being the depth of the topic. I find it difficult to know how to present my thoughts in a way that will be coherent for the readers. However, as I have had many opportunities to talk about this with friends and acquaintances, I think it’s time to put the fingers to the keys!

Mass schooling is a one-size-fits-all approach to education that is not intended to meet the needs or build on the strengths of individual students.

Mass schooling takes away from the parents their sacred responsibility to rear their children.

Schools are psychologically toxic environments for all their participants. Even those who appear to thrive in them tend to develop pathological perfectionism, subservient attitudes towards all authority figures, and/or a disdain for others whom they perceive as threats to their success. Dissent, that essential characteristic of all healthy societies, is punished in schools throughout the world.

Mass schooling “kidnaps” the children from their parents for 12 years to teach them things they aren’t likely to need in the future (history, geography, science).

Mass schooling forces children to learn certain things at certain times and in certain ways, and to regurgitate this information in certain formats. It deprives them of the opportunity to learn things when they’re interested in them.

Mass schooling is built on a number of faulty assumptions:

  • Children will not learn what they need to learn unless they are coerced or manipulated into doing so
  • Children are naturally inclined to be lazy and avoid learning tasks
  • Children are only interested in eating junk food, playing video games and engaging in other forms of entertainment.
  • You need to be professionally trained and qualified as a teacher to produce meaningful learning within a child
  • The curriculum devised by the education department represents the best possible educational approach for all children

Mass schooling saps away children’s creativity, and does so by design (see Sir Ken Robinson).

Mass schooling severs the emotional bond between parents and children.

Mass schooling immerses children in the most artificial environment on the planet, where they only get extremely limited choice as to whom they spend their time with, when they’re allowed to speak, what they’re allowed to say, and how much they’re allowed to develop their interests and talents.

Mass schooling is not an ideal environment for socialising, as most friendships there are transient and have little emotional weight, while the risks of segregation and bullying are very high.

Mass schooling attempts to force learning upon students, whereas learning is a natural, self-directed activity that almost defines humanity. Schools do this at the worst possible time of people’s lives: after their most active developmental learning period (4 years old); during the most turbulent and confusing period of their lives (puberty); and before they are mature enough to appreciate the value of education.

I could go on like this, the list of reasons continues to grow nearly weekly.

 
 

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Dissent in Australia society

I’m becoming aware that Australian society is threatened by people meeting and talking about more than trivia. Children are institutionalised at an increasingly younger age, and kept isolated from meaningful dialectical intercourse with peers and adults alike until they are nearly unable to even question this order of things.

The purpose of this is to discourage dissent. Dissent threatens all institutions, and nearly all institutions exist to serve the interests of the elite few who control them.

Even compulsory schooling, nursing homes and urbanisation cannot fully smother the basic human need to engage in meaningful discourse with each other. To discourage the rise of dissent globally, society has devised appropriate tools. The television and the multitude of screen-based technologies that have spawned from it have become the ultimate instruments of ubiquitous delivery of propaganda. They ensure that conversations between all people under 45 are focused on pleasure-seeking topics like sport, video games, sex, alcohol, movies and music, while people over that age have moved to loftier subjects of discourse, namely wealth, health, then death.

The strongest form of common dissent consists of shaking one’s head, mumbling something about bloody politicians, and switching channels to something less anxiety-provoking, like the latest sitcom, whose premise is almost universally that of deriding all forms of human interaction.

Dissent is discouraged in many ways, some overt, most covert. Children especially are discouraged from questioning the status quo. We patiently tolerate their boundless curiosity while they are below school age, but as soon as they set foot in that sacrosanct institution, dissenters are treated as dissidents, heretics, or simply mentally ill. Teachers pretend that their punitive or therapeutic approach is intended to benefit the deviant child, but the truth is that they are only protecting their own position, their institution, and the society within which it has comfortably established its fiefdom.

We are not just discouraged from thinking outside the box, but even from believing that thinking has any sort of causal effect on society.

Children who get bullied at school are referred to psychologists so they can receive coping skills, with the rationale that these skills will be crucial when the child finally emerges, from her 12-year abduction by the schools, into the “real world” where adults will inevitably laugh at her freckles and shun her during lunch breaks.

The only reason the myth of the “big, bad, competitive world out there” has become our reality is that children have been indoctrinated with it, and taught how to act out a scripted role in a play that has no end, no producer, and no spectators. The simple act of expecting the worst of others brings out the worst in us, thus turning us into the abject reality others have been led to expect.

Thus warned against the ill intents of nearly everyone we will meet in the world of adults, we keep all our social interactions at a safe level of superficiality. We refrain from expressing doubts, in case they are reported or scorned. We hide anything that might be perceived as a weakness, be it feelings, fears, hopes or disagreement, that no one may take advantage of us.

Thus, Australian and Western societies in general have managed to establish a self-preserving culture of conformity, not necessarily through obedience, but through passive acceptance of issues that seem unimportant in virtue of their inconspicuous absence from the public discourse.

Turn off all screens for a month; meet someone new each day, discuss philosophy and art and religion; start questioning conventional and institutional wisdom, and you will crash against that society. You will begin to feel the awkward, uncomfortable and intensely frustrating sensation of swimming against the current of a rapid river that is fast carrying us to a destructive end. You may even be accused of being a conspiracy theorist!

But you will also begin to feel liberated, as if you were awakening from a deep sleep. There is a price to pay for taking either of Morpheus’ pills. Which will you pay?

 
 

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Parenting advice is like Christmas presents: nicer to give than to receive!

Has it ever struck you as rather odd that parents are so forthcoming with well-intended advice on parenting, but so reluctant to question their own parenting habits? I’ve fallen for that trap many times myself, until this idea occurred to me. Why do we tend to take other people’s parenting advice much less willingly than we tend to dish our own philosophy to others?

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Life

 

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Pro-schooling propaganda and poor journalism

Today a provocative article was published by Ian Townsend on the ABC News website. The title is:

Thousands of parents illegally home schooling

As is customary in cheap journalism, the title deals the first underhanded and disingenuous blow: home schooling is an illegal activity! This is effectively the message that will be taken by anyone who is just reading the headlines.

Since I didn’t just read the headline, I’ll go on with the rest of the article, and explain why I think it’s a piece of propaganda and poor journalism.

The sub-heading, perhaps the next most likely piece of writing that most people will read, states:

“As a new school year begins, more than 50,000 Australian children will be home-schooled and in most cases, their parents are doing it illegally.”

Where is the source for these figures? They are not discussed anywhere in the article. This might just pass as poor journalism, but it’s also part of the propaganda, because the message once again is that, if you know a family who is home-schooling, they’re probably breaking the law. Since the article only talks about home schooling in Queensland, such assertions are even more unwarranted.

The first paragraph demonstrates poor writing:

It is compulsory to send children between the ages of six and 16 to school, or register them for home schooling, but more parents are opting out of the traditional school system and keeping their children at home.

If parents decide to register their children for home schooling, aren’t they also opting out of the traditional school system and keeping their children at home? Let’s simplify the sentence to show why it’s flawed:

It is compulsory to register children for traditional or home schooling, but more parents are keeping their children at home.

Do you see how little sense it makes? As originally written, this paragraph again makes it sound like parents who home school are doing it illegally.

The next section starts with the heading “Underground education“. The propaganda continues. By labelling such movement as “underground”, the author not only points out the illegality of their actions, he also associates with them a number of sinister behaviours such as drug dealing. It conjures images of parents secretly locking their children up at home, looking out of their windows to make sure the police isn’t coming, and living isolated from the rest of the country.

In this section, the author decided to use Cindy as an example of an “underground home schooler”. The reason he chose her is pretty simple: she purportedly said some words that discredit home schoolers in general: “I’m not very organised and disciplined”. Again, the reader who is already suspicious of home schooling will probably shake her head in disbelief, muttering “How can you possibly home school your kids if you’re disorganised?”.

The next paragraph is proof that the author has not done his homework on the topic, and that he doesn’t understand the real issues involved. He states that, due to secrecy and suspicion (again, this is in the domain of the home schooler, giving an impression of paranoia), it is difficult to get data on “whether home schooling produces a better or worse education“.

First of all, there is plenty of evidence that home schooling, when done properly, leads to better-adjusted children who are better prepared for the work force and for the demands of adulthood, than children who are traditionally schooled, even when that traditional schooling is excellent. The author suggests that there is not enough information, therefore the “underground home schoolers” don’t even know if what they’re doing is any better than traditional schooling. Another blow against home schoolers.

Secondly, what does it mean to “produce” an education? How do you measure the goodness or badness of an education? What home schoolers argue is that each child has unique developmental and educational needs and abilities, and that mass schooling, due to its one-size-fits-all approach, cannot possibly enable that child to thrive as it would given the ideal environment and opportunities. The criteria by which you will judge the quality of a child’s education are likely to be rooted in an ideology that is external, and probably not beneficial, to the child.

Finally, the last section “Why home school?” is by far the worst of all. It starts with the results of two unreferenced surveys, asking registered home schoolers why they chose to home school. The author then chose to list the major reasons in an interesting order. Even though religious reasons were not the highest reason in either study, he decided to list it first in both of them. It’s hard not to believe that he did this with the increasingly anti-religious Australian in mind, further fuelling the reader’s mistrust of home schoolers.

Interestingly, the most oft-given answer related to philosophical reasons, but none of these reasons were explained by the author, and he even failed to report an exact figure (“nearly half”). Instead, he chose to quote from a Stanford University sociologist and prominent critic of home schooling, Rob Reich, who essentially proclaimed that all home schoolers are paranoid.

To top it all off, the author chose to conclude with the wise words of Hanne Worsoe, acting manager of the Queensland Home Education Unit:

Standards exist for a reason and they’re about the kids not about the parents and their ideas about what they should do, that’s why we live in a civil society that provides that capacity to represent children and to monitor their educational needs. If people aren’t registered I’d say you’re breaking the law, and if you’re doing the right thing by your kids you’ve got nothing to hide.

I could write another entire post on this quote, but let’s just write a dot points:

  • “Standards exist for a reason”: does it matter if that is reason is valid?
  • “Standards are about the kids, not about the parents and their ideas about what they should do”: in essence, Hanne, you’re saying “we know better”, even though you don’t even know the kids’ names? How condescending, how arrogant!
  • “That’s why we live in a civil society”: please explain the connection between civility and compulsory schooling, because I don’t see it.
  • a civil society that provides that capacity to represent children and to monitor their educational needs“: Society needs to represent children? How does it do that through compulsory schooling? Why can’t parents represent their children through their choice of how to educate them? Why do they have to be monitored externally?
  • if you’re doing the right thing by your kids you’ve got nothing to hide”: Again, how do you know what is “the right thing”? What you really mean is “if you’re doing what we want you to do, you’ve got nothing to hide”.

So, the mistrust and stigmatisation continues: home schoolers are no more than paranoid criminals who secretly take their children away from the schools where they belong, to foment rebellion and anarchy.

What a load of codswallop! You can do better than that, Ian Townsend!

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Life, Psychology and Sociology

 

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