Friday, October 24, 2008

Home schooling

This article was published in El País two days ago. In Spain there is no recent concept of home schooling. The idea of children being educated other than under the control of the state, even if it is not directly by the state, in state schools, is hard for most people to understand. It simply isn't thought about. And this newspaper, and most of the popular press in this country, is broadly left wing. It is a serious newspaper, and it is true that the paper itself does not comment directly, except in the title, but the slant of the quotes is very clear. Stripped of the anti-Americanism, which is implicit only, and the socialist ideology, which is explicit, and the blinkers, which all papers have, we are left with the quotes, which are what I find interesting.

"Se trata de que coincidan edades distintas, culturas diferentes, gente con discapacidad, de otros países..., eso sólo lo puede dar la escuela", según Miguel Recio, ex miembro del Consejo Escolar del Estado. This Miguel Recio, who has been on the national school board, seems to think that the purpose of school is to expose children to immigrants and the disabled. I recognise the importance of a knowledge of the world and an understanding of those who are different, indeed things best learned in childhood, but they are certainly not the reason that people pay taxes for schools.

"La institución escolar contribuye a que los estudiantes aprendan a vivir juntos, a respetarse, a ser solidarios, a construir sus propios valores mediante la reflexión y el encuentro con los valores de los otros. La educación en casa tiene el serio riesgo de perder esa posibilidad enriquecedora", añade Álvaro Marchesi, catedrático de Psicología Evolutiva y Educación y ex secretario de Estado. Why does a Professor of Educational Psychology imagine that only by being lumped together in a school can a child be exposed to a variety of ideas, learn to live with others, and interpret his own values by contrast with those of others? And why does he think that this is what matters?

"No es lo mismo saber que saber enseñar, ningún padre tiene derecho a dar una asignatura de manera parcial a su hijo", añade Arturo Canalda, Defensor del Menor de la Comunidad de Madrid. This quote is from the 'children's ombudsman' of Madrid, a perfectly respectable position, but a political appointment, and held by a man who seems not to have thought about what he has said (I know nothing more about him.) What he seems to say, and I do not necessarily believe what I am told, even by journalists, of whatever persuasion (one day I shall speak of journalists)- What he seems to say is that parents have no right to express their opinions in front of their children. That is a very disturbing idea.

I have been a teacher, among other things, for twenty years. I have no children, but if I had I would not send them to a school. I know state schools and private schools in two countries and I do not like what I have seen. Most schools have an ideology they wish to share which goes far beyond the sharing of knowledge. State schools have an ideology defined by the state. It may or may not be noisome. The details of the state eduaction system in Spain, and the philosophy behind it, happens to be something I know a lot about- I have written books about it- but I am not interested in doing politics here. I want to know what people think about education- whether it is something that the state must do for those who cannot do it for themselves or pay others to do it, or a right of the state to determine what children are taught and how.

I should imagine I have not hidden my own opinions very well, but, I repeat, I am not trying to express a conventional political opinion. I want to know why education is a right, rather than a duty, of the state

1 comment:

Thud said...

As a new father I am already agonising about my childrens education...what to do?