In a time and place when philosophy and lectures were apparently leisurely (I am talking about the ancient Greeks, you know) there might not have been discussions about what is best for the children… then again, maybe there have been, knowing parents.

But I had (in the modern world) a discussion with a friend about education in general and schools in particular. I was enthusing about the Montessori method as usual, as that is, to my mind, the way I would have loved to be educated when I was the little one’s age.

My friend quite rightly pointed out that the little one is part of a very small group of people, selected at least three ways out of many: a parent who lives in the vicinity of, who can afford and who chooses to send the little one to such a place. Sounds privileged, doesn’t it? And given how Montessori actually started, that is beyond ironic!

Both my friend and I also know of children (way, way too many) for whom books are a rarity and life at home has infinitely bigger stresses than not being able to watch “one more and no more” cartoon.

And we know well that by the time a child goes to school some things cannot be fixed, some things cannot be learnt and some things can never change. So school methods should really be late developments and the focus should be on the first three years. Which means that school begins at home (Philosophy? Lecture? Leisure?). And that’s when I trotted out that big fashionable statement that my friend arched his eyebrows at: it’s a systems fault – only I didn’t use the term fault 🙂

I can’t help it, truly! There are very few things I see as not systems faults – professional bias, you could call it! The way I see it we are the only species on Earth who doesn’t know how to raise their young anymore. So we have to substitute cultural imperatives for natural ones… but cultural imperatives change a lot quicker than human nature. We are overcrowded so crying babies are discouraged (from apartments, planes, cafes). We work industrial hours, so we train babies to sleep. We praise independence so we raise isolated, lonely children. We lose contact with our families and communities so we raise children who do not know where they belong.

Then we treat the consequences (attachment issues, sleep and eating disorders, anxiety) while still demanding resilience, good behaviour, hard work and achievement. At school. Which is not set up for the above.

What to do though? These children will raise children of their own one day – and choosing our rest homes, too 🙂 What will they teach their children?

Educating future parents helps. Child care and human development should be in high school curriculum, alongside sex, relationship and civic education. But that is a band aid. If this is, indeed, a systems fault, it is our lifestyles that need changing. The feedback loop doesn’t sit still just because “we’ve always done it that way”…


2 thoughts on “School

  1. It just happens that I was a reading a fascinating novel on education – Daniel Pennac “Chagrin d’école”.
    „…la conviction m’est restée qu’il fallait parler aux élèves le seul langage de la matière que je leur enseignais. Peur de la grammaire ? Faisons de la grammaire. Pas d’appétit pour la littérature? Lisons ! Car, aussi étrange que cela puisse vous paraître, ô nos élèves, vous êtes pétris des matières que nous vous enseignons. Vous êtes la matière même de toutes nos matières. Malheureux à l’école? Peut-être. Chahutés par la vie ? Certains, oui. Mais à mes yeux, faits des mots, tous autant que vous êtes, tissés de grammaire, remplis de discours, même les plus silencieux ou les moins armés en vocabulaire, hantés par vos représentations du monde, pleins de littérature en somme, chacun d’entre vous, je vous prie de me croire. »
    I think that, in the end, everything should be reduced to the default of faulty human nature. Whatever system you conceive, there will always be a bug somewhere. I see it here, in my new Belgian adventure… No perpetuum mobile for the time being, every society has its own faults, and this raises endless questions!
    Miss you!


    1. There will always be annoying bugs with any system of education that has to fit more than one person… we are, after all, unique, just like everyone else.
      It’s just that i sometimes wish we do not have to belong quite so irreversibly to those systems… it would be good to have choices… and to know that the right choices are made for those who cannot make them themselves… ah, idealism is a dangerous adventure! I miss you too, my friend!


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