2016 schooling: Slowly, slowly, without respite, successive governments are stealing childhood

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A good friend teaches new teachers in England. She was herself a distinuguished, imaginative teacher for many years. In response to a post on Facebook that I made about the impenetrable language of the new and ever-more restrictive framework for the assessment of children in primary schools, she posted some deeply depressing comments about the state of schooling now. It is a state which Rosemary Sutcliff, a story-teller par excellence, would deplore. Unable to understand some of the expected standards, I had asked if I should return to primary school. She posted:

Under no circumstance return to primary school, unless it is to tell stories, read stories, share songs and poems, listen to what children have to say, share books and the pleasure of reading, write together and enjoy each other’s writing. Slowly, slowly, without respite, successive governments are stealing childhood, ignoring any sensible understanding of language or of culture or, indeed, of what it might be to be human. I feel overwhelmed by the great crimes that are being committed against children.
Our students make a close analysis of one child’s language use and learning in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Each successive year, the crimes are greater. Fewer children are given space to write and understand what writing might be, even fewer children understand the pleasures of reading though they can de ode with fluency.
One thing that we are doing here is to run teachers’ writing groups and here change and growth and great pleasure can occur.

Screenshot 2016-01-16 09.26.14

4 comments

  1. I used to teach high school students and was shocked to see their level of reading and writing ability as well as their level of comprehension deteriorate over a couple of years. I was ordered not to use texts longer than one DinA4 sheet in class and to use certain words from a list to formulate tasks as opposed to clearly describe what I wanted them to do. The result is that young adults – my students ranged from 15yo to 21yo – but only can’t concentrate on texts with more than 300 words and without pictures and can’t write three consecutive sentences with correct grammar, they also can’t think any more. They are unable to analyze a statement,a phenomenon, an idea in a structured way. The school I taught at wasn’t an elite high school, but it was still a Gymnasium, the type of school that leads to Abitur, the highest possible school degree in Germany.

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  2. This is horrible, but as a student just into college in the US I can definitely see this happening and growing worse each year. I was homeschooled, and I was given plenty of creative time and time to read and explore on my own but I find it so depressing to find my friends in school sapped of the joy of creativity and writing and especially reading. We must hope that there will come changes to the educational system, or at least teachers who encourage a freedom and desire for beauty in their students.

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  3. My late father taught secondary-level (high school) math, biology, chem, physics in California and Utah in the U.S. He began (unfortunately never completed) a manuscript for a satire on the U.S. public school system, titled, “Malice in Blunderland.” I have no doubt he would concur.

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  4. I remember when the literacy hour was first introduced into primary in a badly thought out rush I’m all for pupils learning about the English language….when they are ready
    Although technically the SEN teacher I was the only person with an English degree and was greatly in demand as to how to teach the finer points of English grammar to 6 year olds ie colons , semi colons ect
    You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to support a 7 year old with learning difficulties with writing a sonnet!

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