The title of today’s blog is taken from a T-shirt slogan (my T-shirt will be winging its way to me from the States as soon as my birthday cheque from my mum clears).
When it arrives, I will try to wear it whenever I have to come into contact with health visitors, doctors or other so-called experts who are liable to believe that my children will not ‘learn social skills’ because I’m not sending them to school. This week, I was informed by an early years visitor (kind of like a health visitor but a bit more…something, I dunno) that unless my children had the ‘opportunity’ to do ‘group work’ of the kind that happens at school, they will be ‘missing out’. However, she didn’t seem to know what they would be missing out on.
I could hazard a few guesses. Based on my memories of group activities at school, they will miss out on the following sequence of events:
1. Group stares blankly around at other group members for five minutes after the instruction is given.
2. Group half-heartedly tries to decide who is doing what, and it becomes apparent that the group size is too large for the number of resources available.
3. Group realizes that there is only 2 minutes left to complete the activity.
4. The ‘clever’ kid in the group takes over everything out of sheer despair, or the bossiest kid in the group takes over out of sheer bossiness, or the group activity is forgotten because everyone’s too interested in last night’s football results/X-Factor/Facebook chat.
5. Teacher collects in work, or assigns people to present the work from each group.
6. Students are left with a nagging feeling of futility and boredom.
7. Repeat ad nauseum for eleven years (thirteen if they go on to college).
Ummm…yeah. I can see what you’re so concerned about there. Heaven forbid that any child should miss out on being given a pointless, mind-numbing task to do by an overstretched teacher whose true talent for teaching has been squashed lifeless by endless, drudging bureaucracy. It is unthinkable that any child should grow to adulthood without knowing what it is to mill around aimlessly before falling back into the same old role they’ve always taken in this kind of activity, whilst the actual educational value of the activity passes them by. And it would be criminal to deny the child who actually does the work for the group the pleasure of being called a ‘boff’ by the other kids for evermore. Or to prevent the ones who find it actually impossible to conform to this crap from being labelled ‘bad students’ or ‘troublemakers’ by the adults in charge.
So, taking all that into consideration, I think I’ll pass on ‘socialization’, thanks, and just settle for teaching my kids how to be sociable instead. It seems that there is a difference. One is about conformity and the other is about genuinely getting on with other members of the human race. It’s amazing how many people in English society seem to have a problem with children doing the latter…