I just read an excellent post by the Traditional Teacher entitled ‘Why We Don’t Need Grammar Schools’ which challenges the notion that I have encountered many times – namely that a rigorous academic education is based on middle class values foisted onto poor unsuspecting members of the working/underclass.
It is a peculiarly ‘Western’ concept based on the way that education has gone from the province of the elite to the masses. However, in most countries in the world this notion of class and education is not tied together in quite the same way.
Both my parents came from good agrarian stock – small villages in India – and the idea of education being a good in itself and to be valued came way before schools did to these areas.
Their own views on education were formed by their experiences both at the time and later on. As children who had left school voluntarily (mum at 14), and never been made to go and then truanted as no-one checked or informed parents (dad), they regretted their choices as adults. My parents were encouraged to go to school but for their own reasons chose not to at the time. This is the problem with allowing children to make decisions they do not fully comprehend the consequences of. So yes dad did spend his time playing and messing around with no formal education. Mum left because she couldn’t be bothered to work hard.
Interesting then that it is precisely those two people who as soon as they had my brothers and I not only did everything to make us school ready, but pushed and insisted on school, did not let us take a day off unless we were really sick, took us to the library weekly and insisted we do homework that they could not understand themselves. In short they displayed the ‘middle class values’ that are often talked about but in reality it was not their practical experience of education that was transmitted. The economic reasons (to get a good job) were but there was something else that was going on that I find lacking in the progressive agenda in itself.
It is precisely that phrase ‘education is a good in itself’ and that it is better to know than not know. This is not a socio-economic argument but a spiritual one and one that has diminished rapidly over time in this country. It is the argument that would have been posited to me if I thought something was irrelevant or boring at that time. Interesting that this argument was the strongest for me in terms of working hard at school.
Ideas of ‘spirituality’ from the East are often connected to ghastly elements of the ‘new age’ in western countries (a patronising pick and mix individualistic vapid attitude to spiritualism from other cultures in the world). However spirituality development is important to our growth as human beings.
Education links you to other human beings in the past and present. Oh and for the record, there is a strain both in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that has valued education in its own right without recourse to the money you may earn as an adult or social position. This strain of thought just seems to have disappeared entirely. A shame as it is a powerful argument in favour of education and its positive effects on our growth and development.