Monday, January 4, 2016

What should not be taught in schools

The use of schools to solve other social problems that arise when children cannot easily or comfortably be supervised by their parents, causes many more problems in the schools themselves. The need to fill a complete timetable, and to follow to some degree the model of the public boarding schools, coupled, naturally enough, with the desire of government to control growing minds, led fairly quickly to the creation of subjects which should not be taught in schools at all. If they were removed from the timetable, the school day would be much more reasonable, could address its real aims more clearly, and some activities which children learn to hate could be understood as fun.

Much of what schools do is unnecessary. Many subjects should not be taught, some because they are simply a waste of time, like religion, ethics, ciudadanía and the other ways of telling people how they should behave according to some fashion or other, and some because they are far better provided in another way. Churches are always willing to instruct the young in their beliefs and codes, and sport and the plastic arts are far more enjoyable if done freely at a municipal or private facility rather than under the full disciplinary structure of a school as they now are. Within useful subjects, a great deal of time is wasted with unnecessary material and in attempting to measure knowledge, rather than provide it and teach how to use it. And of course, the biggest problem of all is that many of the people who are forced to be there are not in fact going to benefit from it, but their presence will prevent others from benefiting.

There is no reason for schools to teach religion, unless that is one of the specific purposes of the school. Otherwise, it is a waste of time. Parents who want their children instructed in their own faith, or in some other, will find plenty of people willing and able to do it for them, freeing children two or three hours a week.

Likewise sport and art, which should be enjoyable activities done for pleasure. If there were places children could go, and choose the activities that attracted them, they would enjoy them much more, and schools, and the taxpayer, would save a fortune on all the facilities that have to be replicated unnecessarily in every school in the country.

I am not, of course, suggesting that children should not study their parents' religion, or that they should not do sport or learn art. The point is that schools are a bad place to do it.


Vincent said...

I've been following your series of posts on education with interest, not till being provoked to comment.

I agree that religion should not be taught in schools; and yet I am very grateful that in the two schools I attended, both outside the publicly funded system, we were taught a subject called "Scripture".

It was a given, and taken for granted, that both of these schools operated under the aegis of the Established Church, that is, the Church of England, with King George VI, and later Queen Elizabeth II, at its head; and that these sovereigns were in addition the nominal heads of our armed forces, the Civil Service, and the Government. Not to mention the Empire with certain remaining colonies and other member states of the Commonwealth.

The particular role of Scripture was to provide an additional compendium of myths from which our standards of honourable behaviour were derived. In the case of the Old Testament, which was the sole focus of our scripture lessons at the prep school, we saw object lessons in bad behaviour, bad use of power, justified in the name of the Lord God of Israel etc. But there was no preaching. We studied the texts, and that was it.

And so I have ended up with a knowledge of those scriptures and their influence on the English (and more broadly, European) culture which for good or ill we have inherited today. My wife, educated in Jamaica twelve years after me, had exactly the same type of education & even the same grounding in English history and literature.

We are both loyal to the education we received, which of course you are entitled to label as bias. I am not suggesting such an educational syllabus (which in my case included Latin) is something to be considered a model for today; but only that it served its purpose well at the time.

The world has vastly changed since then, of course. I eagerly await a post in which you will set out in the same manner what should be taught in schools, in order to examine what curriculum elements you think should be prescribed in order to equip pupils to gain a beneficial distance from fashion and fads in social, ethical & political matters, preparing them for an adulthood in which they will be able to correct the (possibly short-sighted) views of their parents’ generation.

Vincent said...

correction 1: not till now