Mounting disquiet about state education in the UK needs a focus for challenge. So what is wrong with the present model? Does it truly serve our children as we have been convinced to believe it does, or is it intrinsically damaging? Moreover, how does it shape and limit the world we live in? So, what’s wrong with school? is a comprehensive attack on our school system and encourages us to look for better ways to raise our young.
In this book I have drawn on news items, personal communications, statistics and the wisdom of many published and unpublished thinkers to expose the cracks in the institution that shapes many lives.
In 9 chapters I cover 125 “reasons” not to send children to school. They range from the practical to the spiritual, from the personal to the political. I try throughout to see things from the perspective of the child though the book is written primarily for parents.
Chapter 1 covers learning: the introduction looks at what we know and don’t know about learning. The reasons in this chapter cover many things that children don’t learn in school along with discussing the questionable value of much that they do. For example, children don’t learn anything useful or what they want to know. They learn to be labelled, to be bored and to rely on experts.
Chapter 2 looks at the multiple separations that happen in school: from self, from older and younger children, from family, other adults, nature and home culture. I argue that this fragments life in unnatural and damaging ways.
Chapter 3 looks at the culture of school: the myths and lies, the harmful practices and how schools act to self-perpetuate. I examine the violence and bullying, the injustices and the influences of corporate and military interests. I argue that this drives, shapes and damages the wider culture of all nations.
Chapter 4 looks at teachers: how they are overwhelmed, undermined and stressed to the point of ill-health by the role they are forced to play. I question the wisdom of handing children over to distressed strangers.
Chapter 5 looks at numbering our children: how grading and measuring have taken over from learning, how the numbers harm and deceive, and the role of Ofsted in driving it all.
Chapter 6 looks at health and how schools contribute to illness in pupils: from the lack of exercise and rest to the sick buildings and the discomfort of petty uniform rules. I also look at toilets and kitchens to ask whether schools are safe places for children.
Chapter 7 looks at mental health: the role of schools in creating depression and anxiety; the damage done to self-image and doing too much too young and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in drugging children into compliance.
Chapter 8 looks at reasons not to send children with particular characteristics: boys, girls, those who are different or who may be gay, those from minority ethnic groups, or who have special needs, those born in the summer or who are poor.
Chapter 9 summarises the true cost of free schooling: it is very expensive, has huge social and environmental cost and damages the autonomy and humanity of all who pass through it.
In The Way ForwardI begin a discussion of positive moves that parents and other concerned individuals can take. This website exists to further that discussion. If you have positive ideas or know of initiatives that make a contribution to a more humane experience for children, share your ideas by commenting at Discussion: The Way Forward. We need a debate that isn’t pushed by crude ideas of “standards” and outdated concepts of exam passes = successful education.
I include in the book a bibliography of source books and refer to many useful websites.