The idle parent: the less school, the better, 15 March 2008, Telegraph.co.uk
I offer these examples as proof of my point: as a method of delivering education, school is overrated. This was Bertrand Russell’s view. “Men are born ignorant, not stupid,” he wrote. “They are made stupid by education.”
Einstein wrote of “that divine curiosity which every healthy child possesses but which is so often weakened early”. In which case it makes sense for the idle parent to keep formal education to a minimum. Intellectual loafing centres such as Westminster or Eton are not an option for most of us.
School terms are much too long; so are school days. The schools that produce the best results and the freest thinkers have the shortest terms and shortest days. They are not merely containment camps for pre-workers. (A thought: now that playschool has been renamed preschool by the fun-haters, why not go the whole hog and rename school prework?)
This is the spirit we need to bring to education: the less school, the better. We need to explore other options – home schooling, learning groups, home tutors.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of hard work or expense. This is where idleness comes in. It is precisely a love of learning and curiosity that schools tend to kill.
So it is the responsibility of the idle parent to implant a love of education. The way to do it is to lead by example and curl up with a good book.
Other articles in The Idle Parent series are:
- The idle parent: “The idea is that each family connects itself to a network of 20 or so other families. At any time, a child from one can go and stay with the family of another for a while. This system provides an escape valve from the confinement of the nuclear family. As Sulina, a Palanese mother, explains: ‘Escape is built into the new system. Whenever the parental Home Sweet Home becomes too unbearable, the child is allowed, is actively encouraged – and the whole weight of public opinion is behind the encouragement – to migrate to one of its other homes.’ The benefits to the child of taking a break from its parents are enormous. Have you noticed how your child seems more responsible and polite in other people’s homes?
- The idle parent: Rule no1: think out of the box: “In the case of Sky TV, why pay upwards of £30 a month just to get more rubbish interspersed with ads from usurious money-lenders and the manufacturers of plastic toys? Add to this the cost of the set itself – and I understand that people are now spending in the region of £2,000 for giant telescreens – and it all starts to add up.”
- Idle parenting means happy children: “An unhealthy dose of the work ethic is threatening to wreck childhood. Under a tyrannical work-obsessed government, years that should be devoted to play and joyful learning are being stifled by targets and tests. Leisure time is being invaded by the commercial and escapist virtual worlds of the computer.”
- The idle parent: avoiding competitive sports: All this is not to say that I am against games. Tests of strength and endurance are as old as the hills. Arm-wrestling, good; leaping over stiles, good; trampolining, good. Horse-riding, stone-skimming, fishing: good. We’ve been practising shooting cans with an air rifle and that sort of thing I thoroughly approve of. One day we might come home with pheasants and rabbits for the pot. … What the sports on my approved list have in common is that they are self-organised, rather than organised from above.