When it comes to some deep reflection about the relationship with my children a significant realisation is that in most of the social conditioning I was brought up with was that the adults were the ‘Ones who know? And the children were the ‘Ones who don’t know ‘ and the job is to assist them to ‘know’.

Ok yes I am using quite a few ‘commas’ as I am writing this I am realising that these words and phrases beg some questions. But I am pointing to an underlying principle that sits under very very many things. This principle, which by the way, I do not adhere to as an absolute, says that there are those who know and those who don’t know and it is the job of those who know to make sure those who don’t know find out. And the ‘knower’ is usually the expert who imparts their knowledge to the unknower.

We see this model everywhere. We go to experts, the doctor, the lawyer, the accountant, the consultant and we expect and indeed hope that they have knowledge that we don’t. In fact we bank on it. And we believe that these experts and their knowledge are admirable things. We pay them good money for their knowledge and often, especially when they save our taxes or treat an illness we are full of gratitude. In large part the entire system respects learning and expertise but this admiration is skewed towards expert knowledge. This is where we start to see the divergence. As the emphasis on factual knowledge in its entirety leads to an overreliance on its existence.

This over reliance ends up with the baby being thrown out with the bathwater. We start to think that accumulated factual knowledge is in the end goal over and above other kinds of knowledge.

I expected that you are nodding your head maybe and agreeing. As it sounds so simple to grasp. Its obvious right?
So why then does this skewed emphasis continue to dominate the way we think and behave with education? I can give no simple idea for this as it is a complex matrix. And for this part of the book I want to keep on course so I will touch on this more later.

What I have noticed is how this influences how I am conditioned to show up around the learning of my children. It permeates many of the moments where we interact. It’s as if the presence of the facts reassures me. What is nine times nine? If I hear 81 then somehow I feel better than if I hear any other number. Disappointment? Of course it is silly of me. But it just plain annoys me when I catch myself out. Where is my faith? Am I imagining that if the wrong answer, which is in inaccurate knowledge, persists my child’s future well-being will be compromised?

I understand the instinct. And from an evolutionary perspective this kind of instinct and the reflex associated with it does make sense. If in our past learning somewhat simple facts often meant the difference between survival or death. That the wrongly notched arrow might mean failure of defence and so getting nobbled by a sabre toothed tiger, or done in by a rival tribe. That I understand. So inside me an ancient part of my human beingness can be very invested in making sure my child knows certain pieces of information. And in our modern time don’t high suspense movies often pin the survival of the protagonist on some piece of knowledge that the hero or their side kick produces at the last moment, dragging them all from the jaws of the bad guy / death / failure? We still play this out as entertainment.

And don’t we have to ensure as fast as we can that our children learn certain things? Don’t run on roads? Play with razor blades? Jump into fires and so on? Of course we do.

But what I am talking about here is really about a part of our mind and consciousness that only has relevance in certain contexts. And being able to work out the relevant context is what makes the difference as to what human toolkit I can bring to bear and in what situation. And that has a direct influence on the experience of the learning of my children, and me.

In my view the key drivers of the most education and parental commitment to it is survival orientated within a competitive framework. And if this is the educational context being held then it means that everything learned by the children has to be tested against its usefulness to increase their chances of winning the competition of life, surviving in other words. Be it getting into university, getting a job and so on.

And in many cases in the parts of the world where extreme poverty is the fate of many unless they can find a way out, this is a compelling way to look at education which often is the only path.

But in our developed economies this view does not make sense as an absolute position, using a variety of measures to asses it.
So as I sit here writing this I am aware of all these different parts of my parental, father self. And this awareness has come from an ongoing and somewhat messy self-examination. It is an ongoing part of being an ‘alternative’ parent which the zeitgeist says I must be given all the shunning of the familiar common and approved of we have done.

But when it comes to travelling this road the toughest part is not others, or society or those who would tell us we are mad, wrong and silly. The toughest part is having to examine your own conditioned parts and figure out how to get as free of them as you can. For until we do it is impossible to know what drives us in what situation. And that means we are in the dark much of the time.

  • Hazel Eldridge says:

    Wouldn’t have a website for the World.
    I get confused with facebook and send things to the wrong people, such is the nature of mass communication.
    It used to happen with shared phone lines , so that if the local Postmistress loved gossip…
    As a general comment the only thing about leaving at least some education to others is that parents are cast in a different role to those who choose to school their own children. Stating the obvious? There are other people in your group that contribute, what is your attitude toward them? The only way that you may be assured of their consistency is
    a) if you hang about b) if you pay them c) ask them to submit reports
    Yes, a difficult role. It is much more about you and your responses than it is about the actual facts of school. And whats wrong about the accumulation of facts provided that the children know how to disseminate information. Take the difference between BBC TV and RAI
    There may be a number of things over which you disagree with fellow contributors.
    Do the children disagree with them? Are they starting to disagree with you? This is what you must expect. It is what would happen in a classroom and some teachers encourage this. Others don’t. In a school situation a group of children would discuss things amongst themselves so have to learn a certain discernment.
    Ivy on WW2 ‘Thats not right Nai-Nai, Jason says so’ ‘Jason wasn’t there ,love’
    There is a old trick .Take a group of the young to a place and (without prompting )ask them what they see separately, Record and transcribe and only relate anonymously back at base and tell them to keep it secret themselves. They will see things very differently to how an adult might, not because you were brainwashed but because you have the accumulated knowledge and a facts that help your judgement.
    Remember the Cathar Cross in the Chapel? Quite by chance I discovered that La Croce Gialla is a religious charity. I found this in the ‘Corriere D’Adriatico’.What in God’s name it has to do with the Albegensian Heresy and the mass slaughter of the peace- loving Cathars, is a mystery. The study of History as a bottomless pit, Have the Cathars been reinstated: did they escape to ITALY: What have they got to do with the estate chapel: if you asked somebody would they be mortally offended? Now that is a serious exercise for you to keep your hand in. You would probably make a good ANTHRO
    AVANTI! Zia Nocciola

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