I have in the past read on various forums of children 'owning' their education. I have always dismissed this as the sort of irritating, New Age psychobabble in which some parents seem to delight. (Often the same ones who are against vaccinations, in favour of homeopathy, opposed to teaching and claim to be spiritual rather than religious). A couple of days ago, somebody here explained what is meant by this phrase. It apparently refers to children for whom 'their mind and what they do with it belongs to them as much as their body does.'
This is pretty baffling. Obviously a child's body belongs to her, but does this mean that she can do with it as she will? Are we to deduce from this that if a child wishes to pick her nose at the dinner table, play with matches or torture the cat, we must simply shrug and say, 'Ah, her body and what she does with it belongs to her'? Most parents would not agree with this proposition. They would argue that we have a duty to guide our children in the appropriate use of their bodies; not abdicate responsibility by claiming that she owns her actions. What on earth can this mean, anyway? If we have a duty to encourage some physical actions of our children and teach them to avoid others, then surely we owe them the same duty with mental habits? So we might discourage our children from drinking bleach or running in the road, even though we are not claiming to own their bodies. So too, we try to get them to do certain things with their minds and encourage them to avoid doing other things. This seems quite clear. Of course, what we encourage and discourage will vary from family to family. Some parents insist that their children hold their knives and forks properly, others are more concerned with being kind to animals. These are physical activities. On the mental front, some parents expect their children to work hard academically; for others it is more important that their children adopt a non-judgemental approach to the lives of other people. These are mental activities. Is it being argued that we should not try and influence at all what our children think or believe? This would mean not discouraging cruelty or prejudice, nor encouraging kindness and compassion. A strange sort of education indeed!
I confess myself just as perplexed by this business of a child 'owning her education' as I was before the explanation was posted! Was the person who provided this explanation really saying, as she seemed to be, that whatever a child does with her body and mind should be permitted and not hindered in any way because we do not own a child's body or mind? I wonder what the reaction of this parent would be if her four year-old child attempted to leave the house by herself in the evening. Would she really say to herself, ' the child owns her body and what she does with it'? Or should she prevent the child from leaving, thus effectively imprisoning her? Perhaps the case is altered as the child grows older and that one allows the older child or teenager more freedom as to what she does with her body as she approaches adulthood? This is quite a sensible idea and most parents would agree with it. Obviously, I have no control over what my seventeen year-old daughter does with her body now, whereas when she was little, my control was absolute. It has gradually lessened over the years. Of course, if that is what we believe about the body, then we can apply the same principle to the mind. When she was little, I had a lot of say in how she used her mind for much of the time, whereas now I have no control at all.
If anybody can expand upon this whole idea of a child 'owning her own education', I would be genuinely grateful. As things stand, the whole concept sounds like a nonsense.