Monday, 16 May 2011

Brainwashing children

Very few four and five year olds would, I suspect, if left to their own devices choose to leave the company of their parents and go off to spend all day with strangers for most of the week. Fortunately, we don't give them the choice, otherwise schools would be standing half empty! Some want to go, it is true. Many small children though, want nothing more than to carry on being with Mummy all day. One way round this is not to let them get used to this peculiar arrangement for too long. After five years, this sort of attachment can get to be a bad habit and so we try to take them from their mothers earlier. If the child is sent away from his mother during the day from the age of two or three, he will have less chance to feel secure and happy in her company. Ideally, we should I suppose be starting them at six months or even earlier. That way, they would never learn the reassurance of spending week after week for years on end with their parents.

However, this is not always practical and so we must persuade the little darlings that school is a great place and that they will have lots of fun there. About six months before we are going to chuck them out of their secure home and abandon them regularly to strangers, we tell them over and over again; 'You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends. School is good, You will enjoy yourself at school'. Anybody familiar at all with Brave New World? I love this kind of conditioning. If only some enterprising company were to produce CDs repeating these reasuring lies for hours on end, we could play them to the kids while they were asleep and condition them subliminally!

Then there are the books we get for them. Topsy and Tim go to School, for instance. Gosh, look at what a good time they are having there! I bet you will have a good time at school, just like Topsy and Tim. ('You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends') Just look at what a good time Topsy is having with her new friends. ('School is good. You will enjoy yourself at school'). Tim is also making new friends and having a good time. ('You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends')

Of course, these books don't show Topsy wetting herself because she is too shy to ask where the lavatory is, nor do they show Tim being pushed to the ground by some hulking boy who likes picking on smaller children. There are other aspects of school which books alone cannot adequately convey. The appalling noise, for instance. For a sensitive child coming from a peaceful and relaxed home, this can be unnerving. The chaos and confusion in the reception class is never shown. All the classrooms in these books seem almost empty and the teacher has plenty of time to chat to Topsy and Tim and their mother.

If all else fails and your child really does not want to go to school, you can tell him: 'You have to go, it's the law'. If he is upset about this and starts to cry, be sure to reassure him by saying, 'Don't cry. You will have a lot of fun at school. You will make many new friends'. It's strange really. There is among some professionals an expressed anxiety that some home educated children would really rather be in school and that their parents might have brainwashed them into wishing to be at home. One wonders if they are serious about this and have so little insight into the way that society conditions small children. I would be interested to hear readers' stories of how they managed to kid their children into believing that school is better than being at home with their parents.


  1. I'm going to firstly defend myself..I did not initially brainwash my chldren into going to school when they were younger, nor do I perpetuate the zombie-like condition my 11 yr old ds is currently in with the use of repeatitive mantras everyday at 3.30! Despite my own personal preference, he enjoys going to school as is at present against the idea of staying at home. Which is fine. I did what I thought was best, because to be truthful, I knew of no other alternative. I do not believe this made me a bad parent.

    Having said that, my 3 yr old ds is due to start school this september, he will be 3 weeks into his 4th year.
    He enjoys pre-school now, and the various other groups we go to. I feel he would also enjoy the school experience. But I am also fairly certain that it will be a shortlived enjoyment.
    He is a free spirit to say the very least,
    he does not like to be told what to do and when to do it.
    He has been allowed the freedom to express himself to the fullest at home, and has been encouraged to continue doing so if he feels any injustice, or unfairness directed towards him.
    Yes, even at his tender age he knows there is a hint of unfairness at being told 'time to tidy up now' when his picture is clearly unfinished, or his cars have not completed their current lap of the playmobil garage!
    I am certain this will cause problems once he is introduced to the more structured (if one can call it that) environment of reception.
    I still have not returned the (first of many)acceptance form for his place at primary school. I am probably running out of time to do so. But the inner battle of 'do I, dont I' is pretty strong at the moment.
    I fear I may actually be fighting against the brainwashing I received as a child myself!!!
    school is best
    school is best
    school is best

    Perhaps half the battle is not in the brainwashing of our children..but the fight against the brainwashing we initially received!!

    (I believe I have just given myself a thought for the day)

  2. 'Perhaps half the battle is not in the brainwashing of our children..but the fight against the brainwashing we initially received!!'

    This is an excellent point. Sending our children to school is something that respectable people do, like paying our taxes, not dropping litter in the street and modelling responsible use of alcoholto our children. We tut in disapproval at the feckless mother who we see being sent to jail for condoning her child's truancy. Never mind education; ensuring regular attendance at school is a civic duty. Perhaps breaking out of that mindset ourselves is the first step we need to take. Only then will we be cheerful and relaxed at the idea of not indoctrinating the next generation into believing that school is a necessary part of growing up.

  3. While we're discussing indoctrination, I thought that it might be a good time to point out that home school lists and gatherings do it too.
    Have you noticed or failed to notice the use of certain phrases and slogans that are bandied about?
    They're emotionally appealing phrases and as such designed to discontinue reflective conversation and assert authority. They're known as 'thought terminating cliches'.

  4. I didn't manage to 'kid my children into believing that school is better than being at home with their parents'.

    Thought about home educating my daughter but since she attended a nursery and loved it and then went to a playgroup which she also loved and was desperate to start school, she went to school instead. She enjoyed it immensely. If each school she has attended had been like her first one, she would have been well-educated and had a great time with her friends.

    My son - who has 'SEN' - tolerated nursery and school. If his schools had been like the first one his sister attended he would have been well-educated and had a great time too.

    My own experience of school was very positive and so I don't think there was any brain-washing involved for me or my children. The issue isn't about'school' per se - it's about the education and the environment in which it takes place.

  5. ' I thought that it might be a good time to point out that home school lists and gatherings do it too.'

    This is quite true and I have observed what you are talking about. I intend to do a post about this phenomenon too.

  6. Never managed to convince mine that school is a good idea.

    She likes playgroup (without me, twice a week for 3 hours), but nursery (at a setting that was structured almost exactly like reception but for 15 hours a week) was a no-no. When I raised concerns the nursery teacher was keen to stress the importance of 'conforming' so that my daughter would manage in reception.

    Luckily, on the day she made that statement, I had a letter prepared in my bag. When I left the house that afternoon I wasn't sure if I'd need it, but after our little chat I was perfectly happy to withdraw my daughter from the school.

  7. It sounds far more pre-determined and pre-meditated in your post than it ever does in real life. When you are in that position there is an expectation of school being a natural progression and there was little resistance to it. Ds, dd1 and dd2 automatically went into school/nursery with little resistane. When they wouldnt go, we simply said they had to and they just went.
    It was within the settings- from teacher reports/phonecalls and tests, that they were obviously not coping and it was then that I chose to withdraw them.

  8. 'It sounds far more pre-determined and pre-meditated in your post than it ever does in real life.'

    It was only meant to be light-hearted! I think the problem is that we all assume that children have to go to school and so if they are reluctant, we see these techniques as helping the child come to terms with the inevitable. Although my older daughter was keen on the idead of going to school, there were wobbles and we acquired a few books of the sort I describe above. If only more parents would just think, 'Shit, I don't have to do this at all!'

  9. Nice to see Liz and C's honest opinions and experiences presented without bias or political agenda.

  10. It took that experience (except you could change the toilet incident to 'asked to go to the toilet and was refused permission' - at four years old!)and then the sad realisation that it was certainly not worth it for us to decide not to bother with child number two. Luckily it was only one more year before child number one decided to join us in home ed.