Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Doublethink

I find debating with some home educators quite chilling, due to their ability to hold two diametrically opposed views simultaneously; without apparently being aware of what they are doing. It reminds me of the term ’doublethink’ from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. There is something a little alarming about the business.


Yesterday, we enjoyed one of those rare moments here when everybody was in agreement. Both I and those commenting accepted that Einstein’s achievements and academic success owed more to his own character and the support which he was given at home, than it did to the teaching which he received at school. As I have said before, this is usually the case. The level of support and amount of resources found in the home are of far greater importance in the academic outcome for children at the age of sixteen than the school which has been attended. Also significant is the character of the child; in Einstein’s case, he had enormous intellectual curiosity which was nurtured and encouraged by his family and their friends. The schooling to which he was subjected played a lesser role in his subsequent achievements.

So far, we still all agree, I suppose. Let us look back a few days though, when I was talking of another schoolboy; one who had achieved very much less than Albert Einstein. In fact this child was barely literate and lacked any intellectual curiosity that could be discerned. Little chance of this boy growing up to revolutionise our understanding of the universe!

In the case of the boy who was not showing academic promise and intellectual achievement, a completely different set of rules were applied. In his case, it was not thought for a moment that his situation had anything at all to do with his own character, his family background or anything else. No, this was all the responsibility of the school and those running it;  the local authority. Those commenting were quick to lay complete responsibility for his development and the academic level at which he found himself, at the door of the school; who had ’failed’ him. We must not ’blame’ the parents, but the school.

All this is very odd! If a schoolchild does really well in his studies, then it is due to his family and home background; the school is of minor importance. If a schoolchild does really badly at his studies, then it is not due to his family and home background; the school is of paramount importance.

I am honestly puzzled by this and invite readers to help us square this particular circle. In short, are the parents and home background of crucial significance in a schoolchild’s academic and intellectual achievements or are they not?

19 comments:

  1. They are important, imho, Simon, but they are also one factor in a complex equation. If they were the only factor then no child from a deprived background would ever achieve anything.

    Clearly they do, so they cannot be the sole determinant and that is where good schools with inspirational teachers come in. We hear a lot about the school being a safety net from people who view home education as inherently dangerous, so I don't think it's unreasonable to expect it to be what they're claiming it is, or to say that it has failed if it hasn't done that.

    For me, and for a lot of other people I know, the subjects I loved weren't necessarily the easiest but the ones that were taught best. By which I mean with passion and enthusiasm and by people who were, in hindsight, on the obsessive side of enthusiasm.

    Similarly, I believed there were things I couldn't do, and it took HE to show me that I could learn how to. Things like drawing and Geography became closed books to me because of the quality of teaching and the quality of the syllabus.

    One of the things you quickly learn at school is your place in the pecking order. If you're right at the bottom (plankten as my son described it to his head teacher when he was 4) then I can see why you're not motivated.

    And all this 'pupil premium' and identifying the most disadvantaged only adds to the 'us and them' imho so I would say that it's down to teamwork and that if either side of the team fails it makes it harder for the child. Not impossible, by any means. Just unnecessarily hard.

    And btw, my experience when my 2 were at school was that achievements were seen as due to the school's hard work and problems were down to my lousy parenting. Nor, from what I've heard, is that an isolated attitude and I'm sure I'm not the only one who got very tired of 20 somethings with no children telling me how to bring mine up!


    Anne

    ReplyDelete
  2. ' they are also one factor in a complex equation. If they were the only factor then no child from a deprived background would ever achieve anything.'

    Yes, this is pretty much what I was driving at.

    'achievements were seen as due to the school's hard work and problems were down to my lousy parenting. Nor, from what I've heard, is that an isolated attitude'

    It's not! Schools are only to ready to take the credit for any success, while blaming parents for failure. Home educators often, as I pointed out above, adopt the opposite position; where all failures are due to schools and local authorities and all success is due to the parents' efforts! Neither is wholly wrong; both are special pleading on the part of minority groups. Until we break away from these stereotyped perceptions, we are unlikely to learn anything useful about either teaching or autonomous learning, schools or home education.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm going to have to disagree with you, Simon. I know exactly who is responsible for my children's success. THEM! A lot of people have helped, but in the end they are the ones who stick at it when it's tough or not especially interesting.

      Education isn't a passive word. It's an active one, and until we realise that the decision of whether or not to learn rests with small and frequently very stubborn people and we have to bait the trap to help them do it by making it interesting and relevant and rewarding even if the individual parts of it aren't always one out of three let alone three out of three, far too many children aren't going to do anything like as well as they could have done.

      Anne

      Delete
  3. 'I'm sure I'm not the only one who got very tired of 20 somethings with no children telling me how to bring mine up!'

    There are, it has to be said, few more irritating creatures upon God's Earth than earnest young teachers! They are utterly convinced of the truth of all that they have been taught at college and smile patronisingly at all parents; talking in that slow, calm and reasonable voice which they all seem to have. Avoid them like the plague, Anne!


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mean I can't play with them? Even if I promise to smile just as sweetly and talk in the same tone of voice while I ask them to explain exactly how they'd fit my two spectacularly square pegs in their nice round educational holes?

      Spoilsport!

      (Anne)

      Delete
  4. Either Simon's had a rare change of heart, or he's demonstrating doublethink perfectly:

    Simon said,
    "Would [Einstein] have found it quite so easy to formulate the theory of relativity if he had not studied calculus from an early age at school?"

    "The Einstein I am thinking of attended school from the age of five onwards and continued in full-time education up to the age of seventeen. Most of this time, he was at German schools, which were not noted for their love of autonomous learning. You say that he was a product of self-directed and autonomous learning, but you might just as easily claim that his fantastic achievements were a direct result of one of the most rigid and inflexible school systems in Europe"

    "Both I and those commenting accepted that Einstein’s achievements and academic success owed more to his own character and the support which he was given at home, than it did to the teaching which he received at school. As I have said before, this is usually the case."

    ReplyDelete
  5. 'Either Simon's had a rare change of heart, or he's demonstrating doublethink perfectly:'

    It is not really that hard to understand. Both formal teaching in a school setting and also self-directed learning out of school contributed to Einstein's intellectual development. Research suggestes that home is roughly five times as significant in academic outcome for teenagers than is school. However, that does not mean that all Einstein's intellectual ability came from the informal education which he received at home; the teaching at school also played a part. As I said above, agreeing with Anne, schools have a tendency to claim successes for themselves, which is what I was saying in the bits that you quote,

    ' You say that he was a product of self-directed and autonomous learning, but you might just as easily claim that his fantastic achievements were a direct result of one of the most rigid and inflexible school systems in Europe'

    I was not claiming Einstein as a successful product of schooling, but pointing out that the evidence could be interpreted in that way. Both home and school contributed to the final outcome; with the greater part of the influence coming from home.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But this quote sounds a lot more one sided...

      "Would [Einstein] have found it quite so easy to formulate the theory of relativity if he had not studied calculus from an early age at school?"

      Delete
  6. 'I'm going to have to disagree with you, Simon. I know exactly who is responsible for my children's success. THEM! A lot of people have helped, but in the end they are the ones who stick at it when it's tough or not especially interesting.'

    A radical view indeed, Anne. Of course, by the same token, when we find an idle and disaffected teenager who has achieved little at school, we must attribute his failure more to defects in his own character than to anything else? I am not at all sure that all readers will agree with this! Perhaps many of those who leave school ill-equipped for the world have not been let down by their parents and schools at all; can it be that they are suffering from what, when I was a much younger man, used to be called LMF (Lack of Moral Fibre)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not necessarily re the teenager, Simon. You can't win at cards if you've been dealt an awful hand, but you can very easily lose a game if you don't play a good hand well.

      And as for LMF, I'd say they haven't been given the confidence to climb just a little bit higher, safe in the knowledge that they might fall flat on their faces but someone will catch them and help them up. We don't seem to like to challenge children any more, so they don't learn how to pick themselves up after failure. Instead, it's easier to give up. Which, of course, it is, but it's nothing like as much fun as the moment when you beat the odds and, at least internally, can say "Nner nner ne ner ner! Showed you all!"


      Delete
  7. 'We don't seem to like to challenge children any more, so they don't learn how to pick themselves up after failure. Instead, it's easier to give up. '

    There is a deal of good sense being spoken here today and no mistake! I doubt it will last, but I for one am appreciating it while it does!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Desforges has already answered this.

    ReplyDelete
  9. 'Desforges has already answered this.'

    Up to a point, Lord Copper! Readers might care to read the following:

    http://bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/files_uploaded/uploaded_resources/18617/desforges.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  10. So - an example I've seen in real life many times. A child has done badly at school, is taken out and absolutely flies academically in a home educating environment. The support within the home environment has not changed but school is out of the equation. Fairly simple, I'd have thought: if nothing else changes then the likeliest cause is the one thing which HAS changed, ie the school.

    ReplyDelete
  11. 'So - an example I've seen in real life many times. A child has done badly at school, is taken out and absolutely flies academically in a home educating environment. The support within the home environment has not changed but school is out of the equation. Fairly simple, I'd have thought: if nothing else changes then the likeliest cause is the one thing which HAS changed, ie the school. '

    Yes, but of course the opposite case also happens; even more often. All teachers know that children tend to fall behind academically, the longer that they are out of school. During the summer holidays, this is a real problem. Once they return to school, they pick up again. Both this and the cases that you cite are true. This is not a simple and straightforward situation. In the right home background, children will do very well; better than than would at school. In the wrong home background, they will fall behind academically and do far worse than they would at school.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Awesome! Its truly amazing paragraph, I have got much clear idea about from
    this piece of writing.

    Look into my weblog ... diet that works

    ReplyDelete
  13. I constantly emailed this web site post page to all my associates, because if
    like to read it afterward my contacts will too.

    my web blog :: how you can help

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you very much for the great list and I appreciate your efforts to bring such a huge list for us. I really appreciate posts, which might be of very useful. I look forward to future updates. Once again thanks. Keep smiling. Bio Sanjaya | Les Privat | Hasil Prediksi

    ReplyDelete
  15. Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!

    Also visit my blog - additional resources

    ReplyDelete