Monday, 2 December 2013
Schools; the hidden curriculum
It is, I think, pretty widely known that I am not a great fan of schools. They do a necessary job in society, it is true, but at that same time they cause a fair bit of collateral damage. From a purely educational perspective, they achieve their purpose; just. From many other points of view, they are profoundly unsatisfactory.
One of the reasons that I chose not to send my child to school was that I did not like the ideas which they propagated, alongside the education being offered. One of these ideas is sexism. When we were raising my daughter, it was very important to us that she learned that girls could achieve every bit as much as boys in any field at all. This meant, among other things, that she was able to climb trees better than any of the local boys and was also quite happy to take a swing at any boy who laid hands upon her. She also knew that she could be anything at all that she wanted in her future life.
I have for the last week or so been working in a fairly typical, under-performing primary school. I have been observing the subliminal messages being given to boys and girls there and I have to say that they are far from satisfactory. Let us look at a few random instances of what I mean.
Every single member of staff, bar one, at the school is female. All the teachers, learning support staff, officer staff and cleaners; all are women. Anybody care to guess what the exception is, the one man in the place? Yes, it is of course the Head. This is an awful message to give children, right from the beginning. A man is in charge and the women do his bidding. You might say that this is unavoidable, but there are many other things which are avoidable. Walk into a Year 4 classroom and look at the book corner. There are two big, plastic crates; one marked ‘Boys’, with a picture of a boy with a toy car and the other marked, ‘Girls’, which shows a girl holding a doll. These contain the books appropriate for boys and girls respectively. I am sure that readers will have no difficulty guessing the gendered colour coding of these two boxes…
Here is a science lesson. We are looking at the different sorts of light and dividing them into two categories. On the one hand there is natural light and on the other…well, what do readers think? Artificial light, perhaps? Why no. Apart from natural light, we have man-made light. During the lesson, the teacher explains helpfully to the children that while static electricity can give rise to light naturally, as in lightning, current electricity can only, ‘be produced by man’. (Bad news, I am afraid, the next time any female readers want to switch on the light. Only Man can produce current electricity you see…
Here’s a reading lesson, in which we are talking about astronauts. The teacher wishes to give examples of astronauts. Who does she come up with? Inevitably, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Yuri Gagarin. Of course, one of the earliest astronauts and incidentally the first civilian to go into space, was Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963. A woman, incidentally. Nobody remember her?
I could go on all day about this. These children are, in effect, being indoctrinated with sexism and guided into different roles in their future lives. The school has about two million policies on sexism, but none of them make the least difference in practice. Every thing I see at this place confirms that I made the correct decision not to allow my child anywhere near such an institution.