Matriellez word

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I worked for years as a teacher and retired in June 2006. I am beginning this blog in preparation for my opus which will rock the foundations of education. No chance of rocking, and not much chance of an opus either. The dominant powers of greed, politics and careerism won't let any rocking happen. Matriellez will be focussing on education and learning, and the three afore-mentioned powers want nothing to do with the E-word.

Archive 2010 - pre-group

I have become more active on this blog since I have tried again with the opus; this is an archive for the first half of 2010. Back to current blog


Market kills teachers




QP, Assessment and Cheating




Conscience & Reason


Matrielling - A Case Study?


Of love and education


On authentic learning


Web brings education for all?


Education and the Workplace


Coping with the Paradigm


Teacher Trap - using Web 2.0


The Whipped


Enforcing containment


Modifying the Evolving Paradigm - Excellence


Real Educationalists


Extreme western pampering?


Unschooling Primer


Unschooling and me


Towards a resolution of home education


Frighteningly Current


Observations on Homeschooling

2009 Go to Archive


Staff Development Letter


Dear CM,




Enabling Love of KuanYin - signposts of Nature


On overseas teaching




More on Education Dynamics


Home Education and Community


Dialectics of Education


Human Development


Fragile Intellect and Bullying


Teaching Appropriate Reason


Cognitive Macrobiotic Development


AI vs Meditation




On language teaching


Computer-Integrated subject-based curriculum


Understanding the Traps of Intellect


Cultural Imperialism in Education


I am a Teacher


What Burdens do we carry?


Some Details on the Exam Centre

Frighteningly Current
I am frighteningly current. Yesterday I began some serious investigation on the Net as to where alternative education is going, and there are two phrases that pop up - homeschooling and learning communities. In the book I am preparing the home is a place of love and education develops from this love, a love which is completely lacking in our education system despite the good efforts of many teachers. In the book I describe the prevailing education direction as the corporate paradigm with intentional failure producing an isolated aloof successful businessman whose heart has been switched from his human nature and his sharing community. The unit for change is the home, rather than emphasising society we need to emphasise the home and support the home in its efforts to bring up children. This was discussed in:-

Nature Insight blog

I followed this discussion up in this blog at

Matriellez Blog

And was beginning to develop the notion of mubaan schools at Matriellez, click the mubaan building in the left header and you will find a Matriellez paper on this. But the last word link "here" goes nowhere, as that's when I stopped the blog and started on other stuff - for some reason!! Well I am starting again.

Recently I began rereading Everett Reimer's "The School is dead" and realised how current that book is, the conditions he describes have worsened. However he sources the problem as a technological paradigm, but he is not focussed enough - maybe it was less true when he is writing. Now the corporations benefit 100% from our education system. Education gives them their isolated business execs, their miseducated workforce who believe they are failures and are grateful for a job, and they get their family consumer units. These miseducated are even willing to kill themselves in the name of profit through poor eating as prescribed by Big Food (see "Food Inc" movie links here as an example) and poor health by Big Pharma. Business control is complete as humanity in general has handed over responsibility for their living to these profit-making giants.

Having been a dedicated teacher I haven't really followed the response to the alternative education movement that I was considering in PGCE. Doing the best I could within a system designed for failure and dominated by careerists and profiteering was stressful enough as testified by my GERD. Opening myself up to unanswerable questions about the nature of the institution would have sapped my diminishing strength. But the response has not been to establish schools with alternative curricula the move has been to homeschooling. This makes my discussions current.

I have not followed homeschooling and must do so before I can book about it, but it seems that homeschooling is a reaction to the appalling schools. Very understandable. But this then brings into question the education direction. As educationalists don't know what they are educating for why would one expect parents to know. It appears that (again I don't know) homeschooling has also reacted to exam pressure and prescribed curricula so they appear to be allowing children to guide themselves. As a system teacher I immediately react to that but how can I? I don't know how it works. From blogs it appears that homeschoolers are not lacking in the traditional skills of education - the 3R's. They also appear quite balanced, more than can be said for what the corporate paradigm creates. But not that the following matters if they are balanced, but they are no threat to the paradigm.

Yet the home paradigm is a huge threat. If the implications are followed through, then the business stranglehold will be lost as people will be supporting each other through their homes and community.

How is this homeschooling functioning? It appears at first glance that there is a legal overview that must be followed, and that homeschoolers are left to support each other often through the internet. There also appears to be some supportive organisations. However in a more established homeschooling approach there will be educational advisers and resource places, this is what I was getting into with mubaan schools - when I stopped!! The teacher, mubaaner?, will be there to support the home. Maybe the teacher will be the elder/teachers they once were, helping to guide the community, a central resource within the community perhaps being a go-to person when neighbours cannot solve problems. Maybe these elders would then be linked into wider networks moving towards governance where they can access financial support if there is no breadwinner in the home or if there is disability. Or if the child is disruptive.

But the fundamental function is educational guidance, and I would suspect many contemporary homeschoolers will run a mile from this. As is now the teacher is the enemy. The teacher imposes the curriculum, the teacher promotes competition and exams, and the teacher does not deal with the discipline and bullying. Yet the teacher is the "messenger". When we are stonewalled by receptionists and secretaries who refuse us access to the decision-makers, we get angry with them but it is not their fault. It is in their job description, should they resign as a matter of principle when their bosses are such users? Of course not, no-one would have a job!! In my own case I rationalised that the best thing I could do as a teacher was to minimise the impact of the system ravages on the students and help them get what they wanted - exam results. In terms of equal opportunity that was the best I could do, and I tried to help with exam stress especially in my last job where I was exams officer one year and then exam study supervisor the next. There was some success despite the hindrance from all and sundry in the school management.

The point needs emphasising that this should not be big brother teacher in the mubaan. The teacher must be a member of the community, it is where they live. As opposed to having a vocation to the school, despite everything some teachers still do, the teacher has a vocation to the community - the village elder. Her/his allegiance needs to be to the community, and the hierarchy of connections to governance have to accept supporting the community, supporting all the homes in the community. For the governance to be directed this way this home paradigm does require a radical shift, a genuine social revolution as well as an education revolution, Ken!!

Fundamental to this mubaan approach is that there needs to be trust built between the teacher and the parents as homeschoolers. This can only be re-established with time as teachers stop being corporate instruments, and under the new home paradigm actually become the educationalists they are meant to be. In order to do that we actually need to know what we are educating for. Because of the corporate paradigm this is not known as we do not research into what is self-realisation or self-actualisation. These mubaan teachers need to be beacons of educational understanding and in order for that to happen the prevailing teacher support establishment, training colleges and wider educationalists, need to move away from propping up the corporate paradigm by token reform and embrace the home paradigm and determine the best way they can educate mubaan teachers to support the homeschooling community. Is this what is meant by learning communities? Hopefully, if so I am again very current!!! Frighteningly so.…

Tags - CP mubaan HE whipped teacher
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Observations on Homeschooling
I am going to regularly update my blog with observations on homeschooling as issues come up from the groups I have joined. There are two approaches to homeschooling. The first is the homeschooling that delivers approximately the same school curriculum at home without all the violence and disruption. The second I will call unschooling. I don't mean that I am coining the word as it is in common usage, but just there is a big distinction. With unschooling the students define the curriculum.

To be quite honest this one has me a bit freaked. On the one hand the "professional teacher" in me says how can students define a balanced curriculum but then Matriellez, Teacher of Nature, has been saying that in the early years children learn what they need to learn by nature's motivation in a loving environment. It is only when they go out of this loving environment of the home into the schools that they stop learning. So maybe kids can direct their own learning.

I am becoming more and more uncomfortable about a feeling of middle-class evangelism. I met it with teachers that many of them were God's gift or were Michelle Pfeifer. With homeschooling detachment must be harder to achieve as there are so many pressures. You love your kids so the sun shines out of their arse. You have made a commitment to homeschooling so you have to stick with that commitment. The homeschooling parents have so much invested in their decision it might be hard for them to be balanced. Of course once homeschooling starts they have nowhere to go. If what they do is not suitable for the child then they have to return to the state system, and by that time maybe the kids cannot work within state school discipline.

There are two very clear issues - supervision and resources. For homeschooling these kids need 24/7 supervision, that must be absolute hell. If there is only one parent, how awful is that? The second issue is resources. The internet provides some of that with support networks and suggestions, but there could be far more done.

These last two issues provide more justification for a mubaan resource in the community. At the same time a mubaan building might provide respite for stressed homeschooling parents. And agreed intervention with a qualified professional in tune with the home/nature paradigm might help with the student direction.

I am concerned about student direction in adolescence. Continuing nature's motivation from early years into what might be called the early primary years has obvious benefits, and might not have the fallbacks of moving into a non-loving environment to learn. But in adolescence how will the rebellion manifest? If there is a continuation of the loving environment will teenagers not rebel? To be honest at the moment I don't believe it, I think they will rebel but I need to think on that.

How are homeschoolers paid? How do they survive?

Tags - CP HE autonomy mubaan
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Extreme western pampering?

I later realised that in this blog-entry I had reacted to strident position-taking when writing this blog. Not removed because it contains some useful questioning - see later blogs for resolved positions.
I need to learn who the first proponent of this unschooling was to examine the developmental model it is based on. For good education to occur the issue is love and not student direction. In the early years at home instinct and love provide the motivation for learning. I would suspect, but would not like to test the hypothesis, that children in the early years will learn anything in any loving environment because it would be a response to a mother's love.

Western liberalism is a problem. We first saw this in the changes that occurred in education in the 60s and 70s which I describe as the throwing the baby out with the bath water. People wanted to remove the restrictions of Victorian rigidity but in doing so they threw out discipline. As a result in schools now we have ill-discipline because teachers have been disempowered to provide that discipline. Children need discipline, it was not necessarily the discipline that was the problem in those older schools it was the paradigm; sometimes of course some teachers misused the discipline. Outside the western world with children coming from loving homes they are willing to learn in schools. The loving environment they have come from in the home is transposed to the school and the students are willing to learn. Whilst this learning, because it is part of the paradigm, is not part of natural learning, it still happens because there is a culture of learning. Contrast these transposed loving environments with western schools where parents dread that the students have to go, do not trust the teachers (because of the paradigm) and students are afraid to go because of the violence.

Western liberalism works on a principle of arrogance. These liberals believe that what is happening in the West is the pinnacle of human development, and that all civilisation progresses to where they are at. Whilst it might be true that all societies aspire to the wealth of the West, the arrogance perverts it and says that this is what the world should aim for. In terms of the upbringing of children many western parents have lost their way as compared with parents from other countries. The evidence lies in the control of their children. In the West you walk down the street and you see young children misbehaving and their parents not chastising them. You see young children perpetually demanding and parents responding by catering to these demands. These children are spoilt. Their behaviour is not given boundaries as parents want them to be free to grow. But this model is flawed, the human mind needs discipline. Aspects of the mind need boundaries to develop properly.

I thought I was current but I definitely am not. Unschooling is a development of this western liberalism but is not based on sound educational grounds. I can quite believe that the students who are unschooled will turn out better people than many in schooling but that does not make what is happening right.

The problem lies in an appropriate developmental model. The model that students are free to learn what they want is flawed, it is not natural and fails to recognise aspects of the human mind. If not properly controlled, the human mind can fly off at tangents. It needs control. It needs stillness. It needs to find its Path. Growth is natural when it follows this Path yet anyone who has been near to finding this Path knows that part of the mind is always fighting against this natural Path and needs the proper control of meditation to cope. Young people need to develop this control. It begins with parents. In the loving home parents control and because of love allow the children to develop but at the same time where the child's actions are not appropriate they control even up to the point of punishment. Children learn through the control of their parents what is proper behaviour. This principle needs to apply to learning in homeschooling, parents need to provide the control that leads to proper learning.

What happens to children who behave properly under this control of proper behaviour, they learn morality. And when they apply this morality as deep morality they provide themselves with the conditions that eventually allow them to find and follow their own Path. It is this Path in education that we need to find. It can be found by proper discipline of the mind that then gives people the freedom to find their own Path. But this Path cannot be found if the mind is jumping all over the place jumping from one whim to another. Unschooling allows children to direct their own learning, this is dangerous as it can produce this whimsical mind that flitters inappropriately from one thing to another without gaining any focus. This sounds to me as a danger in unschooling.

But that does not mean schooling is any better. Far from it the schooling model originally had discipline. This meant that minds were controlled by discipline, but because the learning model was inappropriate liberals rejected this rigid model of education. To a certain extent the wrong thing was rejected. This rigidity has been replaced by a model that has encouraged whimsical minds and ill-discipline for the majority.

It has also contributed to the other aspect of the contemporary model that many liberals reject - exams. Many liberals have not rejected the curriculum, they are happy with the notion that, using their intellects, they can pass in the various subjects that make up our existing curriculum. However the ill-discipline of their intellectual minds does not like the practices associated with this passing - the cramming, the nervousness and stress associated with sitting and passing exams. What they don't accept is that they also are failures under the paradigm. This cramming, nervousness and stress is good training for the corporate executive so if you can cope then you can join the club - if you cannot cope then you are another failure. These liberals who have been tinkering with this aspect of education only are maybe doing so because they are failures within the corporate paradigm rather than because they are looking for appropriate education. If they choose not to be a corporate exec they are failures in terms of the paradigm. Many would say, good I choose not to be a success. But then why do they want the exam results? Maybe they would even go so far as to say they want self-realisation, and proceed to look for it elsewhere. Great. But why isn't education giving them that self-realisation in the first case. Why does success at exams mean self-realisation? Reject this learning model, do not focus on the model's measuring stick of exams, and work towards an appropriate way of learning for all people to be self-realised.

Of course exams are not a good aspect of education at the moment but they continue because they fit the paradigm. Exams are now used as this measure by the paradigm because it is a competitive model that designs for failure. But what is lacking everywhere including unschooling as well as in the established paradigm is the Natural Path of Education - an appropriate model of learning for self-realisation.

So it is sensible to then ask what is this Natural Path of Education, and that is so difficult to answer. The key to it is self-realisation, and unschoolers would quite naturally turn round and say that by letting their children direct their own learning this is the path to self-realisation. But that is not the case because they are allowing the immature mind with all its whimsy to direct the learning. Such minds will then be hampered from self-realisation because they lack the control and the morality that comes from good behaviour conditioning.

It is intellect and not love that allows these children to direct, or rather the intellect is clouding the mother's love into believing that this intellectual freedom is proper. Somehow we have to learn more of how Nature would want to see us develop and learn to apply that. What is clear to me is that Nature does not want intellect to be directing. Intellect has its place in Nature but intellect cannot guide towards self-realisation because intellectual minds need discipline to be on the Path. Ask academics, they cannot recognise the Path.

It would be interesting to find the views of an unschooler who meditates.

Tags - ND QP HE love discipline meditation morality exams
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Unschooling Primer
This blogentry is taken in totality from the site Tranquil Parent. This unschooling primer is clearly good education but the girl is 6. It counters my previous blog, but leaves me with the doubts about the proper discipline of mind.

"There's been a big hoopla on the internet about unschooling in the past week, fueled primarily by a deceptively edited and obviously biased piece on unschooling on "Good Morning America." Like most of the coverage served up on shows like this, the details of their take on this form of "extreme parenting" will soon be forgotten, but the lingering misunderstandings will remain. We unschool our daughter, Z, who will be turning 6 this summer, and since we've found it to be a wonderful, joyous experience - albeit one with its pros and cons, like any real-world, not-so-shocking parenting choice - we thought it might be helpful for those curious about homeschooling, and unschooling, to tell you a bit more about it. You might even decide that this lifestyle would work for your family!

What do we mean by unschooling?

In some ways, unschooling is one version of what most parents of public/private schoolchildren think of when they say "homeschooling." But for those who consider themselves unschoolers, it is also different from "homeschooling" in fundamental ways.

Most parents who choose to educate their children at home find structure and direction in recreating school practices in their home. They use textbooks, lesson plans, and course designs modeled after school experiences and segment learning in scheduled classes. The extent of these practices vary widely, in part because homeschoolers do benefit from the ability to tailor their "school day" to meet the needs of their children - tackling the most challenging subject areas in the morning, for example, when a child is fresh; organizing schooling around other activities or availability of parents (tag-teaming with another parent or rearranging class times to allow for special visitors or "field trips"); or allotting extra time for subjects a child finds more challenging.

Homeschoolers are driven by the knowledge that they are providing a specialized educational experience tailored to their beliefs or worldview that places their child at the center of learning and allows them to focus much more personal attention on helping their child learn than any teacher could provide. The social world of the "homeschool" is quite small - it often depends on how many siblings are also learning at home - but it can be more emotionally supportive as well as more supportive of learning than the public school classroom.

These are generalizations, and for every homeschooling parent who prides him- or herself on a tight academic schedule or an award-winning curriculum, there is one (or at least a fraction of one) who takes a more casual approach. But here's where unschoolers peel off from their homeschooling bretheren. While homeschoolers typically (again, generalizations) attempt to recreate an ideal version of a schoolroom within their own home and under their direct governance, unschoolers see most aspects of the typical school experience as symptoms of the institutional framework - the teacher holding forth in front of the students, the set sequence of subjects and timelines for mastery, and even the emphasis of breadth over depth in learning - that children who can be offered the opportunity to learn on their own should not be saddled with.

By now you are probably aware of which way we lean in our home education. We knew we wanted to "homeschool" before we knew whether it would be possible, but it wasn't long after figuring out that we could actually do this - through some personal and professional sacrifices and some much-appreciated family participation - before we realized that we were not interested in playing school at home. For us, it was a fast and fun slide into home educating radicalism, and we enthusiastically embraced (and wholeheartedly support) the broad aims and philosophy of unschooling, although every pedagogical method (like every lifestyle) has its pros and cons. (More on that in a bit.)

For us, unschooling means following Z's lead on what she wants to learn. The result is that sometimes we will spend days or weeks focusing on a single topic and sometimes we have a Q&A session where Z fires questions as quickly as she can, we answer them and our answer triggers her to ask a question related or unrelated (in our minds) to the answer. For instance, one night during a two-hour drive, Z wanted to know who "invented" electricity; we answered and offered a little about the topic and after an hour of questions were answering queries about human biology (the role of electricity in biomechanical processes and brain functioning) and death. For us, the goal has always been to answer her questions honestly, confess to any gaps in our knowledge, and let her take the lead on how in-depth she wants to go. We routinely identify things we need to look up in books or on the Internet or identify people we know who could answer various questions, and we do our best to follow up.

What is our role as unschooling parents?

We see our job as that of learning faciliators and, particularly at this stage of her life, as key introducers of new ideas. Z regularly brings us project ideas that she wants to work on and things that she wants to "investigate." In fact, she brings us so many of these ideas to create and investigate that we have no way to complete them all! Sometimes we try to guide her impulses in a thematic direction and make sure to link ideas together. Sometimes we just roll with her passions.

We spend a lot of time with books, from kid-friendly reference books to single-topic books to adult reference materials, and use a few worksheets when we find topics she really likes to drill on. We do a lot of "investigating" on the internet (YouTube is great for videos of how anything is made, and there are great materials online aimed specifically at kids to explain a lot of science topics). We also go through stacks of library books and videos and do as much hands-on learning as we can make happen. (What better way to learn about plants than to have a garden?) A five-year-old is at a stage where the sensory world is still of primary importance but descriptive and categorizing skills are becoming more important and serving as a foundation for critical thinking, so we do a lot of that. (Incidentally, we don't know these things about her stage of development because a chart or guide tells us that this is what a five-year-old "should" be doing; we know this because we spend so much time learning with our daughter that we know what motivates her and what path she's on.) We have taste tests where we explore the differences in say, a variety of apples or water from different places (learning about food diversity, using descriptive words, becoming aware of the palate, experimentation, ranking varieties and parsing out flavors. We take field trips - we go to art openings, zoos, museums, she travels with us for business, we visit relatives in other states, we go to big cities and to working history farms.

As she gets older, some of these endeavors will doubtless change shape. Some will become more serious studies of things she seems to have an ongoing interest in or to have a natural facility for. Some will require that we seek out more outside opportunities for her, such as mentoring, cooperative activities in our community, or independent investigations. A lot of things will change when she is a fluent reader and can do more topical exploration on her own, with less guidance from us.

But won't your child grow up without an understanding of rules and limits on their behavior?

We don't have an awful lot of rules in our home. The main one we try to live by and want to pass on to our daughter is the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We've had several conversations about it, and love this book about the Golden Rule. It's the rule that rules our house.

We have a chore chart but it's used infrequently, doesn't hold a lot of ongoing interest, and has no rewards associated with its completion. We ask Z for help when we need it and she does the same with us. These too are often learning experiences.

We do have a loose bedtime for Z but there are nights when she isn't tired right away and on those nights she goes to her room to lay in bed or read quietly until she's ready for sleep. When I say we have a bedtime, I mean that we have a time that Jeremiah and I aim to have Z to sleep - we have a before bed routine that we've established over the years that includes teeth brushing, silent reading, time with dad and time with mom alone.

If we start the routine more or less around 7:30, she's usually drifted off to sleep by 8:45 or 9:00. But because she doesn't have to operate at any specific level in the morning, we feel more free to facilitate her transition from play to bed just as we facilitate her other activities. We do limit her TV time and her viewing choices at this point but we've considered changing that as she gets older. The only other main thing that we limit at this point is candy, although we've had some struggles with that and are considering an unlimited sweets system.

So clearly, we are comfortable living in an environment with few strict limits on behavior. This is part of why unschooling suits us fairly well. To paraphrase one unschooling advocate, whose name escapes me at the moment, unschooling is providing for a child's education with as little structure as the parent is comfortable with. To us, this means allowing her to steer her own education in directions she is most inerested in. Passion translates very well into rapid and meaningful learning, and means that she may advance faster in some topics than curriculum-driven children, and more slowly in others, based on her interests and drives.

How can an unschooled child learn discipline?

Our philosophy is that at some point Z will find something that she is passionate about enough that she will be disciplined enough to work through any issues or difficulties she might have. Actually, she's already taught herself how to ride a bike without training wheels (when she fell, she got back up on that bike and rode it!) and she practices violin on a near-daily basis, most of the time with gusto. I do not, as an adult, generally force myself to eat things I don't care for (I do try to taste a bite) or to "push through" and just do something because I feel like I have to. I don't particularly enjoy exercise but I do it anyway because I want to be healthy - but that's my motivation - I'm not doing it because someone told me I have to. I can't think of anything I do that I'm forced to do - I pay my taxes and I'm not thrilled about that but choose to pay them so I don't go to jail; I choose to work so I have money to live the way I want to live. Unschoolers believe that children should be permitted to find natural sources of motivation just as adults do.

If we didn't have rules and let our kids pick what they wanted to do, they'd spend all day doing x, y, and z!

Kids accustomed to rules and requirements about how they spend their day who are suddenly given freedom do tend to go a little nuts (see college freshmen) but for kids who have grown up with few rules and the freedom to choose tend to make pretty good choices. If you take a child out of school and experiment with unschooling, you've got to give that child some time to "deschool" - to get all those rules and restrictions out of his brain and body. Face it, if you were suddenly given time off work and told to do whatever you wanted would you do all the things you've been waiting to do but haven't had time to do it or would you wake up bright and early the next day and get straight to work? Yep, that's what I thought.

When we arrived home on a recent evening, Z asked to go out and work in the garden, so we did: I weeded while she and Jeremiah harvested greens (wild and cultivated) for a salad (her idea to make one) which she then came in and made for our family for dinner. Yesterday she asked if we could work on an atlas project (a long-term project we've been working on) that has been shelved for several months. Yes, there are days she just wants to watch TV, but most days it never even comes up.

But if you don't teach them, how will they be prepared for a career in x, y, z or what if they want to go into a science/math field?

What we are teaching Z is how to learn. We are teaching her how to access resources, how to do research, how to find information she wants, how to address her curiosity in a constructive way, and how to attain skills that she's interested in learning. In high school I was required to take a geometry class - I countered that I knew I would never need to know geometry - and guess what? The only time I needed geometry since high school (which, trust me, was many, many years ago) was a month or so ago. Did I moan and groan that I wish I'd paid better attention in geometry? (My geometry teacher, by the way, slept through most of our classes.) I did not. I went to the internet, Googled it, and learned how to do what I needed to do in about 10 minutes. I still regret that I wasted all that time in a subject I had no interest or desire to learn.

Saying that unschooled children won't be prepared to study in a math or science field is basically saying that either 1) there's no way to learn math or science without a teacher or 2) that children are not inherently drawn to math or science. If you break it down that way, it's clear that both of those ideas are ridiculous - it's just as easy to learn math or science as it is to learn how to read or to learn how to write or draw - you just need the motivation to do so. Gone are the days when you made a career choice in high school and stayed in that career - or even maybe the same company - for your working life. Now you make a choice - maybe in college, maybe before and you figure out the path you need to take to attain that career goal. So what does an adult do when they want to change careers mid-life? They do the same thing - they figure out the path that need to take to attain that career goal. They don't just say, well, it's too bad I didn't study art or music or math in high school, guess I can't be an artist, musician or mathematician. No, they say, well, I need to do X to get there and then they do it. And ultimately, that's how unschooled kids achieve career goals too.

Of course, just as the world of information, life skills, and so on changed from our parents' generation to ours, it may change again by the time our children are grown up. But from our perspective, we're preparing a child who will be ready for just about anything she wants to do.

What about socialization?

Like most unschoolers and homeschoolers, Z socializes with a wide variety of people. Since she's not in school all day encouraged to only interact with children her own age, she has opportunities to interact with all ages of people every day, and does. Sometimes we go to homeschool "park days" where kids of all ages meet up and play. Sometimes we go to a store where she chats up the cashiers (and just about anyone else who will listen). Sometimes we visit with a friend with a younger child and Z is more than happy to show the younger child the ropes. She's also learning violin, which while is an individual lesson, gives her the opportunity to perform with children younger and older than her and even with adult music students. Since the majority of people that she interacts with on a day to day basis are adults, she is quite comfortable talking with adults and can hold a conversation better than some adults that I know. In fact, one of our pet peeves is when Z asks a direct question of an adult and the adult directs their answer back to me instead of to her or ignores her completely. Many adults she encounters seem so ill-equipped to interact with a child as a sentient person that they simply do not hear her when she talks to them.

Give me some examples of your unschooling.

Our days vary a lot. I work part-time and Jeremiah works full time out of the home so Z spends at least a little time most every week day with her grandmother. (Yes, it was hard to convince my mother about unschooling too but she seems to have come around to the idea.)

In the past month we've covered:

Math: Sorting, graphing, adding, subtracting, and counting M&Ms, dividing fresh from the garden strawberries for the family to share, dividing allowance into three different jars (spend, save, give), counting money, budgeting money, saving money, time telling, experimenting with a spirograph, and estimating

Language Arts: She reads to us most nights, we read to her every night and sometimes during the day as well, writing her own books, writing a list of all the words in a single word family that she knows, oral storytelling, retelling stories or events of the day, writing letters to family.

Science: Planting and maintaining a garden, learning about periennal and annual plants, weeding, hatching spiders, keeping snails in a habitat, talking about conservation of resources, snakes, lizards, collecting shells and investigating them.

Health: Watching Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" and discussing healthy food choices, cooking, personal hygiene, etc.

Art Drawing on a near daily basis, drawing in storytelling, diagramming and mapping out things, painting, looking at art, talking about art.

Music: Near daily violin practice, sight note reading, how to write notes, music composition (she is very interested in making up melodies right now).

Phys. Ed: Bike riding, dance.

Community Service and Citizenship: Picking up trash in the neighborhood, listening to NPR on the radio (seriously, her favorite show is "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me!"), learning about the ethical treatment of animals.

This doesn't count a recent trip to the beach with her grandparents where she learned independence (her first three-day trip away from home), explored the ocean, and built on her extended family relationships or a visit from an out-of-state grandmother and out-of-town cousins, both younger than her, to whom she was a gracious host.

Why not just send Z to school?

Jeremiah and I have known we wanted to homeschool since before we were even married. We both felt that the hours that we spent in school were not worth the return on our investment if we had to do it over again. We also wanted to be able to travel at any time without having to worry about unexcused absences or taking busywork to complete on a trip (I'll never forget the time my parents wrote me a sick note when I went to Disneyworld with my dad; he's in the construction business which means that summers are swamped for him and the only time he could take a real vacation was in the winter. The school said that wasn't an excused absence and I'd get zeros for any work I missed while I was out. Both of my parents - divorced by then - thought that was ridiculous, so they just wrote me a sick note.)

We also dislike many of the decisions that the Texas State Board of Education makes, so that weighed heavily in our decision as well. When I first thought about the idea of homeschooling, I imagined playing teacher at home - a nice little chalkboard with one of those cool chalk covers that the teachers always got to use so their fingers didn't get dirty, a little room where I could hang up my own teacher posters and I'd teach and my children (oh yes, I wanted six of them at that point) would sit quietly and listen. (Ha!)

But then, in the many, many hours that I had to do nothing while Z was nursing I started reading books about homeschooling. Somehow (I don't remember how at this point), someone put John Holt's book Teach Your Own in my hands and my life (and my ideas about homeschooling) changed radically. From Holt, I went to Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. It isn't technically about unschooling but it is about systems of reward and punishment, which drives a lot of schooling. From there I went on to read Mary Griffith's The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Handbook and from there to Lawrence Cohn's Playful Parenting. It all seemed to just mesh together at the right time with our other child-rearing philosophies, and unschooling became our new path to take.

Why not use a curriculum?

Once I read the books mentioned above, all of my former ideas about how to homeschool went out the window. Add to this that Z is often resistant to do worksheets or activity books (she'll go on an occasional binge where she'll do workbook type activities but usually resists them) and unschooling presented itself again as the path to take. We do occasionally look at sample curricula on-line - sometimes we gather ideas from them of books to read or activities to do or projects to toss out to Z as bait. Sometimes Z wants to do a workbook or use a computer program (we like Kumon books and Mia Kutoka's software) so we have a few of these around, but again, they are used when Z wants to use them.

We are not opposed to curricular materials per se, but to their use in governing what is learned when. We have made great use of Hooked on Phonics materials and they have been instrumental in Z's learning to read. But we have found that she has a very particular way of going about it, and this usually involves very intensive and enthusiastic work on reading over the course of a day - sometimes she will want to work on reading four, six, or eight hours solid, with breaks for meals and short play sessions but really working through some reading challenges - and then won't want to try to read anything for two weeks straight. It's weird, but she makes so much progress during those cram sessions, it just works. She is learning to read fairly quickly, and we make sure she understands just what kind of freedom that will offer her. Given the environment she has been educated in so far, she finds this freedom highly motivating and takes a great deal of pride in her reading abilities.

What are the biggest challenges of unschooling? The biggest drawbacks?

Sometimes the lack of structure can be unsettling. Sometimes you might wonder what your child is learning, if they are "keeping up" with other kids. Sometimes topics seem to get picked up and then abandoned before you can do much with them - either because the child loses interest or, more often, because the parent lacks the time or the organizational resources to keep the topic alive. Sometimes you can drive interest out of a topic by providing too much or too little input.

We could probably do better at making sure that ideas Z is interested in learning about are explored as far as her interest will take her; it is hard to tell at this point if we should play a larger role in helping identify learning themes and keeping track of ideas for her so she can continually explore them in greater depth. She is at an age where she still looks to us for a lot of ideas and entertainment and we might make better use of that than we do. Sometimes we feel pressed for time or too harried and half-finished projects are abandoned or worse, never started. Doing things on more of a schedule might counteract some of these problems, and we do try to schedule a bit. Sometimes our other obligations intrude and push those learning projects to the side.

Z has many friends, but few her age that she sees regularly, and none as regularly as children who are in school do. Socialization in public schools is not necessarily all good - many children are very poorly socialized by the public school system - but regular time with friends you choose to spend time with is one of the benefits of a school setting. Again, this is something that we could probably do a bit better about, rather than a shortcoming of homeschooling or unschooling itself.

We generally don't think of these problems as signs that we have chosen an educational method that "doesn't work," any more than the downsides of a job indicate that you are in the wrong career field or any more than having a cheese sandwich is "wrong" because you aren't having a PB&J. Every path has its pros and cons. Some of the challenges we face as unschoolers are ones public school parents might face as well, now or later. Others are unique to our path, but allow us to avoid some big disadvantages of other educational models. Such is life.

We also do have some outlets for our desire for guidance and structure, ways that we moderate and adapt the unschooling journey to our own personalities. We maintain lists of the learning standards used in public schools in Texas so we have a sense of what those kids are covering each year, and challenge ourselves to make sure (although in ways that are largely driven by Z's interest) that she is being exposed to the variety of skills and concepts that are covered in public schools. But one of the key freedoms of unschooling (practiced to a lesser degree by many homeschoolers) is the realization that the sequence and benchmarks of many learning milestones are somewhat arbitrary. It is not that children should not need to learn many of these things; they should. It is not that many of them are not best mastered within a general age range; they are. But a child's interests, if followed, will inevitably mean that your kids are far "ahead" of other kids in some areas and far "behind" them in others, based on their interests.

What are the key advantages that make unschooling the right choice for you?

Our lives are very flexible. We feel that we are active participants in her education and that we are all learning all the time. We experience wonder with her on a regular basis. We get to explain things in fun ways and explore topics with her. We spend a lot of time outside, have a lot of interesting conversations, and are confident that she will not have the desire to learn drummed out of her by mismanaged schooling. We are able to allow her to focus on things she is very interested in and seems to have a natural affinity for, and develop herself deeply in those areas. Peer pressure and conformity are not really issues in her life. We have an intimate knowledge of the things that interest her, and find it interesting to find connections between these things, and to extrapolate from them what kind of person she is and is becoming, in a way that parents less directly involved in their children's education probably aren't. She has no idea that there is even such a thing as a person who thinks (or thinks they think) learning is boring.

The key to unschooling is recognizing that learning happens all the time if we let it, and that children are fantastically enthusiastic about this happening, if it is not drilled out of them by forcing them to "study" things they are not interested in. There are opportunities to learn and to teach at any given moment. When we take a road trip, Z will look at the traveling blue dot on our iPhone's google maps and she's familiarizing herself with map reading, with geography, and with the use of technology. When we go to an art show, Z is learning how to look at art, how to talk about art, how to act in social situations. When she got her ears pierced, Z learned about hygiene, making safe choices, and confronting her fears. We do not sit at home all day each of us doing our own thing. We are out and about and in the world - she is socializing and interacting with people of all ages - from babies to adults and it is natural to her.

Her learning, much like our own learning as adults, ebbs and flows - some days she wants to play with her dollhouse all day but even then, as parents, we must recognize that as valuable time for her to process interpersonal relationships (she is often acting out events that happened in the past through her dolls) and for her to hone her storytelling skills (she talks her way through her play narrating the characters movements and words). We must trust that she will lead us to her interests - that we may throw ideas or subjects into her path and she will pick them up and study them or discard them. Unschoolers trust that their children are interested in learning about the world around them, and see themselves as guides to help children make the most of that innate drive to learn.

Tags - Unschooling primer
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Unschooling and me
I am beginning to feel more and more positive towards homeschooling and unschooling, my previous blogentry of "Extreme western pampering?" was perhaps a reaction to strident positioning rather than unschooling. But that is why they are blogs and not a book or a paper, I am working through the issues.

It does however seem very clear to me that homeschooling/unschooling is very demanding but that if people are willing to invest that time there can be very positive results. At the same time the students do not have to go through all of the peer nastiness associated with schools, and for some the teacher nastiness.

I have said to all the groups that I have applied to that I am a retired teacher interested, and only two groups have denied my application - both British. What does that say? Perhaps there has been previous aggression by establishment teachers?

This does not alter my concern about the development of mind, concentration, and meditation. I am concerned about the appropriate developmental model, that model cannot work in established schools where the corporate paradigm is demanding specialised success and majority failure. It could work at home but just because it is at home doesn't mean it will work. Unschooling effectively says that students will instinctively follow their own model, as an adult I have found that following my Path is not instinctive and that without meditation the mind tries to take jumps far from the Path. In the very young I would say that Path-following was instinctive, and my initial expectation is that the rejection years of adolescence would affect Path-following.

However this raises interesting questions. What are the causes of adolescent rejection of all and sundry? In my own case repression was a key factor in my rejection but that was parental. I didn't have issues with school because I was academically fairly successful with little effort, and bullying was not a major problem. The classroom discipline helped control my immature mind rather than repress it. The repression that stemmed from my home was enough to keep me under control at school with the immature behaviour being the obvious outlet.

As a 6th-former I began developing social rejection but that was also fashionable at the time. At university I felt no repression, and again drifted through easily academically with a surge at year 2 and year 3 exams. However in postgrad year I began to develop an awareness of much that was wrong in society, and this fitted in with the fashion of the time - although I now know that was not just fashion but my nature.

My childhood years were dark for me spiritually, and this showed in the breakdown in early working life. The factors that led to this breakdown were the emotional repression at home. This did not exhibit itself at school because academic success built up an ego and so I became invested in the school. At university drink and socialising prevented the repression from rearing its head, but I never had to work too hard except in the exams year 2 and 3. Because I didn't have to work hard and because of the drunken outlets I never had to face myself until I worked. Facing my limited awareness I broke down and started the process of coming out the other side.

But with this breakdown came something else that was also fashionable - rejection of the system; I began to reinvent the wheel. There were many things that the system advocated that I rejected per se - especially to do with concentration and discipline, and I now see these as important. But let's be fair the world is dukkha - a mess, and no compassionate person can feel anything but anger - unless improved by detachment. There is no doubt at all in my mind that my upbringing and education would not have encouraged the Buddha on His Path.

So what could contribute to rejection?

1) Repression at home

2) Repression at school

3) Lack of success at school

4) Growing awareness at university not being dissipated by drugs or success - universities might be more repressive nowadays.

5) Being at work forcing me to see myself as I had to do a working day.

6) Dukkha - as a whole the world is an uncaring mess.

Does one assume homeschoolers are not repressive? I suppose there are two overarching conditions in upbringing - love or repression. With love awareness grows, with repression awareness explodes in a breakdown or gets consumed by addiction. The world is an uncaring mess but not everyone recognises this. Work forced me to see it, and for others often confrontation is needed. For me then meeting aware people helped consolidate this. What forces people to see the world for what it is? If they don't see it, then there is no need for rejection. But a good education needs to teach them the world is a mess and how to cope with it. Then there is no rejection - rejection is not constructive for society.

Tags - ND HE Meditation repression
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Towards a resolution of home education
It is said that nature chooses our parents for a purpose, in a system that is looking to support the home then supporting the parents' choice of education has to be part of that support. If parents choose to educate at home that is their choice. In supporting this decision I have suggested already that the mubaan school would provide material resource and a place of supervisory respite. These material resources would also provide a summary of what is available on the net, a service that is needed now anyway.

But in summary homeschooling and unschooling are mostly talking about methods of delivery of education and not educational principles themselves. Who delivers the education is the parents, the educational principles are left to natural choice - the choice nature makes for the parents you have.

How does this fit with the two measures that we have already established? Would the Buddha have been encouraged to Nirvana? Without a detailed look at his upbringing it does appear that he was given an isolated upbringing - tutored at home - in a loving environment. Then as an adult he left the comfort of the home, went into society, saw the dukkha of birth, sickness and death, and started the more directly spiritual aspect of his life that led to Nirvana. This is homeschooling. Appropriate models of education could have improved this process. Did the Buddha have meditation training when younger? No. But one can look at the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and for those who are deemed to be born to greatness they do have such training - as the Dalai Lama himself. So we have improved homeschooling. But we do not have unschooling, whilst the Dalai Lama is deeply respected from birth he does not choose what he learns his tutors do. The Tibetan tradition is not an unschooling tradition. So there is still the question about unschooling, will the child-direction lead to an ego-oriented uncontrolled mind?

The other measure of homeschooling is how does it fit into the corporate paradigm? The corporations do not care about the origins of their executives, only their functioning. The family dynasties have advantages over other families in that the family environment educates for aloofness and superiority. The private schools they go to foster this same aloofness and perceived superiority so they can join the "family business". As for homeschooling an isolated environment can be created, and therefore there is the potential for this aloofness and perceived superiority. However this home environment is not a school of hard knocks so maybe they haven't developed the thick skins that would enable them to be corporate execs. But there is not threat to the paradigm in homeschooling or unschooling.

Recognising that homeschooling or unschooling are methods of delivery and not educational principles gives an easier perspective in placing the issue in context. Yet the nature paradigm that supports the home would encourage support for such forms of delivery. But education for all has got to be a principle for this system, and therefore Buddha tutelage or Tibetan Lama tutelage is not an option - unless as in Tibet there is religious support.

However what is clear about both forms of delivery, homeschooling and unschooling, is that they have major advantages over schooling because they are not hellholes to be survived by students with hopefully some sort of education at the end of it. Maybe the educating at home movement is the start of the nature paradigm that focuses on the home.

There are many questions to be answered within this method of delivery but those questions need not detract from the method of delivery itself. Open research needs to be encouraged to determine its advantages, but unfortunately such open research is unlikely to be carried out with so many people invested in the continuation of the schools - despite their failures. Hence the reactions of the UK groups. Doubts that I raised in the over-reactive blogentry Extreme western pampering? do need to be considered but these doubts are not to be used as excuses by the prevailing system to take away the right for home education to occur. Hopefully within the mubaan principles that I am establishing there would be work that would encourage parents to consider education theory as well as the supervisory respite and the summary of net resources available.

And in accepting the principle of education for all homeschooling cannot be a universal principle, some families are not able to educate at home. Provision of education through delivery at a school building would be required for many families. How this is done when one considers all the problems that schools have is a very difficult question.

Tags - ND HE mubaan autonomy
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The Whipped
Teachers are whipped from all sides. Within schools as these are the only people who can help the students this whipping is totally negative. Of course it does help the paradigm, as students who effectively manage to learn within such an environment become more valuable as corporative execs. But when teachers are whipped, how does it help the majority of students? Not at all, this majority become failures, and everyone blames the whipped. The whipped become more whipped, and the cycle continues. And with their being fewer and fewer posts for the successful, the less successes there are the better. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

To understand this whipping process we should examine classroom management historically. It was straight-forward. There was no education, a few rich people maybe had tutors - but that was it. More wanted education, and it became profitable to setup businesses. But these schools established the parameters of the learning situation. The teacher delivered set lessons, perhaps from texts, and the students learned what they were told. As a consequence there were no classroom management issues.

What is the same now? The teacher and the classroom. But everything else has changed. In the West what has to be delivered has changed, as well the demands of the students and their parents have increased. What the students and parents want cannot be delivered within those original parameters of the teacher and the classroom. And where you have all the parameters the same you have some form of education. One image that is popular amongst teachers is the image of African teacher under a tree with a blackboard delivering a lesson. Those students are grateful for what they can be taught, and the lesson is successful. If you place a western child in that environment they would not learn. Because the environment is not appropriate.

And that is true of schools today as well, the environment has changed. Whilst the classroom has remained the same, the demands of the students and parents have greatly increased yet they are making those demands of one person - the teacher. That teacher does not have students ready to receive what s/he is delivering. No matter how much the teacher changes, is better educated, and improves teaching materials, this basic fact is unalterable the students are not ready for a situation in which the material is delivered.

This is such an obvious point one has to ask why education has not attempted to answer it, and here again we return to the paradigm. Let us consider again historically the birth of schools. More and more rich people wanted their children educated. There might well not have been enough tutors to go round, and it was cheaper to attend a school. But the school were not for all children they were for the children of the rich. It was required of these rich children that they behave and learn, it was part of their class upbringing.

As this is not an historical analysis there is no need to consider proper historical development, suffice it to say, the schools became expected to deliver to all children. And when this started to happen the inadequacies of the pedagogical model began to show up ie schools and their classrooms were not appropriate places for this education. It worked for a while. Rigid discipline in schools was maintained up until the end of the second world war, but people were not satisfied. Whilst their children attended these schools their education did not give them the jobs and wealth that the rich continued to have. Why? They were never meant to. The state schools were only meant to deliver a level of education that would enable them to function in a more educated workforce. The rich were still meant to stay rich but the workers were still needed to maintain their wealth. With machinisation the workers were needed to be more educated and that became the function of the state schools.

At some stage this situation also did not suffice needs. The class structure had been replaced by corporate structures. The rich and powerful could not just inherit wealth, they had to fulfil roles within industry. The rich changed nature into the corporate businessman, and whilst the wealth to build the plants might have come from the wealthy their roles became combined. In order to do that the children of the wealthy needed to be educated to fulfil their corporate position. In a world of increasing technology the workforce needed greater education, but despite what was purportedly offered in careers the roles of these members of the workforce were not extended to that of the corporate exec - except occasionally.

But the corporate positions were offered up as ambition, but when many people who worked hard failed to fulfil these ambitions they became dissatisfied and the effects began to be seen in education. And for the last 50 years classroom discipline has worsened to such an extent that many parents see the only solution as homeschooling.

The only way that schools can work is complete dedication by the student to this method of delivery in the classroom because that is how it was designed, how many parents and students have that level of dedication? And why have schools continued? Because of corporate paradigm. The schools continue to deliver enough well-moulded corporate execs and sufficient members to make up the workforce to enable the profits to keep on rolling. Why would you expect business and the powers they control to want to change the education model?

It is only because of dedication of some teachers and the hard work of some students that this failed model continues to have some success. But to expect it to have success for all students and parents is ridiculous. But few people can say this as most people are invested in the status quo. Business people are satisfied with the status quo, they are getting their execs and their workforce. Business work with the politicians so the politicians say the system is OK. So they need a scapegoat - the teachers. Some teachers speak out about how bad the system is, but they have to be careful how they speak out or they will lose their jobs; at best they will have no career. Parents and students complain understandably yet most often they blame the teachers. The teachers cannot blame the system or in private schools, the owner, so they keep quiet - they are whipped.

Unless there is a paradigm-shift in education parents will not get what they want for their children. And how can this occur? Education and society are inextricably linked, to paraphrase a saying "which comes first education or society?" This is why I have talked about the emphasis on the home in the nature paradigm.

Sadly concerned parents do not always help. They become conscious how the system is hurting their children, and they convey this hurt to their children who then go to school already alienated from their teachers. Breaking this relationship is the first step to failure. Many parents have desires for their children's future which quite naturally revolve around education. Who is their contact with education? Placing individual demands on the teacher cannot work, the classroom was not designed for catering to individual demands. But in this day and age individual specialism is more and more needed.

At the same time western society is moving more and more to catering for individual needs, children are brought up in a more individual way catering for individual creativity. Then these children bring individual demands to a system that was created for classroom conformity, and for teachers who were delivering to a uniform group taught by the parents that they must behave.

For this current classroom pedagogy to have any chance of success parents must recognise the origins of the school system, recognise how the school system was designed to work, and work within that frame of reference. This is why the parent-teacher alliance is so important for success in the classroom. Parents have to sacrifice some of their individual demands and working with the teacher present a united front so that the teacher can deliver. Otherwise the system will succeed and your child will fail. This is a reality that parents need to be aware of, and not the current practice of blaming the teacher. Recognising this reality some parents decide that homeschooling is the best approach. If they are prepared to put in the time to develop the individual needs of the student then this is obviously the best way as schools are not designed for an individual approach.

Unfortunately the authorities and most of the teachers, including myself for a long time, recognise that the system does not cope individually worked with schemes that attempted to work on an individual level. Whilst these individualised compromises helped they could never possibly be successful in a classroom environment. Such systems were designed to minimise teacher contact. When a class functions as one unit, a class, then one teacher can teach one unit; uniformity is essential for this to work. When the class functions as individuals how does a teacher cope? In a lesson of 40 minutes with a class of 20 a teacher has an average of 2 minutes per child. And that is if the class is behaving, usually the class doesn't behave and the teacher only had on average one minute to help the students. Throughout my teaching I was involved with individualised teaching, although in later life I realised it couldn't work, and changed my teaching to class-teaching with some individualisation. These individualised lessons broke down because the students were always having to wait for me. Even though the work was designed for individuals to progress on their won, at some stage they must ask for teacher's help; quite often this was assuaged with students working in groups but there was always the need for teacher contact. As the students waited so there was an increase in bad behaviour, and it regularly became necessary to stop the class to control the behaviour - even stopping students who were working - if they were excepted then they became an excuse for further disruption, troublemakers would say he is working I want to.

With the best will in the world of the teacher, a classroom environment cannot work if the student has individual expectations that are beyond listening and learning as one of the class. Yet education needs to be individualised so there needs to be a paradigm shift. As the powers-that-be have no such desires the classroom increases as a place of conflict, sometimes becoming a place of violence.

And that brings me to the last aspect of today's diatribe - bullying. Bullying has to occur in our schools, it is not a weakness of our teachers it is a a natural consequence of being in our society, being in a school that intends the majority to fail, and being in a society where individuality is encouraged at home but uniformity is required in the classroom. What is the outlet but bullying. Rather than attacking teachers parents need to recognise these realities, and demand changes in the educational paradigm. Our system by design creates frustration, and for some their only way of expressing this frustration is violence. How can it be any other way?

Look at our society. Businessmen exploit and politicians don't listen. Intelligent people fail in education and become members of the workforce. They are individually frustrated and bring their frustrations home, often venting them at home in some repressive way. This often leads to sibling bullying. From such environments children flee to school where their individuality is again repressed. If they show it as disruption they get punished so they turn on the nearest weakest person - often a person who is unpopular because they are partly successful. In such an oppressive society it is surprising there is not more bullying, and the only decision that can be taken to avoid this bullying is homeschooling.

One teacher question on this bullying is how can a teacher possibly contain it? How can the school contain it? It is not they who create the system, they are the messenger the contact between the system that is expecting the student to fail and the student. The school as institution is designed large to cut costs, and because of its size makes it easy for bullies to ply their trade. In my first school, 30 years ago, there were many delinquents in the school; in the same class there were delinquents and students. Why were the delinquents there? For two reasons. First the law said they had to be there, but the main reason was that they could bully to get money for their evening exploits. I knew one father who gave his son two dinner moneys, one for the bullies and one for his food. And this was a student who had academic success. Bullying has to happen because the system is telling students they will have their individual needs met despite the fact that it is not designed to deliver them.

How can teachers be blamed for this? Only in general by short-sightedness.

Tags - CP WCAM motivation PTA Bullying
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Enforcing containment
There was an interesting dialogue on an unschooling forum. One poor parent had decided to teach her child at home, and the school had sent her an uncomfortable letter bordering on threatening. Fortunately on the list was someone who was knowledgeable about school attendance. The government imposed the following on schools:-

Government's containment regs

Through correspondence they were able to compose a suitable response to the school, and hopefully the situation resolves itself and the parent is able to get on with her legitimate choice of homeschooling.

To be quite honest I do not understand the school letter, and from my knowledge of schools there might be internal politics involved - beyond that it is inappropriate to speculate. The school letter apparently quoted the wrong section of the wrong education act in the terse letter to the parent. This fuelled the antagonism to schools particularly of the adviser about regulations. It is really this situation that I want to comment upon.

Teachers have become so stuck in their career paths that they don't realise how inappropriate their behaviour is. How can a caring teacher have been so aggressive to a parent about her desire to start homeschooling? There might well have been history between the parent and the school such that there was already antagonism. Otherwise the tone of the latter is particularly uncaring. Few parents are 100% confident of going outside the system, and in the list the parent was clearly insecure. Is it not her choice?

To be honest the only time I would question a parent about homeschooling is if a child was successful in my class. As few are successful I would want to help maintain that success. But if a child is being bullied the school cannot stop that so the parental choice makes sense. Although there might well be bullying outside the school because that is the nature of society.

The school letter goes against the grain for me because the only way forward for educating in schools is cooperation between what I am now starting to call the victim alliance - parents teachers and students. No careerist teacher can ever possibly accept being a member of this victims' alliance but good teachers might be able to walk that tightrope. Perhaps some non-careerist teachers also don't wish to see themselves as victims but there is very little hope if they re in antagonistic relations with parents.

What really ought to reinforce the victims' alliance is the government document on registration - I will repeat the URL:-

Government's containment regs

This tells the schools in no uncertain terms how registration is to be handled. Who is the boss? It doesn't tell teachers they have to be officious but the government makes sure the schools keep close control on the register. Maybe the headteacher has to be accountable if parents take their kids out of school? This document clearly sets out that students are expected to attend school ie be contained. This containment has always been something I have been conscious of. I always quote the Brighton police committee where they were complaining about truants on Brighton pier and how people were demanding they be back in school. I simply asked how I was supposed to be teaching these truants in the same classroom as good students, and there was silence .... followed by complete avoidance. The rules are so clear about registration because a school is a containment facility. Why for example is there not something that says that if the child does not perform educationally adequately ie making an effort then they be reported to a disruption unit? Everywhere you turn it is so obvious what the purpose of schools are. I read it before I started, and it is transparent now I have finished - yet I still occasionally think I would like to teach in Africa again.

I always kept registers to know whether the student was there, that is common-sense caring - not containment. This act reads like you are a guard. If this was education wouldn't there be a discretionary caring element for the teacher?

And then the teacher is seen as the enemy. It is time for the teachers to wake up and see themselves as the victims they are, and put out the olive branch to form the only alliance that can make education work.

But just working together does not begin to answer what is wrong for education, but it does help answer the parents concerns.

Tags - CP containment excellence real educationalists
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Modifying the Evolving Paradigm - Excellence
Whilst I like the word paradigm to explain what I mean I see it used frequently, and in my view it is used emotively to try to establish greater importance for proposed modifications of existing educational practice. It is very clear that much educational discussion revolves around the position that education requires an enormous change in practice; Sir Ken is calling for an education revolution. The words "paradigm shift" appear to encompass this. But for me, to obtain Sir Ken's revolution requires such a change in education (and society) that modifying the existing system is not enough and that is why I use the word paradigm. Most of the proposed paradigms I have seen, sadly including Sir Ken's in my view, will not achieve this change.

First of all I want to establish the parameters of this corporate paradigm I have described. It concerns two aspects of our current social structure - how labour is employed and the nature of the market place. And there are two types of labour I want to consider. The first type is the corporate executive/ financial speculator - these include the leaders of finance institutions. Now these types effectively establish the framework of our society - sadly with all its ills. The corporate executive fully embraces the propagation of the corporate ethos in all that that entails. Maintaining corporate profits is more important than the environment and society the individual is a member of ie profits are more important than Nature (including people) herself. The speculator has fundamentally the same approach, the profits from their speculation are more important than any impact they have on people or ecology. This requires an education that produces a heartless person who considers themselves above the rest of humanity and who is willing to accept corporate discipline for her/his own personal gain. This education demands that the individual believes they can stand above Nature herself. To appropriate an image I picked up from Race and Class, these are the modern-day generals of the conquistadores.

The second aspect of labour required is the vast majority of working people - the conquistadores of these generals. Now these people need a mentality appropriate to maintain society in its current framework, and that mentality is that they accept doing unfulfilling work for a wage. To obtain this mentality education needs to create people who want money and the trappings that money can buy. And this brings us to the second aspect of the paradigm - the nature of the market place. People need to be convinced of the importance of money and all that it can buy. That sounds stupid, of course we need no convincing that we have to buy food. But suppose education created people who believed in sufficiency economics, and who only bought what they needed - with all the good ecological implications that has. Very soon the majority of corporations would lose their profit-base. And what of the corporations that provide the necessities of a sufficient economy such as FoodInc. What if education taught students (and they learned) that much of what masquerades as food from these corporations is toxic and carcinogenic. These strands of labour and market fit together neatly in an educational approach that demands qualifications enabling material benefit, and as a by-product creates a vast majority of failures who then become grateful to get work to obtain some of the material benefits the more successful gain.

So these are the parameters of the prevailing paradigm, and in all honesty a change in that paradigm is not going to occur in the near future. I would like to see such a change but there is so much power and money invested in this paradigm that such a change occurring immediately would require violence. And in truth such violence would bring only bloodshed, and not a better society.

However by recognising the global paradigm for what it is we can perhaps begin to work against it locally. By locally I don't just mean location but on a small scale. Demanding a global paradigm change is the business of dreamers but there is a need to recognise what is good education despite this paradigm. Equally there is a need to recognise what is the paradigm that can replace this corporate paradigm, and these will be investigated.

In recognising the paradigm we can also begin to see what is happening in education, there is a clear shortfall in the system. Whilst educationalists and corporate advisers are not saying exactly the same thing they are saying something similar - there is a lack of excellence. In education the populist speaker, Sir Ken Robinson - referred to above, is looking for excellence. You can listen to his TED talks or his RSA talk:-

Ken Robinson 2010

Ken Robinson 2006

Ken Robinson Changing Paradigms

Ken Robinson THe Element

At the same time in business there is a speaker on motivation - Daniel Pink, and he speaks of autonomy, mastery and purpose as motivations for business people. Are these not good goals for self-realisation in education? In this clip of an RSA animation he also describes a company, Atlassian, who gives their software creators a free day to do what they want, and this has produced a creativity traditional money-oriented methods could only dream of:-

Dan Pink RSA animation

Sir Ken wants excellence and creativity as does Dan Pink - as do the corporations. I am not so sure that true creativity would be good for the corporations. Whilst scientists might be able to bury their heads in their labs at Oppenheimer Central, true genius tends to have a clarity of mind which would reject the corporate ethos. Let us hope that business in wanting this creativity takes on the seeds of their own destruction. Having said that losing a few of the creative to conscience would not stop the dynamic improvement of increased excellence, and the corporations are solid enough to woithstand the few with conscience.

This means that the paradigm is not static, it is evolving - whilst maintaining the same fundamental parameters as described. Business has recognised that it has become stagnant and is demanding creativity and excellence. The way society has developed it is not sufficient to have go-for suits within their echelons of power backstabbing and perpetuating the corporate ethos, they now need more creativity and excellence presumably to cope with the rapidly advancing technology.

This brings in the opportunity for the real educationalists. Briefly I would describe real educationalists as seeking two things for education - self-realisation of the individual and that education is for all. Whilst within the paradigmatic framework education for all is not wanted, we can attempt to work towards that. We can work against the paradigm by seeking education for all but this is likely to be in vain yet on a local level there might be some success. But in seeking self-realisation we are at present working with the paradigm, this is a useful conclusion. This enables us to develop self-realisation models, and need not restrict those academic models to the ones that prop up the existing higher institutions. On this approach Sir Ken discusses an interesting man - a fireman. Now this man developed his vocation as a child, but the teacher, presumably, saw in him an academic ability beyond that of the typical child dreaming of being a fireman, and derided him for his supposedly-limited ambition. This child stuck to his vocation, and ironically saved the life of the teacher and his wife. Sir Ken never discussed the following but in terms of excellence was the teacher right? Was being a fireperson fulfilling all his potential? Yet apparently this man is happy with his decision, and of course that is the most important part of self-realisation. Interesting contrasts here.

Whilst this blog has developed an important understanding, there is little of practical use that can be gained through these realisations. At present the paradigm is seeking excellence and recognises the current "dumbing-down" does not achieve this. Educationalists recognise that excellence can only come through self-realisation, and real educationalists want this. Therefore these approaches are at the moment in unison. Whilst the more deceitful like me would like to use this opportunity to get ideas of self-realisation more centre-stage in the educational debate, the reality is that the paradigm would appropriate such ideas if valuable, and rather than it being the education for all of the real educationalist the paradigm would appropriate for the few, thus leaving the legacy of an educational Oppenheimer.

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Real Educationalists
In the last blog I made the rather sweeping statement that "briefly I would describe real educationalists as seeking two things for education - self-realisation of the individual and that education is for all". I would like to expand on this and develop it. I escape condemnation for the above statement by the use of the word "real" - for some this explanation will make matters worse. But it might not. I remember being convinced at PGCE that education was leading out - a form of self-realisation. Yet getting into school I remember seeing none of this. I was not surprised but I entered the profession hoping I could do some "leading out". By the end of the profession I found myself in trouble with management because I wanted to improve the chances of students in passing their exams, and the self-interest of management, in terms of careerism and profiteering, got in the way. Aren't exams far more conformity than leading out? Now in retirement I have rekindled an interest in what is a real education.

I have used that word "real" again, and I want to get near a meaning for the word. Let me start with what it is not - getting qualifications. This is not real learning, these are passports to a job; the more of these you have the greater chance you have of getting through the interview door and having a chance at that job. I remember getting a job after uni as a statistical consultant, and the first thing my boss said was to forget what I had learnt. He wanted me to use an understanding of statistics rather than techniques or otherwise that I had used to pass the exams. This boss was seeking a real understanding of statistics, what sometimes could be called a feel for stats. How does one teach this? Very difficult, but to begin with you need that understanding itself. It amuses me now to debate whether my stats lecturers had this feel that the boss was seeking. I don't know, they certainly knew infinitely more statistics than me and even this boss, but did they have a feeling for statistics in real life? Can I describe it? Not now - too long ago. I didn't last long in that job but there was definitely something to what that this boss wanted, maybe I had some of it I don't know - I just wasn't suited to business.

As a maths teacher I sometimes knew that I was teaching someone with a spark, someone who had a feel for the subject - I am sure that teachers have felt that in some cases.

But I have already said that my view of "real" is not getting the qualifications, in the case of these two defined situations this feeling of something "real" actually occurs in the subject. However in truth this is never going to be education for all. But what is true is that those people who have a feel for a subject have received a real education whether they have an aptitude for the subject or not. To a certain extent they have gumption for the subject - to use the word in Pirsig's context.

Real education might well be this gumption in a general context ie not subject specific. Can people demonstrate this gumption in daily life? Now Pirsig was considering such a situation for motor-bike mechanics, this has a greater feel of being real education for all. If somehow education can impart this gumption or develop this gumption in their students, that would be a real education.

Gumption in truth cannot be taught, it can only be learnt. As apprentices people used to pick up this gumption from working with an experienced craftsman or tradesman - or at least some apprentices did. It was a real life experience, and cannot be gained in classrooms as they are today - imposed education directed by the teacher. I mentioned some students having a maths spark, perhaps more would have had such a spark if they had been totally committed to learning the maths. Rather than attending school because they had to, if they had genuinely searched for an understanding of maths then perhaps more would have developed a spark. In the previous blog I quoted Dan Pink talking about autonomy, mastery and purpose, if more maths students had directed themselves towards learning maths then when they were totally engaged maybe sparks would fly. If they truly sought mastery of maths then maybe more students would have shown excellence. Having students leave school with any sense of these would be a real education.

Now this cannot occur in the current classroom as all components of the classroom are not geared towards it. Primarily the students lack motivation as well as lacking the facility to direct their own learning - autonomous mastery. Secondly the teachers are not looking to facilitate this. Their function of teaching is didactic governed by the curriculum. Whilst many educationalists are discussing improved processes within students such as autonomous mastery, independent learning etc., the politicians are demanding more testing and closer control of the curriculum. As a consequence schools are becoming more and more exam factories than they ever were, more students are failing, and less education is occurring. At least there is some fightback against the testing with UK heads refusing to administer National Curriculum testing for the very young. Unfortunately many parents also believe that the results of a good education are successful test results, in fact the political response is probably based on parents' demands, yet how have those demands developed? In the 70's parents were concerned that schools were failing their children. Thatcher's manipulators recognised that education was a vote-winner, and it was a significant factor in her election victory. Since then education measures have been populist, league tables, and other such quantifiable justifications. Teaching has become more watching your back rather than working with students to help them improve, relations with teachers have become increasingly tense as first students then parents question them. And the result is a lack of education. And where have the educationalists been in all of this? Eschewed. Business has seen that the result is that they do not have the people of excellence to cope with 21st century technology and practice. They are calling for educational change. But the populus is geared towards testing, and bemoaning the fact that their children are failing these tests - tests they were never meant to pass in the first place. Real education has to move away from testing, and somehow develop approaches that will help students learn process - gain gumption.

Tags - ND real education gumption exams
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Web brings education for all?
The computer began as a super-calculator, developed into an information storage device, became a gaming device, and has now become a communication device. It is this last which has such tremendous implications for education.

How has traditional education dealt with communication? Starting from the home children learn to read, and perhaps write. Then they go to school where their reading skill gets honed as does their writing, and the teacher as expert introduces the children to appropriate books for learning. Our mode of education, if you like our pedagogy, is fundamentally based on teaching, reading, writing and books. But what if we changed our method of communication? What if, instead of writing, our communication became the computer. Instead of at the end of a lesson handing in our books a copy of our completed work was sent to the teacher's folder on the classroom network for assessment. At the same time what if our classrooms were wifi. This would eventually obviate the need for books, all information and literature could be stored on the web, and accessed by the student. Is this not real life?

And suppose our examinations were held in a wifi exam hall, and students could bring their own laptops, what implications would this have? Imagine an English Lit essay where you don't have to remember quotes. I've studied the book, and the quote I want is around about p142. I remember a keyword, search the book, and find the quote. Then the essay is not marked as a test of memory but as a matter of process and content. Maths exams would not have repeated questions - as previous solutions would already be up on the Web; currently repeated questions test memory - not process. This wifi exam hall and classroom has tremendous implications for the quality of education. Instead of approaching the exam from the point of view of being information storage and repetition - memory, the student brings process to the exam - the process of using the resource - the Web - and applying intelligence in the solution to the question. This provides tremendous challenges to the examiner as they would have to create new questions every year, and equally tremendous challenges to the teacher in preparing for such an open-ended process. But in truth it would be better education.

How much more like real life would the classroom become? Compare the wifi classroom to the wifi office. In the office there may be bespoke databases that have been paid for, such as in journalism where they subscribe to various newspaper databases, or higher institutions subscribing to academia, but the process would be the same - just not the specialisation of the office.

The key point would be "what would be the difference?", and the answer to that comes down to one word "motivation". In the office to a certain extent there is an effective reward and punishment system - more effective than exists in education at the moment. If there is some level productivity then the office is satisfied. But in truth the office is not satisfied. A quick search led to:-

this article

But this is negative control, little better than the worst disciplinarian school - restrict the usage. Ultimately these policies threaten promotion and the sack.

In this article a student describes how the wifi university is :-

misused in lectures

As always with schools and university there is no control by the sack.

Both scenarios are dealing with an appalling lack of motivation, and this is the key to any involvement with opening up education. How can you deal with the motivation? If motivation can be dealt with, then the wifi learning environment could save the classroom as a place of learning. Sadly it could also save the classroom as a place of containment. Send the kids to school to keep them off the streets, and let them twitter and facebook all day long. Also saves the parents cost for mobile phone packages. It is an interesting idea, but what if there were no restrictions on social networking? Would the students eventually get sick of them and try to learn? If motivation from unschooling students is anything to go by, then they would, but of course the environment is totally different. But in the end such an improved educational classroom (wifi) cannot work with the current mentality of students.

What about Dan Pink's motivations? Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. How would they develop educationally? It is clear that in the early years at home these motivations exist. But once students join the education system motivation disappears. These are attributes that business want - Dan Pink is a business speaker, so within the corporate paradigm such a change in education would be appreciated. The real danger lies in the failure to meet the twin approaches of real education (self-realisation and education for all). Students with autonomy mastery and purpose would be students with a high level of self-realisation, but education for all? If there was a wifi classroom without control, how many of our current students would spend all day on the social networks? Many would argue that they do anyway, just not all the time on the computer.

One other powerful group that will resist the wifi classroom are the book publishers. Already these publishers influence aspects of curriculum input. Around the turn of the century the maths A level became modular. Whilst there are educational benefits to this modularisation the publishers benefitted most of all. When there were 4 modules there were 4 Heineman textbooks, 6 modules 6 textbooks (the numbers might be wrong), and every time the syllabus was revised there were new text books. And schools are expected to buy the textbooks so this is a phenomenal expense. How many students are sitting A level maths in the UK? Worldwide? And the cost of books for each student would be approx £60. These costs were originally offset by being able to recycle the books for several years but the publishers by manipulating the examiners have increased book sales drastically. Selling books in school brings vast profits and the market is stable; ask any writer of a standard textbook. Publishers will obviously resist a change of communication from writing to the keyboard. Because schools are a stable and profitable market, it is also why computer companies are funding Web 2.0 educational research.

At present Web2.0 is changing education but these changes are driven by youth and the need to engage their lack of motivation. Students enjoy social networking so let's use that interest to make a lesson. Whilst this pragmatic approach is understandable it is not driven by educational philosophy but by the pragmatism of this engagement. Essentially these new web technologies attempt to motivate the students to work on the traditional curriculum, and as such I would term this a modification of the paradigm. But embracing the technology, and expanding its use in every classroom as the norm for communication for assignments and examinations as well as ensuring internet usage by having whole school wifi access, would vastly alter the way work is done. Anything that is recalled from memory cannot be valued because it could have been found on the net or saved on the student's computer. What would be assessed is how the student chooses the information to access, and how s/he takes that information to answer the question or solve the problem. This is much more about process, and would have to improve students' ability. Embracing technology could be a solution to the dumbing down that occurs in education if the question of motivation can be addressed.

The danger of this is that it would not be education for all, yet in such a communication environment we do need to address the question:- What is "education for all"? I want to draw a distinction between intrinsic ability and practice, and state quite emphatically that there is vast underachievement in our current system. How many students would we say have qualifications that match their intrinsic ability? Yet there is a notion implicit in education for all that students should be able to match their own ability to achievement. In practice of course this doesn't happen, and we muddle by with an approach that says students must attend school until they are 16, and whatever is picked up is what is described as education for all. Considering it more deeply, then education for all might be defined as a common denominator approach where all students develop the 3 R's and some students develop more. Developing reading and writing skills together with some basic arithmetic would give people basic access to the workplace and sufficient education to hold down some mechanical jobs. But what if it became 4 skills - WARC - Writing Arithmetic Reading and Computing? Isn't WARC what the workplace wants with more emphasis on RC than WA?

I remember a discussion I had 30 years ago in Streatham where a maths adviser asked me what practical value multiplication tables had. I instinctively answered the shopping queue, and then he asked how often in the queue do you use 7x9? With computers how important is arithmetic, and with most phones now having a calculator in the question becomes more difficult. I answered the adviser in my mind later, maybe there is no practical use but without familiarity with numbers people become confused with their usage. I cannot recall how many times I have taught a maths technique at a higher level only for the student to claim they don't understand because they had the wrong answer. They had understood the new technique but got the answer wrong because of arithmetic, and it had thrown out their confidence. Familiarity with arithmetic was pre-requisite for maths, is worth being seen as different from maths, and is worth keeping as a basic skill. The 3 R's becomes WARC and we have education for all. I completely do not advocate this but knowing the market forces in education and the power of the corporate paradigm this type of dumbing-down outcome is inevitable.

However education for all has more chance of being achieved by considering motivation more in terms of autonomy, mastery and purpose for those who are not executives. Education for all does not simply mean WARC but self-realisation for all. This means self-realisation for the student from where they are at, I think this is what Sir Ken means by organic students grow naturally from where they are at - interestingly organic meaning no chemical additives such as in food? This means recognising that students need to work towards what they are capable of, and what they enjoy. How do we do that in schools? More so, how do we create a vocational interest when the majority of work is intentionally labour, mechanically factory-oriented mas production and money-motivated? Again we come back to educating the few. Motivation can exist for those who teach, nurse etc. Motivation exists for the executive so long as the education is blinkering enough that the executive loses sufficient of their humanity to cope with corporate strategies and their profit-making ignorance.

But where is the fulfilling work for the majority of people? There is a mismatch between the notion of Self-Realisation for All and the job and market place. Does that mean we don't try to work towards this? Designing an appropriate curriculum and computer-oriented pedagogy (such as the Matriellez computer-integrated-curriculum) is a step-forward, and is in line with raising awareness of what an education curriculum should be - rather than modifying what is in practice. But we need always to remember that it is Education for All, and attempt to find ways of enabling the execs, something very hard to do in our limited job market. Perhaps when jobs begin to value the home (and community) more than the profits of the fatcats we can begin to find more fulfilling jobs for more people. Sadly at present even community-oriented jobs are dissatisfying and unfulfilling for many. In a civilised society refuse collection fulfils a useful function but how many people are satisfied collecting refuse? Firstly it is underpaid, and secondly the social status attached to the job is "menial". But what if that social status were considered "socially useful"? And of course what about the socially useful job of mother that has been devalued for so long? Education for All means that society needs to be geared towards the interests of all the community, as opposed to the profits for the few, this clearly does not fit the corporate paradigm. This is the paradigm that needs changing - changing education within the paradigm is whistling in the wind.

But we know the paradigm will not change and we still need to work towards improving education. What a dilemma!!!

Tags - WCAM QP communication wifi classroom motivation autonomous mastery process
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Education and the Workplace
The workplace is a major stumbling block when considering self-realisation. Whilst self-realisation might occur for the execs, money and power without a practical conscience, for others in the system there can be little reward - and I don't mean financial. Teaching is an obvious vocational profession but in schools this has been ruined by the careerists and profiteers who have been manipulated by the politicians who have found the issue of education vote-winning. Nursing is a good caring profession, but rather than provide suitable conditions of service nurses are expected to work excessive hours whilst being underpaid. Social workers do not spend their time helping people. They are inhibited from their caring duties by excessive bureaucracy and restrictive legislation. Mainstream doctors have such heavy workloads that they turn to private practice for an acceptable workload. In general it appears that society accepts that the workplace cannot be fun, and for those who want to make it their work fun - tough! We do not accept that, suffer like the rest of us.

The constitution of the workplace is significant in maintaining our education system as the failing behemoth it is. There are a few exec jobs, majority alienating jobs carried out solely for the benefits the wage can buy, and a few token vocational jobs whose very heart has been destroyed by the daily practices in those jobs. How does one educate for self-realisation when this is the objective? Especially how does one educate for all? The workplace can only disengage students from involvement in their studies.

So quite simply despite the demands that the workplace imposes for a particular type of student, the workplace cannot be conceived of as a purpose in education. To do so can only create frustration and alienation. Education has to be seen as separate from the workplace, and that the value of education has to be perceived as intrinsic - what students can gain for themselves. What they can learn for themselves. Then we can begin to see a possible reality for self-realisation. Whilst the education process is tied to qualifications and the rewards in the workplace, self-realisation for all simply creates defeat as the workplace is so numbing for most people. If students are working for self-development and self-improvement, then the yardsticks they use to determine their success are their own self-worth. This is a process that lends itself to autonomy and mastery. The student directs themselves (or is directed) on a path, and the fulfilment on that path is up to them. Working with the teacher as facilitator genuine learning can occur especially in a wireless classroom with all that the net then makes available.

If there is this autonomy and a search for mastery then motivation has been dealt with as students have purpose. The question then arises of discipline. Now immediately many who question the validity of schools baulk at this. Discipline. So many students go to school and fight their teachers that inside them the word discipline has such negative connotations. This is a problem equally created by parents who do not encourage cooperation as their own experiences of school leave so much to be desired. But what if teachers were cooperating with the process of autonomy and mastery described above, why would there be any antagonism between the students and the teachers? So why the need for discipline? Because at some stage there will be some students who are having a bad day. Or there may be students who cannot achieve a level of autonomy and mastery, and rather than working on this they attempt to disrupt others. If you are working in a classroom even with wifi access, then you need some form of control. Because you need to establish consideration for others.

Fundamentally consideration for others does not occur in our schools today, our students are inconsiderate. Despite the cauldrons our classrooms are, students could still be considerate. But they are not. Even good students come to school, get affected by the classroom and behave inconsiderately. Of course with the system now designed only for the few, most don't see the point in being considerate, but in a system where autonomy and mastery are facilitated applied in a considerate classroom there are only going to be few who reject. And there will be such a few, it is human nature so it is necessary to have a disciplinary role for the teacher. Now this disciplinary role needs to be thought about quite deeply. Quite simply it has to effective, and the judgement of the teacher needs to be supported by parents, administration and of course students. In a situation of autonomous mastery students will automatically back a teacher whose method of discipline enables their learning. The parents of inconsiderate disruptive students might not be so convinced. And the administration will be supportive if their focus is on improving the learning experience. At present administrations are more concerned with profit, their own careers and their responsibility to those higher up the ladder who can advance their careers. This often leads to their supporting the parents against the teachers leading to further ill-discipline.

If discipline is to be thought of as a process of limiting disruptive behaviour to enable learning through autonomous mastery, then it is necessary to consider how this discipline can be carried out. First and foremost the disruption is affecting students who are trying to work, so they need to be warned and then removed from the situation. As we all do sometimes students have a bad day, and therefore removing them from the classroom temporarily can have the desired effect, the student realises their behaviour is poor and disrupting others. For well-motivated autonomous students this discipline measure would work fine, taking a timeout. However in a situation of education for all there might be students who cannot cope with autonomous direction. There needs to be environments to cope with this. These maybe students who lack the cognitive abilities to be self-directing. This does not mean these students cannot find useful social functions and not be happy. Far from this many such students who become detrimentally labelled in our current system function well once they find a suitable role. However it would be likely that a teacher/counsellor would need to help determine this role, and educate towards it. How does one deal with the delinquent? By a delinquent I mean those who are so unfortunate as to be too damaged to direct their own education yet at the same time clearly having ability. It is these intelligent students who cause the major disruption in our current system, but because the system does not help the majority they easily find support for their disruptive activities. A legitimate question is "Can they become educated, either by their own means or didactically?" I do not know. What I do know is that placing these same delinquents in a classroom with students who want to work causes chaos, and cannot possibly work. These delinquents need special counselling on their own, away from classrooms where students want to learn. In our current system these delinquents have a major deleterious effect on all students. In state schools it is rare to find any classroom that does not have at least one delinquent, but because a fundamental purpose of a school is containment and not education these delinquents remain and education cannot possibly happen. On occasions some schools have what used to be called a "sin bin". Such places were rarely educational functioning as holding pens waiting to put the delinquent back in the classroom. They rarely had sufficient resources as sin bins were never designed for at least one student for each class. Appropriate delinquent facilities need to be adequately staffed and resourced as our society produces far too many delinquents because we do not support the less fortunate in their homes. Without time-outs and delinquent facilities no classroom system can possibly work, yet directives from the hierarchy outside the school now insist that both measures are not encouraged - another clear indication that the prevailing system is not educationally-motivated but containment-motivated.

Good education can be introduced into a wifi classroom if an appropriate curriculum can be established. Such a curriculum would have to be geared to autonomous mastery, and have appropriate disciplinary measures to cope with students incapable of directing their own mastery. But essential to this curriculum is a movement away from targeting the workplace as once the workplace is set as an ambition self-direction for all disappears from the curricular plan.

Tags - CP motivation autonomy mastery morality discipline
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Coping with the Paradigm
In the last blog I discussed the importance of gearing education to the workplace. If we use the requirements of the workplace as a model for education practice then we would only educate a few, create alienation in the majority, and allow a further few to pretend that they can have a vocation in society's profit-corrupted world. But if we take self-directed education for all as the basic model for education, and not get directed by the workplace, then we have education for self-realisation.

How would the corporations react to such an approach? Initially they will laugh, and induce the media to create the usual hysteria associated with anti-corporation practice. However in truth it is in their interest to go with this. Quite simply the dumbing-down process in education has affected the execs as well as the required majority, and because of this business has pushed for excellence in education. This excellence can only come with self-realisation through autonomous mastery or similar processes, and it is not possible to organise such mastery for the minority, unless there is two-tier education in which one curriculum is self-directed and the other didactic. Whilst people, in our money-governed society, accept the practice of a two-tiered system if it is paid for, they would not accept two distinct curricula - one designed for execs and one designed for labour. In this world of global communication corporation tactics for supporting the paradigm have to be more subtle.

Now I accept that self-directed education for all can never practically happen because of the power of the corporations, so why propose this change of curriculum? Because it is in the interest of the corporations, and they will find a way of manipulating it to their own ends anyway. Why would they accept it? Because through government they control the money. OK there will be a corporation battle with the publishers which are tied to the media - an essential tool of the paradigm, but in the end the media corporations are also lacking the excellence in their execs so they will slowly cave. At the same time, through government they will not give the state sector sufficient money to deal with the discipline aspects in the state sector. This one aspect of withdrawal of appropriate funding would be enough to ensure that there is not education for all.

But in proposing a suitable education model it is necessary to determine in theory what is the best model, and then try to cope with the practice. In this case it will be necessary to cope with the ill-discipline such underfunding would produce. However it happens, it cannot be worse than it is now. Now we have the same discipline problems of less able and delinquent students. However because the curriculum model is clearly geared to failure for the majority, that majority work with these disruptive elements leading to a classroom that is 90% containment and 10% education - and mostly disruption.

If handled properly changing the curriculum to a wifi classroom of autonomous mastery will begin to create the partnership between parents, teachers and students that does not exist today. Whilst many parents are involved in schools their involvement is protagonistic on behalf of their children, and this protagonism is often antagonistic to teachers, such as "the teachers cannot control the classes". Whilst many teachers do excellently in terms of control, given the circumstances of inappropriate classroom design (majority of students are meant to fail), it is not possible to control students who want to work and students who don't in the same room when the curriculum is designed for those students to fail. Parents see their children failing, look at the immediate causes and conclude that teachers cannot control their classes. Of course so many of these parents have a vested interest in the corporate paradigm as they are employed within same, so they are unwilling to address the underlying issues that lead to the classroom chaos; the easy target is the teacher.

Some might decide that the principle of autonomous mastery cannot work. In our spoon-fed emasculated over-regulated culture it is understandable to question this. However examine the cases of successful homeschooling and unschooling. Here parents dedicate themselves to the education of their children; something most don't have the time for because of busy lives. Take these children out of the cauldron of the classroom, work with them in an environment of love, and there is a level of successful education far above that of the prevailing classroom. Are the parents as well qualified to teach? Certainly not. What about their curriculum? Now this is an interesting distinction between homeschooling and unschooling. In a homeschooling curriculum parents tend to follow the established model using what resources they can find - usually on the internet. In an unschooling home the education direction is autonomous - from the children. Even without the expertise in the home, better education happens because the students direct themselves in an environment of parental love. One might describe the home as a loving wifi classroom of autonomous direction. How much better could that unschooling model be if the classroom were an environment of autonomous mastery? How much better would unschooling be if teacher expertise were applied to the approach offered by the loving parents?

From the above I hope parents can see that I am not critical of their taking students from the school, far from it I have worked in those classrooms and I know existing classrooms cannot bring out the best in the children. Now I was a maths teacher. Once I began teaching, from PGCE onwards, I always felt I was a teacher, but I wasn't a mathematician. Whilst I had a degree I still felt that I could not call myself a mathematician. But I was, and am proud to call myself, a teacher. With the maths I did however develop a feel for maths and over the years of teaching that feel developed. This was important. For most students my feel, understanding and knowledge of maths was beyond theirs - quite naturally. But for the occasional student I could see that they would progress to a higher level than I attained - again perfectly naturally. With such students I needed to convey a feel for the subject so that they could take that feel with them as they learnt more than I knew. In maths this feel often involved process. Rather than following a standard example, followed by the vast majority of students I taught, I would attempt to interest these able students in the process of maths. If they were able to grasp that process, that would help them in dealing with maths at a higher level. Such process is often considered important by maths teachers. At home students are unlikely to be exposed to this process. So whilst their autonomy gives them better educational processes of independent and autonomous learning, they do not mean experts (at that level).

At the same time teachers have been trained in education. In practice most of that training is subverted by the stresses and strains of conforming to a school environment within a curriculum dominated by the corporate paradigm, but these teachers do have expertise. They have taught many students not just the ones the parents love. They can see how various students respond to various aspects of their curriculum. Whilst parents know their children better they do not have that teaching diversity. In the classroom cauldron that diversity has lost most of its value, but if such teachers were able to interact with the home education movement, they could help. I see homeschoolers and unschoolers sharing resources, what of teachers were helping in that sharing. And equally important in terms of the wifi classroom of autonomous mastery, the teachers could share the knowledge of these parenting teachers.

There is one additional notion concerning this sharing. Because the motivation in the classroom is so poor, teachers have developed many strategies of motivation. Currently some of such strategies involve web 2.0. Clearly web 2.0 in the classroom is a movement towards the "wifi classroom of autonomous mastery", but very few teachers would envision going that far - classroom is too disruptive, no good for exams, they wouldn't allow it. However they have great expertise and knowledge that could work towards such a classroom as well as having current web 2.0 expertise that would help the "wifi classroom at home". At the same time if they were trusted, these teachers could advise parents how to best promote the autonomous direction of the student. At the moment such advice occurs within homeschooling or unschooling networks but what if they sought different expertise?

A wifi classroom of autonomous mastery is not as far-fetched as it might first appear, and need not be opposed by the corporations. How beneficial would be the change!!!

Tags - ND CP WCAM self-realisation mubaan
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Teacher Trap - Using web 2.0
Here is my personal history version of the teacher trap. I went into education after hitting bottom. I knew that the system wasn't for me, then went into child care and saw that was static - cleaning up the problems the system created. I felt the only choice was to educate to try to change.

I was committed to this notion of trying to change to create a better life - for social justice. During my teacher training I became interested in alternative education recognising that the education system had problems. But in the end I knew that I had to work for education for all, and found work in a Brixton comprehensive.

Once in the comprehensive I was trapped, and became a hard-working compliant card-carrier of trap. Why? Because of the kids. What did these kids want most of all? To be accepted in society, to do what normal people do. Have you ever watched TV and looked at programmes about teachers teaching under-privileged kids? These "Michelle Pfeiffers" are heroes to these kids. Do you ever see those programmes question the success ethic? Never. Do you watch programmes with successful role models for black people? They are executives. Most black people are rightly complaining that they are not getting their slice of the cake, but they are not questioning whether the cake is the right cake. They are trapped. When I started teaching in the London comprehensive the major social injustice in education was then occurring to black kids. So I wanted to help with that injustice, I wanted to help these London black kids. Could I help them by trying to get them to self-realise? No, that meant nothing to them. They felt the social injustice, and wanted relief from that. They just wanted an education - meaning qualifications, a good job and the trappings. Of course on the one hand this is perfectly right, why should the colour of your skin prevent you from access to what others can have? But on the other hand these desires only contributed to global social injustice.

Because I was a caring teacher I was trapped. Students do not want ideology - correct or not, they want social acceptance - whatever model that social acceptance requires. Call it equal opportunities, education for all, or whatever you want to call it, these are just words for everybody should have their bit of the cake, and school provides that cake. And teachers teach them to bake the cake, they have to. Cake is not good for you, you should be eating healthy food - beans, grains, fruit and veg. But society doesn't function on healthy food, we want cake. The kids want cake, teachers teach them to bake it.

Education must decide on what good food to make, schools teach how to make that food - it is not their choice. Teachers make cakes, they provide qualifications. Once a teacher is in the school system, they are trapped. They care for the kids and they give them cake.

Using web 2.0 is just a new taste for the cake.

I have recently become interested in Web 2.0, and it is quite fascinating what is coming out of the US. I am not sure how much is applicable to the UK with the way computing is funded there, and am even less sure when it comes to some of the private schools I have taught in internationally where teachers were queuing to use computers to complete computer-generated reports.

I see career in much that is going on, and whilst I understand career I think it is important for these careerists to consider colleagues. It is one thing to want to get out of the classroom but it is completely different to require hours of online time of your colleagues in order to achieve this. I don't know how many times people involved in enabling change through delivery need to be told this. Of course they don't listen, their bosses refuse to give appropriate time for preparation, they won't pay for training, and yet teachers are expected to learn. This simply highlights what is well known in teaching, although not often expressed, that these staff developers are in it for themselves. Equally important the best staff development is done in-house, but even some in-house stuff is not done considerately with demands placed on teachers who are not familiar with computers etc.

Web 2.0 is driven by student engagement yet how little time is given by these developers to what they are doing educationally. Is Web 2.0 the desired curriculum or should it be used because it helps to deliver the curriculum? For me the answer to this question should be neither, Web 2.0 can help deliver genuine education. Presentation as in report-writing or sales might be desired by business but I am sure they have the computing power and software to present what they want. Getting them for free off the Web might help some businesses but corporations have no issues with their software budget - surely? Do they want to rely on the web?

In line with principles of the computer-integrated curriculum we should be examining these web technologies to see how they can free the student up to learn self-realisation - those important processes. With online having access to vast information students are not restricted to what they or their friends can remember, thus freeing up their minds to concentrate on the real problems associated with process-learning projects. In addition consider the advantages of the wifi classroom. A room dominated by machines takes the emphasis away from the source of the learning - the student. The student needs to access those parts of his mind that develop these processes. With a huge desktop in front of them the emphasis is on the technology, with a laptop, netbook or tablet closed nearby (under some books?) the focus is on themselves to solve the problem, the computer is a tool to help them find the solution and not the solution itself.

But all of this web 2.0 is part of the caring teacher trap - as well as the ambit of the career teacher. The caring teacher wants to engage the kids in learning, the career teacher pays lip-service to this engagement whilst they climb the ladder. The caring teacher might also be climbing the ladder but deep-down the caring teacher's motivation is different, they want the kids to do well. They want to give the kids their slice of the cake. But they are not in a position to say these kids do not want cake, they want healthy food. And kids will never ever say they want healthy food, they enjoy the sugar fix. The people who have to say are the adults, and teachers are not the adults who can say - they are trapped. They care for the kids and they give kids the cake they want - their sugar fix.

It is also necessary to understand why some teachers become involved in initiatives. Apart from the above motivation that they care for the kids, they are also deeply frustrated - after all they are teachers and they are forced to teach a bunch of qualifications when they know what is more important. So when an opportunity comes along to innovate they can relieve their frustration. This same frustration is what drives many teachers to focus on career. Kids don't care, parents attack them, what's left - their bit of the cake - the home and family, so career.

So if the teachers in the schools are trapped, then it is necessary to see who makes the decision about healthy education. Education departments and governments administer the schools. They employ various experts - Ken Robinsons - to discuss their policy, but the Ken Robinsons have to be accepted first. Perhaps they are accepted through universities, colleges of education, but it is not the arena of teachers - they only bake the cakes.…

If you are baking the cakes bake the best cakes you can, but if you are not baking the cakes then you can talk about healthy food. The people who are saying "bake cakes" are the problem, the people who benefit from the corporate paradigm.

Tags - QP careerism cakes
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Conscience and Reason - why business likes maths graduates?
As a maths teacher I have always had a conception - feeling not evidence - that business likes maths graduates but meditating today it became crystal clear. For the sake of explanation, simplify the mind into two components, and these components would be conscience and reason.

Working on the basis that to different levels we are all made up of conscience and reason, we then need to consider what is required of the workforce. Business requires people to work to improve profits, for the majority this means carrying out repeated mechanical tasks that demand a level of compliance. As previously discussed this is achieved through creating a failed workforce all of whom have grown up requiring money and thinking they need more than they have. Payment for the job controls these people, and business is happy with this arrangement; the people aren't of course. The majority of people do not have satisfying jobs but are forced to work hard because there are so many unemployed - and they want money.

But what about the people who pass exams? This is where the above mental framework comes in - conscience and reason. Most of the curriculum encourages a reliance on reason but maths and sciences completely focus on technique and reason. In the end one could imagine that this focused emphasis creates a schism between conscience and reason. Reason is an essential tool for analysis but used properly it is an analytical tool that is developed and applied through conscience. Applying conscience is an anathema to business because caring reduces profits as business would have to pay for the environment and any damage to peoples' health. Business requires its executives to ride rough shod over the interests of people and the environment, it requires executives without a conscience - or at least one that whimpers but gets satiated by alcohol and the rewards of money and material.

But people still pass their exams with their conscience connected to reason. What happens to these people? Simplistically they join the caring professions - doctors, teachers, nurses. They become underpaid and overworked, and tilting at the windmills business allows them to tilt at. Diagramatically:-

Exams Jobs Money
Pass Uncaring - Executives and speculators Conscience paid off - only reason used
Pass Caring - Doctors, teaching, aid, Underpaid and over-regulated - conscience and reason controlled by money and regulations
Fail Mechanical Controlled - minimal money and dissatisfied, controlled by reserve army.

Apart from the executive jobs these jobs need not be dissatisfying. Some mechanical jobs can provide satisfaction for some, it is positive if people can find this match. But the majority of jobs are soul-destroying intentionally, after all those people who have the greatest influence on policy have learned to eschew their consciences, why would they want to have others enjoy?

And why does the influence of these corporations and their execs function in thie way? Because conscience can best be understood as the voice of love. Sadly these people have sacrificed their ability to love, show this love - maybe at home,conscience is the voice that says to love and tells you that your actions do not befit those of a loving person. People reason they don't have to listen to this voice as reason has decided to progress another way in life - working for money and material gain.

Tags - CP maths graduates reason no conscience morality
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Matrielling - A Case Study?
The real process that I am trying to address with matrielling is removing ignorance, but there would be an immediate response from teachers - how dare I suggest that teachers are not removing ignorance? In some ways I go further than this, I suggest that what our current education does is create a certain process of ignorance. This needs explaining as I have the greatest respect for teachers - but sadly they are people who teach how to bake the cake they are not the people who decide on the menu - that should be healthy food. At best they can make carrot cake!!

This process of removing ignorance in Buddhism gives us an important indication as to how it can be used in education. Buddhism recognises that underneath what has been collected in mind is the understanding of how to cope with life and its purpose. However what needs to be done is to clear away the ignorance that has been collected - in the contents of consciousness, and move forward with life's purpose. Clear away the ignorance and see what is the true path.

Ideally, this is what education should be about - clearing away ignorance. Unfortunately because of the corporate paradigm students accumulate ignorance daily through their diet of qualifications and through inherent desires, such as that for money, that pervade the education system - as evidenced by observing that this is what most students desire at the end of their education. So I am suggesting that one important process in education should be that of clearing away ignorance and seeing what truly is, and I have given this the name - matrielling, so as not to be too contentious concerning the removal of ignorance in a system that is supposed to be educating.

In truth I actually believe that many students undergo a process of matrielling as they seem to clearly understand what happens in schools. From an early age, year 8, they recognise that for many school is meaningless. They are not going to be successful in exams. Sadly they lack consideration, and so they make little effort and proceed to disrupt others as a means to relive the boredom. Of course in schools this boredom produces far more insidious practices. Bullying occurs. Bullies recognise that in society bullying is a legitimate practice - look at the practices of our bosses who with the threat of the sack make totally inappropriate demands on their workforce, the least of which is producing the goods that create the profits. These bullies determine that they can gain power by physical intimidation as well as profiting by extortion schemes. What else is to be gained from school for these clearly-perceived failures?

Others who are not going to be the successes hold on to this chimera through a combination of determination, parental upbringing, and a morality that rejects the poor behaviour of the other failures. In the end exam failure demonstrates the reality of their situation that they could have matrielled earlier in their school life if it were not for their good nature and upbringing. Maybe they did matrielle this but again their behaviour and upbringing made them go along with it.

Clearly matrielling the nature of the school system with the prevailing paradigm is not a good idea but the process of matrielling is an important process within self-realisation. If you want to become who you truly are, then seeing what is happening for what it is is an essential process. I would also claim that seeing things for what they are would also help adults in coping with life. How many people become dissatisfied when they are confronted with the illusions of the rat race, such an illusion as "if you work hard your career will progress". If however you have learnt that "if you do what the boss wants and you work hard then your career will progress", then you know exactly what you have to do and you have no illusions. You can make an informed choice as to whether to tell the boss where to go, and what will be the result - you do not have an illusion that what is right matters.

Before I go further with this I want to discuss a danger of matrielling. I did my M Ed dissertation on black underachievement, and concluded that of black awareness was not carefully handled it could negatively impact on the success of the students. In chapter 2 the Literature Review I discussed strategy 1 a racism awareness strategy, and gave evidence in the presentation of findings in 5.2 Racism Awareness in Part 2 of the M Ed. I tried to justify the approach that black students can only cope with what they are capable of coping with, and that the anti-racist approaches often delivered by white people were not for the benefit of black students. With matrielling students can only cope with what they are capable of coping with, and that is different for each student, how far one takes matrielling has to be at the discretion of the caring teacher judging the best interest of the student.

I want to give an example of how matrielling might occur facilitating a discussion with an imaginary group of teachers. I am going to use the example of homeschooling to see how the process of matrielling might be used as an example:-

"I'm sure there are some good home educators out there but I'd bet there's even more duff ones. We had a lad start in Y10 who had been 'home educated' for the last 7 years - he was almost illiterate and had very low skills/knowledge in all other areas. Turned out he'd been basically working on the family farm. And I know a few other kids who were withdrawn from school to be 'home educated' because the (usually) single mum couldn't control them and was fed up of being contacted by the school re their child's behaviour."

This quote illustrates the first problem that matrielling needs to work on - inappropriate generalising. Generalising needs to have a string probability of truth. Generalising itself is a sound process if limited, but to gain from generalisation there needs to be common sense proof. The matrielling principle is that conclusions or generalisations have to attempt to be general. Here the author has, typically of students, drawn a conclusion based on an inappropriate sample. A Yr 10 who failed, and kids withdrawn because the mum couldn't control are his samples. If we took the same sample set as a measure of success of schools, we would judge that students never learnt anything.

Are all homeschooling students like the ones you quoted? Are there any success stories?

"I can see the attraction of home educating (for young children at least) but I just feel that I would be short-changing my children and I wouldn't want to take the risk."

Often when people are discussing they try to appear conciliatory as was "I can see the attraction of home-schooling" above, but do they genuinely believe their conciliation? There is often a dishonesty to put the person at ease and attempt to win points. A matrielling principle is to try to get students to genuinely try to learn the truth, not offer their own opinions alone, not play word games but to genuinely learn the truth. How many people do this in discussion? Listen to political debates, what is the point? There is no desire for reconciliation, and moving forward to the benefit of governance is not the purpose. It is posturing and an attempt to show off dialectical skills for egoic purposes such as popularity or gaining votes. The purpose of discussion is to learn from each other - learning.

How would you be short-changing your children in homeschooling? What is the risk?

"A student benefits from the expertise and technology he has access to at his school. (for instance, do you have lathes and CAD/CAM facilities at home for your children to use?). He is 'schooled' by teachers who are informed and enthusiastic subject specialists - you're unlikely to get this by networking with other mums and dads and using the internet."

Here we can see a person seeing from their own point of view. S/he knows that the teachers are well qualified, and recognises that Home Education (HE) is unlikely to have access to such experts. This teacher is seeing what he wants to see, a school with experts delivering to children. Is this the reality in schools?

Whilst the teachers have great abilities how much are these abilities actually used in schools? It is true there is such equipment but how much can students use them?

"School works for a large number of children, though. A good education can be provided regardless of location, as can a poor one."

In general I think this is the view taken by teachers. Whilst many are disillusioned they tend to think that there is nothing better. If only there were self-realisation? If only the students behaved? This aspect of matrielling for teachers is highly significant, because if teachers saw the truth of what they were a part of many would have doubts about taking the money for what they do. Teaching is a clear example of why matrielling is a necessary process, intelligent people avoid the truth because it is uncomfortable. Using the truth would be a way of relating to the students who also see the truth. Seeing the truth would also make some of their actions more selective. Teachers embrace political initiatives as career opportunities, knowing the truth some might not?

How does school work for a large number of children? Proportion?

These quotes were taken from contributors on a thread - presumably teachers because it was a teachers' forum. A homeschooler wrote the following:-

"You bang on about what home educated children don't get from not going to school. My kids don't get bullied, they don't learn to smoke behind the bike shed, they don't learn to disrespect others just because their 'peers' are, they don't learn to happy slap and post it on YouTube, they don't have potty mouths, they aren't stressed by SATs, they don't make inappropriate relationships, they don't rob the corner shop because they were pressured to by their peers, they don't have self esteem issues and are not obsessed with their looks, they are not at all precocious because in our family, childhood means exactly that! They have not become disengaged from learning, they don't study things that don't interest them ... shall I continue?"

This was not answered by the teachers on the thread, teaching through matrielling would expect an answer.

The purpose of the teacher in matrielling is not to present their own opinion but an attempt to develop the opinion of the student based on a broad and balanced outlook. The questions in this blog are addressed to the views of school supporters, if the questions were addressed to home educators they would presenta different balance. I believe the IB tries to do some of this balancing, but do they open up the students to question fundamental basics? IB is often taught in private schools, how can they go against the corporate paradigm for example?

I have established some matrielling principles:-

Appropriate and justifiable generalising.

Encouraging discussion as a genuine desire to learn.

Looking at other points of view.

Deal with all questions appropriately - holistic understanding

I want however to reiterate the dangers of matrielling in our current society. Making people face what they don't want to can lead to violence. Our society functions on repression, keeping in what cannot be resolved. This is one aspect of schooling that helps to conform to society, as a student repressing the inadequacy of an education that leads to failure is a good practice to help deal with injustices of the workplace. Matrielling requires sensitive teaching - and would not be easy.

Tags - QP matrielling mind contents bullying homeschooling
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Of love and education
Yesterday's Nature Insight blog was quite simply about love, I was searching for love. That might seem a rather stupid observation to make as it was concerning relationships, but I was actually searching for love despite all my focus on sex.

Initially I was seeking the cosmic one, and I even felt I had found her - the married lady I was enchanted with who eventually gave me so many problems. But in truth that search for the cosmic one was my being confused by my upbringing and socialisation. My upbringing was particularly important in understanding the strength of my passions because I had missed out on a loving environment despite the love that resided deep in my mother. So my search for love was not balanced, and once released from the home I became demanding under my own volition whilst at the same time dealing with my own addiction.

And in the end I have realised that my father was seeking love despite all the negative stuff he threw out in the way of this process, and all that he forced us to go through. Typically he couldn't get what he wanted so why should others?

As said yesterday morality comes into it as love is so often mixed up with lust, and we need morality to control that lust. "All's fair in love and war", I can understand the second because to be at war has no morality. But love is the most precious gift, and to claim that we can behave badly in love is just so perverse. Of course I can understand partly why all is fair in love because it is about the battle of the sexes in relationships, and people seem to feel that battle is acceptable. I have never found it so, and when I have behaved naively in love it just shows how unsuited to relationships I was - I got used or became too hardened.

I have been so lucky to determine some of what love is. It begins with unity, to know we are one together. Not to attach to separation that means we seek love through others. Love is simply being together as one, and the more we can find that the greater the love we feel. Working on the 4 Brahma-Viharas has helped to recognise the importance of feeling this love, and that is more than enough.

This love is so important in education too. Some disadvantaged children who get little love at home can find something at school, but what if they could find love? Wouldn't that be so much better? The cynic in me scoffs at the notion of finding love in school - some teenagers might?, but the real educationalist says that you must at least attempt to offer it if self-realisation is to begin to happen. Subject teachers, like myself, always maligned those that offered nurture primarily, what about the students' education? Many students didn't come to school for love, they had their families; they lost their education because of the nurture focus. But this nurture is needed for many, how many it is hard to say?

There appears to be a dichotomy developing between nurture and education, certainly the two are opposing forces in our current schools. If you spend time on nurture you take away from qualification success. I always complained that I spent far too much fruitless time on the disruptive kids than on the kids who actually wanted to learn. But the paradigm creates this distinction. Learning can be nurture if the learning is of relevance to those being nurtured. Quite clearly the paradigm is creating this dichotomy as they are not interested in nurture. But business does want a workforce and those to direct this workforce towards corporate profits, nurturing those in need does not matter - not cost effective. Pressure is placed on teachers to educate all, this pressure is then applied to those students who cannot cope and are seeking nurture. They respond with disruption at being rejected again.

This fundamentally is a curriculum issue - learning and nurture need to be one, they are in the early years in a loving home. How does one unite these in education? Learning for life. Does learning for life mean learning for the workplace? Far from it. Does learning for life mean learning how to cope with society? No, far from it. Learning for life means learning for oneself, learning who you are, learning about yourself, self-realisation. Once you begin on that path of learning, how you cope follows. At some stage you know that you need money to work, you get a job and apply yourself. Unfortunately many who learn this alternative way are forced to waste years getting qualifications when they have already learned many of the processes that business wants. Since most training is actually done in the workplace, providing students with process is the best job that can be done in schools. Some might then choose an executive job, hopefully more wouldn't.

Tags - ND CP love morality need for nurture self-realisation
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On authentic learning
To begin looking at this I checked wiktionary on authentic, and it opens a number of avenues of thought.

1. Of the same origin as claimed; genuine.

The experts confirmed it was an authentic signature.

2. Conforming to reality and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief.

The report was completely authentic.

3. (obsolete) Having authority.

Let's start with the curriculum as that is what students are supposed to learn. What is the content of our curriculum? At the secondary level it might be considered as a number of academic subjects that students learn in order to take exams and go to college, at the primary level it might be considered as basic skills in preparation for work on the exams. Now mostly I don't consider this learning so I want to begin with what is positive in the content that students currently learn. They learn how to read and write, these are essential. Some learn their tables in maths, as a maths teacher I always believed it was essential for students to be numerate as lack of confidence with numbers often led to poor learning later. In this day and age familiarity with computers is now a basic communication skill, as to what that familiarity means changes from day-to-day and so it is a moving-goalpost curriculum content.

But once you get beyond this the question of content starts to become difficult. We might ask "what educational content do we need in our daily life?", and apart from the above skills the answer to that is individual. We do not require in our daily life the academic subject content we learn. Then there are government requirements in some curricula. I am English so I am not sure but I do believe there are US regulations that require paying allegiance to the flag. Other governments have different regulations, and these are then curricular content. There is a social content absent from our curricula, and that is morality. Our children do not grow up moral. For myself I began teaching in a UK multiracial school, and soon learnt that the white middle-class mores of the majority of the teachers were not appropriate for most of the students. Because of paternalistic misunderstandings that effectively meant that white middle-class values were being imposed inappropriately I decided that mores was best left to the family. But I now disagree and believe strongly that classless and raceless values should be part of the content of the curriculum; it should be taught. Examples of such morality would be consideration and tolerance for others, use of speech that is not harmful, and appropriate consideration with regards to relationships in adolescence. Such common core moral values can be taught without imposing on religious practice, and if a family's cultural or moral code required more than is taught that is to be encouraged but not imposed on others. Lack of morality is a major factor in western life and it is a social responsibility of education.

But the majority of the content of our curricula is none of the above. Students are expected to learn academic subjects that for the majority is inappropriate to their daily life as an adult. Is it any wonder that students with developing awareness begin to reject what is taught in schools irrespective of whether they pass or fail? How are these subjects taught? They are delivered and tested. So it is not only necessary for them to be exposed to the content but they them also have to remember it. And why do they have to remember it? Because by reproducing it in an exam this recall allows them to enter college and gain qualifications which act as a measure of "being educated" that is recognised in the workplace. Of this how much is authentic learning? Perhaps only the notion of conforming (from the definition above), but not conforming to reality - conforming to the workplace. For me conforming to the workplace is not authentic learning, it is apprenticeship and apprenticing belongs in the workplace where business should fund it.

Testing itself is not inappropriate in learning but the objectives of the testing need to be clear. Memory recall is a useful skill but not the level of recall we currently force the students to go through. Assessment is also appropriate to a certain extent, as a means of both teacher and student knowing that the student has understood. But the revising and qualification hell students go through is totally unnecessary. What about trusting the teacher to evaluate the student? Why not setup an index of qualities subjectively and formally assessed by teachers that becomes "the qualification portfolio" or resume that is taken to the job or college interview. This obviates the need for qualifications, and leaves schools free to educate.

So this leaves the question unanswered as to how much of the current academic curriculum is appropriate, and the answer is none and all - it depends on the individual student. Students do need to be exposed to a diversity of educational experiences across the existing academic curriculum, the details of how much needs to be evaluated and determined as a core curriculum by an appropriate adult educationalist forum, but at some stage the majority of what the student learns needs to be directed in some way by the student themselves. And it is the process of this direction that is so essential, and these processes need to form the basis of this qualification portfolio that is the resume.

What are such processes? Words that immediately come to mind are intuition, creativity, reasoning, critical thinking, gumption, compassion, empathy, engagement, excellence, independence, and many more. These processes which elsewhere I have seen called competences are much more essential to a person of learning than content, as content can always be recalled through computers or books. It is essential to evaluate what a true person of learning is, and in so doing focus on the processes rather than being trapped by the tradition of the academic curriculum.

What is clear is that within education people are very concerned about the inappropriateness of what is happening. What is also equally clear is that there are powerful interests vested in maintaining much of our current curriculum. It is not only essential to know what is authentic learning but to understand how these interests work against good education in order to enable the change process to happen.

Tags - QP morality Exams process irrelevant currm
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Market kills teachers
Yesterday I watched some clips and a TED talk and it became clear to me that there is a market-led movement to reduce teachers and schools. It is all part of the privatisation process of monetarism that began with Thatcher-Reagan. It is also being contributed to by the deschooling movement that has led to Home Ed. And it is also being contributed to by the teachers who are demanding Web 2.0, and technology in the classroom. Unfortunately that includes me!!

The real issue is what is this going to produce. It is being driven by computing companies, Charles Leadbeater being financed by Cisco presenting a fairly nihilistic situation from around the world, and everywhere you look Microsoft and others sponsoring in education. Even the School for the Future in Philadelphia. And what are they targeting as the problem - the teachers. The kids target the teachers because that is all they know and computer companies target them as well. They don't say how these teachers were to be trained, they don't argue that these teachers should be given time to learn how to use the computers, they just say teachers are the problem. I worked briefly on a salaries package as a programmer - deadly boring, and they told me read the manuals for a week. Do they tell the teachers take a week off and study how to use the latest technologies?

And the other important thing these criticisms don't do is make it known who is responsible for the qualification system, and therefore who is responsible for the curriculum. The curriculum is driven by exams and not teachers. How many of the attacks that are made on teachers are made because what they deliver is dull. First of all jobs are dull, just because you are making money doesn't stop the job from being dull. And it is worse when you have to do the dull job you are trapped in - a life of dullness in which you live in your free time. Schools are not supposed to be dull but jobs are, why is society criticising schools for being dull when society is dull as well. But the truth is learning need not be dull, it is natural, but dullness is forced onto the classroom by the curriculum - the exams. And who wants the exams - the source of dullness? The supplier of jobs - business.

Get real, the teachers do their best to make this dullness interesting but because they don't control the source of the dullness they will never succeed. But they get it in the neck. Of course these same teachers do not know what they should do, they teach what they are paid to teach - this is their crime. They accept career, do what they are paid to do, and often justify it. They are putting the nails in their own coffins. Teachers' professional organisations need to be standing up and saying "we do what we are paid to do but what they tell us to teach is crap".


In this video the teacher is designed to look a fool. But let's examine it in detail. First of all note that there are a cast of characters at the end of the clip - this is not real. They present a teacher who is delivering a lecture on technology but he is technologically unprepared - cannot use the equipment. It is unlikely that a teacher delivering a lecture to students at this level on technology would not be technologically competent, but what this is likely to be referring to is that schools cannot pay for adequate technology, very rarely have sufficient support, and do not have enough time to prepare a presentation. In business enough people are paid and they have that time. What happens in education? Classroom contact time is fixed, there is no analysis of time available, there is no feasibility study. Management comes up with a new suggestion, all teachers need to incorporate web 2.0. They write a paper, and they formalise that they have told teachers to use web 2.0 - their back is covered, and then they blame the teachers. They might insist that teachers attend a staff development day on web 2.0, again they are covered, but no-one questions how it is going to be implemented. Is it feasible to be implemented? Eventually some bodge job gets squeezed out for the good of the kids.

In the late 80s using computers in maths became part of the national curriculum, and I was doing the staff development. Knowing there were various levels of computer literacy amongst staff and students - to say the least, my training and material had to reflect that. The teachers were not people who wanted to become computer experts, they were users. They were teachers required to deliver an aspect of the national curriculum. I wrote worksheets that incorporated this, and the training was "mixed ability". It worked as they asked me to do it every time. But when was I supposed to prepare this training material. Did the management volunteer me a week off school? No. So I had to fight for it; to begin with I won, and school management gave me some time. It always took me longer than they gave me, but I had some development time. Then the management refused, and my department covered me for lessons. That was their decision they valued the work I did, it helped them, and they had to give up their personal free time as well as the cover they normally had to do. How did I feel? But what could I do, I needed the time. Of course management had no problem with bringing outside people for staff development. They paid the consultation fees, the lecture was given, because no feasibility plan was developed for the introduction of the change nothing happened. Change happened for me because I was working with the department, they wanted it, and I helped them deliver it. So why doesn't change happen from the teachers? Because they have no time, and because they are told by management to make too many changes. How does a manager get promoted? By saying they have instigated change, they have put up a notice - exaggeration? Change only happens when you work with people, and give them the time to make the changes.

I was examining this staged clip (same clip as above). Here a supposed teacher is bumbling incompetently to introduce technology, it is a complete caricature. Here the class is blaming the teacher. They are blaming their own disinterest on the teacher. There is one guy reading facebook, the student is blaming the teacher because this university student is reading facebook. Get a job, read facebook, and see if they still pay you. The teacher word for this is engagement, the students were not engaged with their learning. Where does this engagement come from? The teacher? A teacher can give inspiration but they cannot provide engagement. They can sugar-coat the pill but basically the student has to swallow it. The student has to blame themselves for not being interested.

There is a helper there advising the teacher that a lecture on technology needs to demonstrate the actual machine. As if a technology lecturer is not going to know this. She says "I know you can get it". In this video he can, but is that always true? My experience in schools is that you cannot. Management wants technological innovation but they don't provide the expertise. A teacher has enough discipline issues without creating problem by using technology without adequate support staff. The teacher gives out floppy discs to kids with laptops - as if a technology teacher would not know laptops cannot use floppy discs. If this was presented as a serious attempt to consider educational use of technology it was pathetic. If any teacher can learn from this as to how to improve then they should not be there in the first place, it just is not applicable. Fundamentally it is immature students blaming the caricature of a teacher. Mature reflection is needed.

Here is a song attacking teachersto learn more about technology. Technology is a tool, why shouldn't students know the tools better? Teachers are a different sort of expert. I got into an appalling situation when I went to a private IB school. I was asked to make changes to improve the chances of top grades, to find that the students were shown 1 and told to do 50. They could never get top grades with this approach, and this was unfortunate as there were two or three candidates who could get the top grade. Before accepting the position the management promised me they would support me in the changes. Anyway the students went home and complained at the changes, and the management backed them up. As a result the students made no effort to cooperate with me, eventually parents had a meeting and the management took the group away from me - I was HOD. Part of the course was the use of the graphics calculator, and I had never used one before; these students were better at it than me but they had already used it for four years. I knew enough of the calculator to demonstrate what was necessary to allow them to use their own expertise to fulfil course requirements. Because they were not working with me this became an issue, and I would discuss with the parents' go-for who was Principal, and I would hear him repeat the same student complaints in his office. I was an experienced teacher, the previous teacher had been unhappy and had not completed enough of the course. He was a different subject specialist teaching maths, and there was much potential for disaster. And disaster happened because the management were governed by the students and powerful parents. I never knew what was said by the parents - I met one who said I was very sound but not suited to the school. By the time I knew what was happening, the class and I were divided. Even though I think I did much of what they wanted in the end, they were not cooperating and used their power to remove me. Most places I taught the students worked well with me, but there will always be difficulties in some cases. It is important that the institution stands together, and control such immature responses. In this case the only people who suffered were me temporarily, and the students more permanently. Beyond my control!

It is not necessary for the teacher to be technologically competent if the students are capable with the tool - teachers need to know enough.

This technology chat is beginning to remind me of Tory education policy in the 80s, it was knee-jerk and came from Sun-readers. Adult educators know best educationally but they are not in charge. Who decides on the curriculum? Who decides we have exams? In the 80s education was changed for the worse by the politicians based on non-expert opinion, is that how change is happening now? Students not engaged telling teachers they must engage them. But it is the students who need to try to engage. But they are rightly saying that the curriculum is meaningless.

Its creation is described here. This one is clearly addressing some good issues as well as griping. What is the relevance of the curriculum stands out for me? This video is more balanced but there is still a complaint that students are reading facebook during lectures. Do you stop laptops in lectures because some students are foolish?

This video is interesting but it stops short in some areas and also panders to the kids. I want to begin with relevance. He suggests that relevance means "speaking the kids language" he suggests this in wanting teachers to use technology to be relevant. But why? Isn't relevance more about whether the curriculum is relevant, and a relevant curriculum might be using contemporary tools? He doesn't question the subject-nature of the curriculum. Teachers need to exist in the space the students exist, this is ludicrous. Does this mean that elders cannot teach because they are old? Where does wisdom go if elders do not pass it on to young people? Students do not want friends in the classroom, they want teachers. They want teachers to know their name and teach them, they have friends elsewhere. If teachers are inappropriately friendly, then the students want to distance themselves. There is an appropriate barrier between teachers and students but this is a type of personal barrier that allows for education. "The generation of students I am teaching is an instant pudding, drive-through, micro-wave, downloaded from the internet, media-driven generation". Because of this he says he must be innovative to engage. Why isn't he directive? Why isn't he saying that as human beings these are not values or processes we want? These are not processes that are relevant to you for your own self-fulfilment. "Society does not have a clear vision of what education is for." Self-fulfilment is a pretty clear vision, and is relevant if we can step away from the subject-oriented model schools are using. But business will not allow this?

But this blog was really inspired by a reaction to some of what Charles Leadbeater said at TED. He began by asking why Cisco kindly sponsored his research, on a much smaller scale that is like Oppenheimer asking why the US government sponsored his research into nuclear fission. He is an advocate for cloud culture - what is the surprise with Cisco, if anyone listens who profits? He is just a pawn in the Microsoft vs Google battle. The computing industry promotes computers. Education is suffering because of the corporate paradigm, and sufficient people are suggesting that new technologies are the answer - without evidence. Charles Leadbeater is promoting interest in using computers as an educational programme.

People had promoted his talk as offering something special. I looked at it once and got the reaction that produced this blogentry but on further reflection it lacks content. He is not an educationalist and doesn't reflect on educational practice. He draws conclusions by taking photos of non-equipped private schools in the Third World, and implies there is no education. How can he know? He is not a teacher, and appears not to investigate very deeply. Maybe I will listen again.

But he did tell me about Finland!

Tags - CP business wants change teachers problem cake relevance
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Most people are blaming teachers for the lack of engagement in students, let us examine this contention. Let us consider a time when students are engaged in their studies - prior to exams. At this point the curriculum approach is unified. Prior to exams the main motivation of the education system as prescribed within the corporate paradigm is immediate, the need for qualifications. Throughout the academic year excellent students work in every lesson, but most of the students who pass just collect notes ready for exam cramming. Prior to the exams they know that what they will do will be remembered and that it is directly relevant to passing the exam - exam tips and technique as well as listening to the teacher's experience as to question spotting. Everybody is engaged in unity to get this holy grail of an exam pass. No-one discusses motivation or engagement. No-one says the teacher is useless at the point. The teacher does not have to go searching for motivational innovation and inspiration, everyone is working together.

Therefore engagement is not a teacher issue but a curricular issue - students engage with the teacher when they need to, the problem of engagement lies with the curriculum not being focussed on learning but on exam results. Of course teachers know that by the time exams are sat, many students are not interested in learning and have already truanted. That is because the curriculum is not interested in them as students, it doesn't want all students to learn - it only wants students with exam results.

The system in general recognises this problem as it has tried to introduce coursework, however this has not worked because of the cramming mentality that has been created in the students. Overall the system does not create a desire for students to be interested in their work so students wait until the last minute to cram in their coursework. As a result coursework increases pressure on students, and can be detrimental as exam coursework deadlines are the same times as teachers want to work for exams. This means that students at that time are more concerned with coursework - being more immediate, and less concerned with exams. I was teaching in one institution where there was a heavy coursework component, in the end there was an emergency staff meeting so that coursework deadlines could be rationalised as good students were skipping lectures and tutorials to complete coursework.

One particular principle of coursework was the desire to spread the workload, and get the students to work more consistently during the academic year. Higher institutions who control their own exams are able to set coursework deadlines throughout the year. This helps but in truth does not resolve the problem because so much emphasis is placed on success that the students cheat - or put nicely collaborate. Evaluation of a student performance cannot be left to objective testing as there is no way such evaluation can ensure that students work well consistently throughout an exam course. In the blog on authentic learning, I raised the idea of a qualities portfolio. Whilst the main point in raising it there was that such a qualities portfolio would enable teachers to change the curriculum and focus onto ongoing process, here however the purpose is to improve engagement. This portfolio also has the advantage that it will be continual assessment, as the teacher assesses. The students have to care about what the teacher thinks. How ludicrous is it that a teacher is helping students but the students don't care what they think, and students can even be a success (by passing exams) whilst being rude to their teachers. Can you imagine a boss in industry accepting this situation? Tim, do this please. F--- off. Ok here is your salary. How ridiculous! Few bosses are trained in caring for their staff, but staff have to do what the boss says. I got sacked. I remember attending a meeting to assess the students after the exam results had been marked - I had by then been sacked. The results were read out, and all the results for my students were high, in most cases significantly higher than other subjects - how much this was my teaching is debatable as the students were good at maths? I had done my job but been sacked because of the boss's attitude. In the workplace this is a reality, teachers have far too many checks and balances in place to be able to victimise the students as happens in the workplace. Yes, it was a teacher who sacked me, but there were no checks and balances on him - except that he was sacked one month after I left and I believe that my being sacked contributed to his dismissal. In the end my relationship with the teaching company management was good, and what happened to me reflected inappropriate supervision. Because teachers are trained in caring for students and because there would be checks and balances, quality portfolios can work yet we don't empower teachers with this control and this assessment. And then we question engagement?

I remember a pointless experiment carried out by one school I worked in. It was called a record of achievement. The idea was that students would be rewarded for wider participation in the school. Sounds good eh? Sounds in line with what I am saying. So why am I so negatively critical? Because the record of achievement had no meaning. It had plush folders, and inside were reasonably nice DTP-produced certificates for different subjects - most polite, most quality A, most quality B etc. Isn't that what I am saying? No because it wasn't relevant, it had no use. There were still the exams. Society wanted results, those qualifications matter, employers looked at exam certificates as part of their process of inviting students to interview, and most of all exams are what the students recognise as achievement. Token efforts like this record of achievement wasted the teachers' time, and meant little to the students in comparison to exams. But replacing the exams by this portfolio completely alters student engagement. It changes that engagement from cramming for and sitting exams to attention in every lesson, and collaboration with the teacher.

Within schools there would be less impact than outside school. The fundamental school structure would remain the same. Costs would be reduced drastically as they would not have to pay a huge bill to the exam boards. There would be significant change in curriculum content, all for the better. People want critical thinking then it is a quality on the portfolio. Educational experts including practicing teachers hopefully in collaboration with society's professionals would need to be convened to determine what was critical thinking, and develop appropriate teaching materials for critical thinking, determine how much time would be allocated to this critical thinking, and then appropriate time to train teachers in the use of the materials. Eventually the subject specialists would change to process specialists but many teachers are this already. But they are subject teachers as well. Every teacher would be expected to contribute to this quality portfolio, and an agreed perspective would be reached as this portfolio would be carried to jobs by the students. Compare that with a reference letter written by a boss who more often than not will write a good reference to get rid of the member of staff, and perhaps more of the reference is carried out by phone call afterwards?

In business there are far fewer controls on assessment yet it is accepted. In a school teachers who best know their students are not able to assess with regards to future employment. A completely ludicrous situation. And this situation is part of why schools are failing. The students do not have to engage with the teachers because the teachers have minimal relevance to their life after school because they do not assess.

Failure to engage in learning is a product of the curriculum that is not decided by the teachers. The exams are the target for all students, and they have realised that cramming just before exams will give them what they need. So they don't relate to ongoing learning in the school - in truth they do not relate to learning. None of this is controlled by the teachers yet the teachers are blamed. The exam process has emasculated the control of the teacher because assessment is taken out of their hands. Put it back in their hands by changing assessment to a quality portfolio. Not only will this enable the curriculum to be oriented towards process, away from whether the student is able to remember, it will also enable the employer to judge qualities that are relevant to the workplace - critical thinking, respect, independent thinking, etc.

Maybe this is the purpose of competences such as p21, Microsoft or RSAcompetences - Microsoft used competences in School for the Future. Maybe if competences can be agreed between educationalists and business there could a joining of the chasm that currently exists. OK "caring" will never be a quality in the portfolio if business is involved, but there are many compromises - social responsibility? It won't matter business converts their employees into uncaring people climbing a ladder - they will not be threatened by this.

And the students will be engaged in their learning.

Tags - QP engagement cramming coursework assessment
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QP, Assessment and Cheating
One immediate response to a quality portfolio has got to be a concern about cheating, and this is no small problem. And the biggest problem in cheating is the institutional pressure on teachers to make their kids successful - the easiest way for the teachers is to cheat and give them higher marks. It is the cheating in education both by the teachers and the students that is the major justification for objective assessment such as external exams. You even get the situation that employers look to certificates from particular countries such as the UK, because the commonly held perception is that different countries cheat in their exams. Because of my experience as an exams officer, I have a very low opinion of CIE but internationally they do make attempts to conduct exams honestly so that their qualification can supposedly mean something. But the computer is beginning to defeat the international exam boards, and they eventually must become defunct. The problem is time zones. In Singapore an exam is sat at 9.30 am, 7 hours later that same exam is sat at 9.30 am in London. In the meanwhile the students have sent the structure of the papers to their friends so the assessment cannot possibly be fair. Students sometimes take exam papers out of the exam hall and post them on a website, sometimes they are caught doing this and the exam is repeated. How often are they not caught?

Here is what happened with me that has made me think of CIE so badly. I was working in Nigeria and institutional cheating was a serious problem there. The CIE did not trust the teachers working in the Nigerian schools to invigilate the exams so they used the offices of the British Council to employ neutral invigilators; under normal circumstances the invigilation of exams is conducted internally and relies on the teachers' integrity for fairness. Now trying to cope with problems in Nigeria is very difficult, and using the offices of the British Council appeared a good solution - but it was an easy solution (passing the buck). The British Council being in Nigeria had its own internal problems, and these affected the conduct of the exams. Here is an example. An exam was cancelled, I think because of the online problem discussed above. It was rearranged for a particular date - it was a Wednesday let's suppose the 7th June. On Tuesday 6th June as exams officer I was handed a letter from the British Council telling me to contact my students because they had an extra exam on the Wednesday; I am sure in other global centres they were given far more notice. I hit the roof. Why? The letter was dated Friday 2nd June. This was an A level exam so my students were serious. If I had been phoned on Friday I could have told the students, and they would have had 4 days to revise, as it happened they had less than one. So why do I blame CIE? Because I wanted to complain so that the students could be given extra consideration for the lack of revision time, this is a legitimate duty of an exam officer. I contacted CIE, and they said all communication must go through the British Council as they were the CIE representatives. So I could write a letter to the CIE through the offices of the British Council asking the students to be given due consideration as the British Council screwed up. The CIE could easily have made an exception but they refused and stonewalled behind their representatives. There were a number of occasions in which I had to contact CIE because of bad practice. I received no acknowledgement from CIE, and each time I contacted them they said go through the British Council. However they were very quick to put pressure on me through my ISP when I put past papers online for those students who couldn't afford them. I had retired by then, so although it was not professional it was maybe not wrong?

Internationally objective assessment is messed up. It is far from worthless but it is far from acceptable either. Many countries' exams are not considered acceptable especially in the West, of course they accept their own exams. But with the internet the West's own examination process cannot possibly be considered robustly fair. If examinations were a positive measure on the education of all, it might be worth trying to improve it. But it is not. However the exam boards are powerful, and make huge amounts of money. It is more than one person who writes an exam - there are layers of checking that have been reduced in recent years to reduce costs, but how much does it cost for a student to sit the exam? It varies but prices can reach as high as £25 per subject. When you consider the vast number of students sitting CIE exams across the world this is a phenomenal profit. The exam boards will not let go, exams will have to be prised away from them and the way that can be done is through educational argument.

In the UK education standards are a hot political issue, and the government has had to cover up the fact that student standards are going down because politically they would lose votes. There are many claims that exam standards are less and I believe that. I have no proof in other subjects but in maths I know it is true. I sat A levels in 1969, and I have taught A level until 2005. I have seen the papers change in 36 years, and the standards have fallen. In a justifying objective society this proof will not be accepted, and will always be countered by lackeys who will say the opposite as it suits their career. But I have no doubts that the politicians have manipulated the results somehow. This is sufficient for me not to trust the UK system either. When you hear the university lecturers complaining that the students don't have the skills this confirms it for me. The UK system is flawed, and if the system benefitted students it might be worth trying to fix it. However the benefits for educating all, in not having exams, far outweigh the need for continuing them.

And those benefits come from teacher assessment and quality portfolio. The problem is how does one make such a system robust to counter institutional cheating as well as student cheating? I have not worked in the US but a couple of my schools wanted the flexibility of feeding into the US system. I am not exactly sure how this worked but I did end up teaching SATs for College Board in my spare time. But the real pressure was on the school mark. The students would sit regular tests every 2 months, teacher was pitted against teacher intentionally in parallel groups, and if test scores were generally low the exam mark was moderated ie increased. We held regular meetings to do this, and if you didn't do it you didn't have a job. All exam boards moderate exams between years so as to ensure that one year is not disadvantaged compared to another so their marks are not raw. At the same time they only have bi-annual exams to deal with so they can spend time on this using computers, normal curves and other statistical techniques. They also have time to prepare the exams, I believe one examiner told me they start writing exams two years before they are sat. These teachers have to write their tests whilst working on a full teaching load so it is likely that the quality of the tests might be lacking. So moderating has a positive side but the biggest pressure is the institutional pressure on the results so that the student has a high score when they leave the school - for the school. So subjective assessment, whilst having innumerable educational advantages if carried out with integrity, has many pitfalls because of institutional interests.

And that is before the student cheating is considered. Now objective assessment is a way of preventing student cheating. Invigilators try to organise exams in rows far apart so that students cannot read another's paper, they look out for "crib-sheets", mobile phones are not allowed - even with calculators!! But there is some level of cheating in exams. But the potential for cheating on coursework assessments is phenomenal. At one stage I taught at a Polytechnic, and coursework was part of it. I received regular assignments with groups of students with identical errors - a sure sign of copying. It is a real problem. And that is before organised plagiarism where students submit work written by other students for money and copied from online workbanks - again paid for.

In the end the only measures that can counter this level of cheating is a method of teacher assessment with integrity. QPs get rid of the need for exams, and they improve the curriculum because they assess process. It is ongoing and therefore it is not only assessing submitted work but also assessing continuously - daily. This daily assessment would not be a formal grade or subjective score but would form part of any formal record. To know whether a student has understood process a teacher would have to conduct a viva - an interview concerning the process of a submitted work or otherwise. Now vivas are very timely so this is a dangerous suggestion but maybe vivas would be conducted when there are doubts. If students were not disrupting a viva might be conducted in class, they might be assessed ongoing as part of normal teacher-student interaction, but it would be important that the student demonstrated knowledge of the process.

I found rubrics very useful in later years. What was I looking for when I marked books or assignments? After you have worked in an institution a while, you know what aspects of their work students are weak at, you have your own requirements - in my own case as a maths teacher I was always concerned about corrections. Once you know what you want to improve, you work out a grading system based on your objectives and give a copy to the students. Then they know what the grades in their books mean. If it was a particular assignment then it is normal to discuss what was weak as it would be in tests. This type of feedback would be essential in process-teaching to show the students what was good process, and where the process was lacking. A rubric of ongoing assessment could be setup, this is not long to do and it is not difficult to work with.

The QP would be stored on computer perhaps with some certificate support. Again there would be a logistic problem in monitoring cheating. The QP to be shown to the employer would have to be stored by a technician without student access to change, and it would have to be verified by the teacher. The student submits the work via the teacher folder on the network, and once the teacher accepts the work as original then submits the work to the technician for uploading onto the QP. The technician might be subject to bribes and the password protection might be cracked, but a system cannot cope with everything.

But teacher assessment with integrity has not been answered as the institutional pressure on the teacher is huge and pervasive as well as the pressure from the students. With regards to the students this pressure has been mixed and often depends on the institution. In one part of the world where the students were rich and expected to get their own way, such pressure from students would be difficult to handle. As these schools also tend to cowtow to parental pressure and not support the teachers, this would be even more difficult to handle. In other schools where students did not exert pressure and they worked with me, such a QP system would work easily if they were given sufficient feedback to understand. In my view teachers in general would choose to assess with integrity if the administration did not exert pressure for better results. If students and parents exerting pressure on the phone did not produce a negative knee-jerk from management then QP can work. The essential aspect of this is how much integrity management can show.

However process-educated students can be assessed by employers. If a student has been graded erroneously on independence, and independence was important to a particular employer then the student could be asked to explain how they obtained their independence grade/score. The employer would have access to their online portfolio in the interview, and the students could justify their work. An astute employer educated in process would be able to make their own judgement. Compare that with now. Students have a set of irrelevant qualifications and are uneducated in process. Maybe in most cases the grades are legitimate, but what do they actually show? Do they show process? No, but that is what the employer wants - initiative, gumption, creativity, critical thinking, .... At least with a QP there is more information about what the employer actually wants.

The issue of QP has many educational advantages but cannot cope with the negative aspects of institutional pressures for success. It is clear that curricular change towards process would benefit learning but assessing it is fraught especially if management do not support the teachers. In the end you cannot cope with corruption, the corrupt will always find a way - look at the pervasive corruption in business life. Current objective methods of assessment are clearly flawed and are held in place by politics and vested interest. A working QP would give employers better info, that could perhaps easily be ratified - even in interview. No system can be designed to deal with all corruption, hopefully the benefits of a QP would help to assuage the disadvantages coming from the corruption I cannot answer.

Tags - QP Assessment exams objectivity standards rubrics
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In Charles Leadbeater's TED talk he spoke of why people trapes off to Finland to find a system that works as I did online. Apparently this Wall Street Journal article stirred everything up. Here is an American view of what she found.

"Finland stands firm on many concepts:-

•While many school districts in the United States want to maintain local autonomy, Finland has a common curriculum that is strictly followed.

•In spite of downturns in the economy, Finland maintains top funding for education knowing that math and science are key to maintaining its knowledge-based economy.

•Finland also emphasizes creative problem-solving skills. After concepts are taught, students are assisted in finding skills and logic to prepare for lifelong learning.

•Students having problems learning are assigned tutors and remedial specialists from the first day they are evaluated until the day they graduate.

•The most money and time is spent on students in grades 7 through 9 because this is where most of the struggling occurs."

In this interview the education minister describes why they are successful. She puts the question into a stark economic context. How can a small, affluent country such as Finland maintain a high-wage, high-skill economy? It can't compete with the low-cost economies of Asia, so it must, as a matter of economic survival, invest heavily in education and training." Here is a blog where "Zaid" descibes his views on Finland based on a conference. It says much of the same about how good Finland is and he says"Finland don't rank students or schools, and they don't emphasize on standardized nationwide examinations that drive students, teachers and parents nuts". How does Finland test?

In this blog Finland's education emphasis is described as being on teachers and teacher-assessment:-

"Teachers have been trusted to do their best as true professionals of education. Teachers carry out assessment in their respective subjects on the basis of objectives written into the curriculum. In Finland, the role of teacher-based assessment is all the more important because at Finnish comprehensive schools students are not assessed by any national tests or examinations upon completing school or during the school years. Finnish education authorities do not like any ranking list of schools although the mass media is interested in these lists." Here is an article in Rethinking Schools which includes:-

"Improving Curriculum Content and Access

"Beginning in the 1970s, Finland launched reforms to equalize educational opportunity by first eliminating the practice of separating students into very different tracks based on their test scores, and then by eliminating the examinations themselves. This occurred in two stages between 1972 and 1982, and a common curriculum, through the end of high school, was developed throughout the entire system. These changes were intended to equalize educational outcomes and provide more open access to higher education. During this time, social supports for children and families were also enacted, including health and dental care, special education services, and transportation to schools.

By the late 1970s, investment in teachers was an additional focus. Teacher education was improved and extended. Policy makers decided that if they invested in very skillful teachers, they could allow local schools more autonomy to make decisions about what and how to teach—a reaction against the oppressive, centralized system they sought to overhaul.

This bet seems to have paid off. By the mid-1990s, the country had ended the highly regulated system of curriculum management (reflected in older curriculum guides that had exceeded 700 pages of prescriptions). The current national core curriculum is a much leaner document—featuring fewer than 10 pages of guidance for all of mathematics, for example—that guides teachers in collectively developing local curriculum and assessments. The focus of 1990s curricular reform was on science, technology, and innovation, leading to an emphasis on teaching students how to think creatively and manage their own learning.

There are no external standardized tests used to rank students or schools in Finland, and most teacher feedback to students is in narrative form, emphasizing descriptions of their learning progress and areas for growth. As in the NAEP exams in the United States, samples of students are evaluated on open-ended assessments at the end of the 2nd and 9th grades to inform curriculum and school investments. The focus is on using information to drive learning and problem-solving, rather than punishment.

Finland maintains one exam prior to attending university: the matriculation exam, organized and evaluated by a matriculation exam board appointed by the Finnish Ministry of Education. Although not required for graduation or entry into a university, it is common practice for students to take this set of four open-ended exams that emphasize problem-solving, analysis, and writing. Teachers use official guidelines to grade the matriculation exams locally, and samples of the grades are re-examined by professional raters hired by the matriculation exam board. Although it is counterintuitive to those accustomed to external testing as a means of accountability, Finland’s use of school-based, student-centered, open-ended tasks embedded in the curriculum is often touted as an important reason for the nation’s success on the international exams.

The national core curriculum provides teachers with recommended assessment criteria for specific grades in each subject and in the overall final assessment of student progress each year. Local schools and teachers then use those guidelines to craft a more detailed curriculum and set of learning outcomes at each school, as well as approaches to assessing benchmarks in the curriculum. According to the Finnish National Board of Education, the main purpose of assessing students is to guide and encourage students’ own reflection and self-assessment. Consequently, ongoing feedback from the teacher is very important. Teachers give students formative and summative reports both through verbal and narrative feedback. Inquiry is a major focus of learning in Finland, and assessment is used to cultivate students’ active learning skills by asking open-ended questions and helping students address them.

In a Finnish classroom, it is rare to see a teacher standing at the front of a classroom lecturing students for 50 minutes. Instead, students are likely to determine their own weekly targets with their teachers in specific subject areas and choose the tasks they will work on at their own pace. In a typical classroom, students are likely to be walking around, rotating through workshops or gathering information, asking questions of their teacher, and working with other students in small groups. They may be completing independent or group projects or writing articles for their own magazine. The cultivation of independence and active learning allows students to develop metacognitive skills that help them to frame, tackle, and solve problems; evaluate and improve their own work; and guide their learning processes in productive ways."

Whilst Finland doesn't go as far as QP there is undoubtedly the same principle being applied, a focus on process and project work.

Tags - QP Finland process no exams professionals assessment
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