To give or not to give – that is the Question when it comes to Homework and Punishments

To give or not to give – that is the Question when it comes to “homework” and “punishments” for school children.  I am refering to both Future Generation (6th August) and Practicum Teacher (12th August) because I can see where this is going to lead to – Teachers vs. Parents. 

There is such a big divide between parents and children when  both are essentially playing the same role in being entrusted the care of a wonderful parcel called a “Child”. The emerging crack is widening by the day and it’s hightime to go in for Couple’s Counselling. Both parties took a quiet vow to perform the duty of loving and awakening the Child to fulfill the purpose they came to this world for. How can something so right go so wrong? And why is the child always the powerless victim in this? If I were a child uncorrupted by living in a box they’ve created over me I’d ask both bickering parties to step out of themselves and just take responsibility for their own decisions, rather than blame each other for it. 

Firstly, I will say that I will err on the Parents’ side. While parents don’t get paid for parenting, Teachers do, for teaching. Yes, we don’t get paid enough but that’s the cake you ordered without a gun to your head.

Schooling, as has existed in the past couple of hundred years, was a public exercise to wrangle little children away from their ‘overprotective parents’ in order for the State to do economically beneficial things with the enormous potential of all these little minds. Parents allowed this to happen, be it because it’s a law they collectively kowtow-ed to or it’s convenient for them to get a few hours of peace for themselves during the day. Either way, schooling as we know it became a collective social agreement – or shall I say, a ‘reality’ between parents, teachers and the State. 

Teachers are servants of the State. This fact should automatically inform you that the first thing you leave behind when you enter State Service is complete autonomy over the work you do. As with every State function, Bureaucracy rules. As teachers, we accepted this contract in exchange for wages, and also because we believed that ‘Better us than no one, we do believe we can change the world by being a teacher.’ No matter how ineffective or damaging a teacher is, somewhere at the bottom of their hearts, they believed they could rise to the occassion and make this world a better place. One word of advice : You cannot heal the world from behind a cracked looking glass.

Teachers tend to be idealists. And idealists don’t tend to do their best with very little autonomy over their work. Becoming a teacher means you accept that it is going to be an overworked, underpaid and thankless job. A School is a more glorified version of a half-day orphanage run by the state (or a Board). An average of 30 parents surrender their children to 1.5 class teachers for 0.5 of productive hours 5.5 working days on average.

The parents have grown to believe they have a duty to the State to do that, because the State also needs the parents, past products of Schooling, as a pool of supply – a workforce. That is the equation. Nobody said it was going to work perfectly as the human race evolved. Mass schooling has never been done before in such a scale and within such social and economic context as we’re seeing in this decade.

The discord between Parents and Teachers reminds one of the transition of the Victorian woman to the Post-Modern Woman. The party previously with almost complete authority now has to parlay to parents differently. 

With more economic power and social mobility than before, parents are now aware that they can have more say over the conditions their children are going to grow up in. This poses a challenge to the previously unquestioned authority of the State servants over these children. This new challenge compounds the existing problem teachers face. However, once a teacher accepts the contract for exactly what it is, they will understand why they have to be overworked – because the State cannot pay a teacher the total economic value of 30 parents who go to work even if the teacher is doing, for a little over half a day, the work of these 30 parents.

Schooling has completely changed the landscape of Education – it’s no longer about philosophical inquiry or excellence of the mind. But it’s a contract parents and teachers have signed on to. So stop blaming one another. 

If, as a parent, you are willing to surrender your child to a mass-production system simply because you collectively agreed to it in order to ‘make a living doing something’, just accept that there is a price to pay if you expect the State to subsidise the cost of giving you that economic option. If you’re not happy and want to have more say, pay someone else to provide that service. I think it costs something like RM1,000 and upwards.  A lot of parents are doing that already.

The state is doing parents a service so that their children can get a minimum (the operative word here is ‘minimum’ not maximum or optimum) level of socialisation to become economically useful citizens of the State. Ask not what the Education System can do for you, ask what YOU can do for the Education System. You are a participant in it. The State does us a favor by using its collective resources to build a platform where you can surrender your children to State employees who have traded their life energy in order to train in and service this mechanism. Can you imagine yourself not working and spending time and effort learning how to teach all the things your children want to learn to be the sort of happy, confident, creative (extended list of adjectives) person who would grow up to be highly productive, self-directed, fulfilled, happy person?

The teachers are, after all, only human. The idealistic notion that teachers are grand-dukes of Knowledge and Wisdom have been swept away the day teachers have to surrender complete autonomy in exchange for a salary. While  parents are out there being employees or players in the industry, teachers are also merely employees of the State.

It is a popular fallacy that teachers were better ‘in the good old days’. The thing with ‘good old days’ is that they only become good relative to the worsening situation of the current day which is, after all, brought about by the lack of will to prevent these same things from getting worse when they first began ‘in the good old days.’ – All one has to do is read Roald Dahl’s “Boy” to get a picture of that oh-so-touted English School System which has been exported to many parts of the ‘uncivilised world’ to teach us some form of ‘civility’.  The truth is, the pickings of State servants as teachers were better way back when Schooling was a more selective exercise.

Then somewhere during the rise of the Industrial Revolution, Schools seemed like a good platform to socialize all these migrants from rural areas and other countries through a curriculum that would provide them with a minimum ability to be good workers; learn punctuality, obeying orders and understand that breaking an authority’s rule meant punishment, you know, that sort of thing. Mass-schooling as we know it now, began. Education as a means of guaranteed social advancement, diminished. The Elite continue to be educated in environments which would enable them to stay at the top of the Economic-Chain as the economic pie grows bigger, and inherit a blueprint and social network that will secure their position.

Parents must accept that minimum learning and controlled socialisation along with maximum subservience is the key to a good, schooling, system. You can disagree all you want and say it is the opposite, but what would the Economy do with a bunch of critical thinking, positive, confident, analytical, clever, creative, eloquent, organized bunch of people? We would be a highly productive and high-value society as opposed to a high-manual, low output one. But that would displace the Elite of society doing what they do best : Confusing all of us so we blame each other while we become entrapped in a system they’ve created for our ‘productive’ good. It is an oversimplification of the historical context on the existence of schooling and how it ties in to the current state of socio-economic affairs, of course. But it provides a context for parents and teachers to understand their role in it. Without a context of how everything went wrong, how can we start building a system from those mistakes and set things right?

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Filed under Danger School, Rethinking Parenting & Teaching, schooling, Up the ante on teaching

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