deschooling, Education and Language Instruction, Education and the Family, Literacy, Schools

The Importance of Recognizing Student Difference

Last night I watched the film, Shine Like a Star on YouTube.  The setting for the film was in India; in some Indian schools, with class sizes of 40 plus students. The main character was an eight-year-old boy called Ishan.  Ishan was portrayed as having dyslexia, and because he could not read and write, and didn’t have fine and gross motor coordination, he experienced bullying from teachers and fellow students, and rejection by his family.

The theme of the movie was individual difference in students.  With the right kind of support, and feeding of passion, all students are able to be an expert in something.

In the movie, Ishan’s solution was found in the context of school.  However, for me, the film highlighted the harmfulness of schools and schooling – just like in a school of fish, the individual is expected to be the same as every other member of the collective.  However, egalitarianism is a myth.  None of us are the same.  Everyone is unique and created for a different purpose, and the uniqueness requires difference in educational input.  Home-based education would have been a much better solution for the young lad’s situation.

Another issue was the child’s need for a multi-sensory / multi-modal approach to literacy and numeracy.  It was a great advertisement for intensive phonics methods of literacy instruction.

I would thoroughly recommend the watching of the movie.  You have to persevere through some Bollywood-like scenes (it is an Indian movie, when all said and done), but the perseverance is worth it.

References:

Aamir Khan Productions / PVR Pictures. (2013). Verry Inspiring Movie (Shine Like a Star). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22xmvxGtx4o

 

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Education and the Church, Education and the Family, Education and the Marketplace, Education and the State, Funding, Home-Based Education

Government-funded education and Fundamentalist Evangelicalism: the dependence must stop

According to North (1982) the concept of neutrality in the market place is a myth.  The myth, extended to education, has created an opportunity for the enemies of Jesus Christ to gain control of the institutions that drive culture.  Sadly, Christian Evangelicalism and Christian Fundamentalism, because of the influence of Pietism, have been on the cutting edge of promoting marketplace neutrality.  North’s answer to the problem, and anticipation of Fundamentalism’s response to the solution is as follows:

What is the proper argument?  Simple: there is no neutrality, and since there is no neutrality, the present legal foundation of government-funded education is a fraud.  Conclusion: close every government-financed school tomorrow.  Refund the taxes to the tax-payers.  Let the taxpayers seek out their own schools for their children, at their expense (or from privately financed scholarships or other donations).  No more fraud.  No more institutions built on the myth of neutrality.  But the fundamentalists instinctively shy away from such a view.  Why?  Because they see where it necessarily leads: to a theocracy in which no public funds can be appropriated for anti-Christian activities, or to anarchy, where there are no public funds to appropriate.  It must lead to God’s civil government or no civil government.  In short, it leads either to Rushdoony or Rothbard.  Most fundamentalists have never heard of either man, but they instinctively recognize where the abandonment of the myth of neutrality could lead them (North, 1982. p. 20).

Quite rightly, non-Christians object to state-raised funds being used for purposes that promote the Christian religion.  This is perfectly consistent with the reality of there being no neutrality in the marketplace.  The religion of the marketplace is Secular Humanism (proclaimed a religion by Humanists themselves*).  This is the pressure that is applied to so-called Christian Schools that receive government funds to be established and sustained.  Humanist tax-payers object to their tax dollars being used to promote a rival religion.  The government-funded Christian schools, if they are not fully controlled by government agendas at the moment, shall be completely controlled in the future.  He who pays the piper calls the tune.  The only way for Christian education to be conducted in a Christian way, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and in accordance with the Word of God, is for Christians to stop receiving government subsidies.  Initially this will be extremely painful.  It will mean shouldering the full responsibility for the education of their children.  Christians will also need to pay the full tithe to the Lord, and churches will need to shoulder their full social welfare responsibilities, which includes helping the righteous poor families fulfill their educational responsibilities.

It was Fundamentalist Evangelicalism that led the charge towards the secularization of Education in Australia.  According to Barcan (1980):

In September 1874 James Greenwood, a Baptist minister who was also a journalist on the Sydney Morning Herald, formed a Public School League whose objective was a ‘national, free, secular and compulsory’ system (Barcan, 1980, p. 139).

The Christian church in Australia is addicted to procuring government funds.  Think of the funds being given to the Salvation Army, Baptist Care, Catholic Care, Frontier Services, Anglicare, etc.  Government money for the Lord’s work.  Try preaching the gospel to the recipients of the welfare distributed through these organizations – challenge the recipients with the crown rights of Jesus Christ the Lord and King – and see what response comes from the funding source: “Shut up, or the funds will dry up.”  In the early days of these organisations, when the money came from the church’s tithes and offerings, listening to the gospel was often a condition for receiving the welfare distribution – in many cases it was failing to obey the gospel which got people into trouble in the first place.

Well done, those Christian families who have fully owned their responsibility to educate their own children, by bringing them home and giving them a home-based education.  Well done to those families who have paid the financial cost of educating from home.  I applaud your efforts.  And may the Triune God reward you abundantly for your faithfulness to Him.

* Dunphy, J. (1983). A Religion for a New Age. The Humanist, Jan-Feb.; Potter, C. F. (1930). Humanism a New Religion. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

References

Barcan, A. (1980). A History of Australian Education. Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Dunphy, J. (1983). A Religion for a New Age. The Humanist, Jan-Feb

North, G. (1982). The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right, Symposium on The Failure of the American Baptist Culture.  U.S.A.: Geneva Divinity School, Christianity and Civilization Vol. 1.  Editors Jordan, J. B. and North, G.

Potter, C. F. (1930). Humanism a New Religion. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

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Aboriginal Education, Home-Based Education, Indigenous Education, Indigenous Pedagogies, Schooling

The way forward for Indigenous education may have a link with home-based education research

I worked for eight and a half years in schools that were dedicated to delivering schooling to Australian Indigenous children.  One of the perennial problems was getting the children to come to school, and then if they did come, get them to stay at school for the full day.  Many children reacted violently to their experience of school and schooling, and it was not unusual to have a chair over-turned, obscenities shouted, or other similar displays of extreme behaviour.  I have been spat on, kicked, accused of all kinds of physical contortions that are just not possible, and I believe that I was a well-liked teacher — at least that was what I was led to believe by the children outside the school context.

Biermann  wrote:

… the (Australian) education system played a central part in the colonisation of Indigenous peoples, by devaluing and apprehending the transmission of their cultures, knowledges and languages.  This has led to a deep suspicion, shared by many Indigenous people, towards the ultimate goals and effects of mainstream schooling (Biermann, 2008, p. 28).

In my Master of Education (Leadership) dissertation I addressed the way that schooling has, to date, been delivered to Indigenous children and suggested that they would feel much more comfortable in an environment that reflects their Indigenous pedagogical heritage.  I also argued that Indigenous pedagogies mirror cutting-edge, best practice pedagogies around the world.

A central component of Indigenous pedagogies is relationship.  Learning that lasts does not take place without trust, perseverence, and a sense of purpose about it.  It is not good enough to say that schooling will get you a good job.  It doesn’t, necessarily, lead to a job, and generations of schooled (but unemployed) Indigenous people will testify to that.  I would argue that it is an education that they are needing, not schooling: with its busy work, age-segregation, teachers who have no relationship with the family, centralised curriculum, bells, subject fragmentation, etc..

Home-based education has a lot to offer, and there is a need for much more research to discover why it is that many, if not most, home-based educators get it so right.  Maybe the lessons we learn from the home-based education community will provide us some clues as to how we can do education much better for our Indigenous communities.  My suspicion is that the findings will point to Indigenous pedagogies being used in the home-based education context as being an important contributor to the success of the movement.

We shall see.

References

Biermann, S. (2008). Indigenous Pedagogies and Environmental Education: Starting a conversation. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning. 4 (3), pp. 27-38.

Box, L.A. (2013). Warlpiri Business as Pedagogy: A Learning Journey. A monograph submitted as partial fulfillment for the degree of Master of Education (Leadership), Moreling College (National Institute for Christian Education), Melbourne, Victoria.

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Education, Education and the Family, Education and the State, Funding, Home-Based Education, State Schools, Teaching

Globalisation, Schools and Home-based Education: the economic pressures

Sean Casham (2014), writing from an unashamedly socialist perspective, discussed the impact of globalisation on education, in his paper: Globalisation and Education.  He argued that globalisation has ensured that schooling is finance-driven rather than education-driven.  Measurable outcomes, such as high exam scores, become the educational objective of schooling to attract parents to enroll their children and to secure government funding.  These globally originated economic pressures, from such sources as The World Bank (Casham, 2014, p. 2), create insecurity of employment for school staff and ensure that there is a need for particular teachers to prove their ongoing right to be employed.  In this context, data collection becomes connected to professional competence, rather than actual teaching ability and learning outcomes in the lives of the children; value is given to things that can be measured and produced, rather than to the elements of a true education.  Casham writes: “By focusing on the knowable and instantly quantifiable, we may diminish the more abstract qualities of being human, such as kindness and wisdom” (p. 2).

Casham points out that Waters (2011) wrote: “In Australia, 25% of our young people (aged 15-19 years) have a mental disorder and 1 in 3 young people experience moderate to high levels of psychological distress” (Waters, 2011, p. 75).  This figure is an increase on the number of mentally disturbed young people reported in the earlier Sawyer, et al. (2000) Mental Health of Young People in Australia, report.  In the Sawyer report it was recorded that “Fourteen percent of children and adolescents in Australia have mental health problems” (p. xi).  However, it is interesting to note that Sawyer, et al. claimed that there was “a higher prevalence of child and adolescent mental health problems among those living in low-income, step/blended and sole-parent families” (Sawyer, et al., 2000, p. xi).  The Sawyer report claimed to be accurate because “the prevalence of mental health problems identified in (the) survey (was) very similar to the prevalence identified in previous Australian and overseas surveys” (p. xi).

Casham suggests that  these globalisation pressures may have a negative influence on young people.  Making educational processes finance-driven rather than education-driven may be limiting our human capabilities, and “limiting our human capabilities could paradoxically prove harmful to our mental health and the economy” (Casham, 2014, p. 2).  Maseman (2007) pointed out that the increasing trend in measuring school effectiveness “rests on productivity-oriented criteria, and analysis that is used on every level of education from early elementary school up to the tertiary level” (Maseman, 2007, p. 101).  This has led to “the increasing homogenization of the culture of education on a worldwide scale, with the accompanying assumption by educators that there is only one valid epistemology” (Maseman, 2007, p. 110).  Casham summarises this phenomenon by suggesting that “financial objectives can … be at the expense of a truly coherent focus on school improvement” (Casham, 2014, p. 6).

It is my argument that schools cannot be improved, whilst they are the recipients of Government funding.  It is the pressure of Government accountability measures that is apparently skewing pedagogical approaches.  Teachers who are anxious about their job security will not be primarily concerned about the educational outcomes of their charges, rather they will be driven by considerations that revolve around assessment imperatives.  Testing does not deliver an education.  Tests test whether the students have memorised the data that is deemed important to pass the test.  An education results in a lifestyle change.  Testing involves cramming as late as possible before the test date, then promptly forgetting as much as possible after the test.

Home-based education does have its financial pressures.  Home-based education families mostly choose to live a leaner lifestyle than they could if both parents were working and the children were sent to school.  However, when there is a resolve to live contentedly within the family’s single-income means, there are no pressures for financial accountability in relation to the education of the children.  Time can be dedicated to education, and if there is no state-mandated registration, then the testing regime can be done away with all together.  The proof of educational success is not in the results of tests; the proof is in the adjustments to lifestyle that the children make as a result of their educational development.

Casham’s essay is helpful in understanding some of the pressures upon schools and their teaching staff.  Those pressures may also be contributing to the poor mental health of many of the children attending the schools.  Add the pressures of globalisation to the factors of bullying, academic struggle and the corresponding shame that many children experience, and it is no wonder that a large number (between 14% and 25%) of children exhibit mental health problems.  However, Casham holds out hope for schools, and this is where I depart from his analysis.  The hope will be found in strengthening families, and then mandating families to deliver an education from the base of their own home sweet home.

References

Casham, S. (2014). Globalisation and Education. Unpublished Masters level assignment.

Maseman, V.L. (2007). Culture and Education. In: Arnove, R.F. and Torrens, C.A. (eds). Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local, 3rd Edition. pp. 101-116.

Sawyer, M.G., Arney, F.M., Baghurst, P.A., Clark, J.J., Graetz, B.W., Kosky, R.J., Nurcombe, B., Patton, G.C., Prior, M.R., Raphael, B., Rey, J., Waites, L.C. and Zubrick, S.R. (2000). Mental Health of Young People in Australia. Child and adolescent component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being.  Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care.

Waters, L. (2011) A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist. 28(2), pp. 75-90. DOI 10.1375/aedp.28.2.75

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Education and the Church, Education and the Family, Education and the State, Funding

When it all boils down to the essence of the matter, it is a question of: “Who owns the kids?”

The concluding remark in the e-brief to the New South Wales parliament on the question of home education is that “much of the division of opinion (about home education) centres around whether the greatest right and responsibility for a child’s education rests with the state or with parents” (Drabsch, 2013, p. 13).  This is the question that must be revisited and satisfactorily answered.  Drabsch admits that it “was the introduction of compulsory education that saw responsibility for the education of children generally shift from parents to the state” (p. 2).

In my PhD Dissertation I wrote:

By the mid 1800s, “… in country districts the denominational system was unsuitable – too many small rival denominational schools were being established” (Barcan, 1980, p. 78). By the late 1800s, across all the colonies, Free, Secular and Compulsory education campaigns were launched. This resulted in the Free, Secular and Compulsory education Acts variously introduced across all of the colonies.

In September 1874 James Greenwood, a Baptist minister who was also a journalist on the Sydney Morning Herald, formed a Public School League whose objective was a ‘national, free, secular and compulsory’ system” (Barcan, 1980, p. 139).

Victoria, in 1872, “was the first colony not merely in Australia but also in the British Empire, to provide in combination, free, compulsory and secular education” (Barcan, 1980, p. 176). Queensland began the process in 1870 but did not complete it until 1900. South Australia set in place legislation in 1892, Western Australia in 1901, New South Wales in 1906 and Tasmania in 1908 (Barcan, 1980, p. 151). “State control of the purse ensured centralized control” of all aspects of education in the new states of Australia after federation (Barcan, 1980, p. 177). (Box, 2014, p. 106).

It is rather ironic that the the push for transferring responsibility of children from their parents to the state was lead by members of the Baptist Church in Australia.  This is expected of the Communists, because the tenth objective of Karl Marx, in his program to introduce international communism was:

“10. Free education for all children in public schools. … ” (Marx and Engels, 2010 [1848], p. 27).

However, the Biblical position is that children belong to the Triune God, and God has entrusted the responsibility for the care and nurturance of children to the parents of those children as a trust.

According to Rushdoony (1983) the issue that resulted in Christians being fed to lions and variously tortured by the Roman state was that the early Christians exalted Jesus Christ as Lord over the state (as represented in the person of Caesar).  He wrote:

Peter’s message to the elders and scribes, recorded in Acts 4:12, best sums up the conflict we are involved in today: Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

It is important for us to understand the context of this verse.  With the statement, Peter effectually issued a spiritual declaration of war against the Roman Empire.  When Augustus Caesar took the helm in Rome and had consolidated his power, a great celebration was held throughout the Roman Empire.  It was called the “Advent” celebration — a very significant term, and a very religious one.  It was the Advent celebration because Augustus Caesar had come, in all the fullness of his power.  The heralds — again an interesting word — were sent to the far corners of the Roman Empire with a great Advent proclamation: “There is none other name under heaven whereby men may be saved than the name of Augustus Caesar!”  It was the proclamation of Caesar, of the state, as man’s savior.

We can understand, then, why conflict between Christ and the Caesars was inevitable, why the church went through all the troubles it did, year in and year out, and why men were martyred for the faith.  It was because of this question: “Who is the Lord, or sovereign?  Who is the savior?” (Rushdoony, 1983, pp. 7-8).

Sovereignty and Providence, as universal realities, do not disappear with their denial in theology.  If Sovereignty and Providence are no longer acknowledged in the Triune Creator God, as revealed in the Bible, the principles are then taken up by the state.   This is what happened in the late 1800s.  Compromised theology in the pulpits of Australian churches transferred absolute sovereignty from the God of the Bible to the civil state, and with that transferal went the ownership of the children.

This question of prior responsibility for the children will not be settled in the favour of parents until the church once again thunders from its pulpits the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, and once again God’s people think His thoughts after Him — having the mind of Christ.

References

Barcan, A. (1980). A History of Australian Education. Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Box, L A. (2014). A Proposal to Deschool, then Unschool Australian Biblical Christian Education. Unpublished dissertation submitted for fulfilment of Doctor of Philosophy, in the School of Applied Theology, New Geneva Theological Seminary, Virginia, U.S.A.

Drabsch, T. (2013). Home Education in NSW. Sydney: N.S. W. Parliamentary Research Service. e-brief 15. Downloaded 25/09/2014, from: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/publications.nsf/key/HomeEducationinNSW/$File/Home%20schooling%20GG%203.pdf

Marx, K. and Engels, F. (2010 [1848]). Manifesto of the Communist Party. Moore, S. (1888) [Translator into English]. Marxist Internet Archive.

Rushdoony, R. J. (1983). The “Atheism” of the Early Church. Vallecito, California: Ross House Books.

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Certification, deschooling, Education, Education Delivery Programs, Ivan Illich, Schooling, Schools

Reflections on Illich 21: Schools militate against the reality that we are not all created equal

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 92  “At their worst, schools gather classmates into the same room and subject them to the same sequence of treatment in math, citizenship and spelling.  At their best, they permit each student to choose one of a limited number of courses.  In any case, groups of peers form around the goals of teachers.  A desirable educational system would let each person specify the activity for which they sought a peer.”

In his essay, ‘Human Variation and Individuality’, from the book, The Twelve Year Sentence, H. George Resch (1974) argues that there is no such thing as equality in the universe.  At every level, every human being, and every other created thing, has stamped upon it individuality.  The modern mantra of equality spits in the face of reality.  We are not created equal.  We should not be treated equally.  The expectation of equal outcome from equal opportunity is a hollow expectation.  It is demanding greater and greater resources for lesser and lesser result.

Those who espouse equality despise the Sovereignty of God; they despise the idea that God has fore-ordained and pre-determined all things–including our roles and functions in society.  It is true that some have used the idea of ordained roles and functions to suppress others and appoint them to positions of slavery.  This is a perversion of the doctrine of Sovereignty.  “For freedom Christ has set us free, … do be not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” Galatians 5:1 teaches us.  No, God is an infinite God, and He has created  an infinite variety in expression of the roles that He has ordained.  This means that individuality needs to be nurtured, encouraged, and allowed to become an expression of expertise.  This means that each person requires an intimately individualized education track.  Sure, there will be core skills that many will share.  However, not everyone will need all of those core skills to be the best that they can be in whatever it is that God has created them to be excellent in.  Mandating core skills will inhibit the growth and development of some for whom such skills are not appropriate.

The educational paths of individuals should touch and part, mingle and separate, and trace a learning dance across the community.  Some will learn some things from this person, but then learn different things from a range of other people, in totally different contexts.  This dance of learning will be encouraged and facilitated by parents, but be tempered with a consideration of the interests, gifts, passions, calling, abilities and other marks of individuality within the student.  It cannot be centrally predetermined.  It cannot be centrally administrated.  It cannot be centrally certificated, regulated, and controlled.  It is an expression of the creativity and providence of the Infinite Triune God.

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Certification, deschooling, Education, Funding, Ivan Illich, Schooling

Reflections on Illich 19: The radical heart of Ivan Illich’s proposal: a deschooled but educating society

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 76  “A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.  Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education.  Learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum, or to discrimination based on whether they possess a certificate or a diploma.  Nor should the public be forced to support, through a regressive taxation, a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public’s chances for learning to the services the profession is willing to put on the market.  It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.”

Of all the quotes from Ivan Illich’s book discussed thus far, this is the most important.  He is proposing a radically deregulated education system.  A schooled society will struggle with this proposal.  It is inconceivable that education can take place without centralized control, and lots and lots of public money being thrown at the bureaucracy.  In fact, as it is more and more evident that publicly-funded, centrally-controlled education does not work, there will be more and more calls for greater controls and vastly increased amounts of money to be chucked down the black hole of the failed secular, free and compulsory schooling experiment.

What Illich is proposing is that there be locally and privately owned educational portals, unfettered by government and other institutional interference through Constitutional guarantee.  These portals are to become educational markets, places of exchange where those who have expertise, and a passion to pass that expertise on to others, can meet up with those who have a passion to learn the knowledge and skills that are being offered.  These portals will assist with due diligence in checking the backgrounds of those presenting themselves as education providers, however, at the end of the day the exchange of knowledge, skills and experience will be a free-market contract, without compulsion and requirement for government approved certification or qualification.  Such markets will not necessarily provide enough remuneration for educators to survive without also having a real ‘job’.  It will require teachers to be grounded in reality, as they deal with the workplace as well as engage in educating others.  Very good teachers will be well patronized, but poor teachers will either have to improve their teaching skills, or go back to their day job.

As I said, a schooled society will find this a very difficult concept to think through.  However, until we take seriously Illich’s proposal, we will continue to subject children to the twelve year sentence*, and waste vast amounts of public funds, that could be spent elsewhere, on a failed educational concept.

* Rickenbacker, W. F. [Ed.]. (1974). The Twelve Year Sentence: Radical Views of Compulsory Schooling. New York, NY: Dell Publishing Co., Inc.

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