Damage Limitation

by Roland Meighan £6.99 (inc UK pp) 978-1-900219-32-8 (pp)

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Contributions by:

Linda Brown Hazel Clawley
Charlie Cooper Jane Dent
Clive Erricker Kim Evans
Michael Foot Derry Hannam
Clive Harber Ben Koralek
Philip Toogood  

This book is primarily for parents and grandparents. It answers one need – that of home-based educators who say they do not know what to say to friends who, by force of circumstances, have to use schools.  This book offers some advice and suggestions.  It answers a second need – those who understand what Bertrand Russell was saying when he wrote: “There must be in the world many parents who, like the present author, have young children whom they are anxious to educate as well as possible, but reluctant to expose to the evils of existing educational institutions”.

It will appeal to those who adopt the position of Mark Twain when he declared that he never allowed schooling to interfere with his education. But the book is of no help to those who are happy to hand their children over to a bunch of complete strangers, and then hope for the best.  Nor will it appeal to those who think that the devotion of schools to the message of relentless competition of modern capitalism for its dubious prizes, is to be preferred to any ideas of co-operation or community.  It will also be rejected by those who are content that the primitive form of democracy we have, whereby we get a chance to elect a new set of ‘dictators’ every four years, using a rigged voting system, who can default on their promises at will, is the best we can do, and that we need domination-riddled schooling to get us used to the idea.

The answer to the question of what is wrong with mass, coercive schooling is 291.  That is the number of separate criticisms logged by Nigel Wright in his Ph.D. research, even before the advent of the second National Curriculum, league tables and obsessive testing. The 15,000 hours (minimum) sentence served in schools often just grows into low-level misery alleviated by ‘having a laugh’, although Clive Harber, in his contribution to the book, shows how this escalates into psychological and physical violence.

The learner-hostile nature of our current school system is indicated in the classic anthropological study of classrooms, Life in Classrooms, by Philip Jackson when he concluded that, for all the children some of the time, and for some of the children all of the time, the classroom resembles a cage from which there is no escape.  It is echoed in Colin Ward’s comment that our expenditure on teachers and plant is mostly wasted by attempting to teach people what they do not want to learn in a situation that they would rather not be involved in.

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