Childism at the Tate

Here’s a great article written by a great friend, Dr Sue Lyle, educator from Wales, UK. I would urge parents and teachers to read it with an open mind, maybe a couple of times.

Blogger Post – Childism at the Tate

It’s deeply insightful in its own right as an examination of the actions and motivations of a teacher whilst interacting with a class of students on a field trip. However, I believe it also offers thoughtful contemplation on how much or how little attention we may pay to our interactions with children, the methods we use to communicate with them and what those say about the reality of their rights.

Numbers Rule, OK?

Do you ever have an ‘off day’?

Maybe, a day when you don’t feel at your best, when your energy level is down, when concentration comes a bit harder, when that sniffle and cold that won’t go away is getting you down, when you had a disagreement with a family member and said some harsh words that are now playing on your mind, when the demise of a beloved pet has left you feeling sad and listless?

I’m guessing everyone reading answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of those – after all, to some extent, these are the things that make us human.

Now, supposing you knew that whilst experiencing ‘one of those days’ you were to be subjected to a high stakes test that could have earth-shattering impact for your future, maybe even cause you to lose your job? Well, as an adult, of course, you would figure that, as hard as it might be, you would need to put aside your emotions, park them or pack them up in a box for a while and deal with them after the high stakes test is over.

But, what if you were just 10 years old?

We talk about being a profession that wants to be respected. We talk about being child-centric, learner-centric and caring about the ‘whole child’. Then, we go and make Class 5 children stake their futures on high stakes tests. In all of that, how much faith and trust are we placing in the ‘test makers’ to practice an exact science that ensures that the high stakes test really measures what it intends to measure (let alone that it tests what needs to be tested).

These are just a few thoughts that went through my mind when I read this superb and impassioned blog post from my good friend, Dr Sue Lyle. In it she reflects very effectively on the dangers inherent in the current trend to want to use hard measurable data to drive decision making in education, both at the level of the individual student as well as at a whole school or even whole state/ district/ County level.

Dr Sue Lyle – blog post – Number Rule OK
(Click on the link above to read Dr Lyle’s article)

This is a debate on which more educators need to speak up, not necessarily just to talk about what ‘we don’t want’, but also to explore and brainstorm alternatives that can meet the needs of systemic improvement whilst preventing the harm caused by the remorseless pursuit of simplistic data. I, for one, don’t want to reach the day when we just shrug and accept that the best we can hope for is that schools and teachers teach well to the test!

Childism: The Little Boy

How much clarity do we really have in schools about what we are trying to achieve in early years education – its key purpose? How big a price do we pay (do our children pay) when the training of early years educators is given inadequate attention or fails to explore the very nature of childhood and how adults and children interact in the world?

I want to share a delightful and very thought-provoking piece of writing from my very good friend, Dr Sue Lyle – a teacher educator from Swansea, UK who has also worked with teachers in India. Some of my old colleagues from Shri Ram Schools remember very fondly when she and her partner and colleague, Dave Hendley came to spend a week with us in early 2012 conducting programmes on Philosophy for Children (P4C), Action Research, CASE & CAME.

Sue writes a blog under the heading – Childism, which she defines as – “Childism is when the adults’ needs are prioritized over the child’s, when adults make assumptions they know how a child should feel at any time and take steps to manipulate children’s emotion to comply with adult expectations.”

To my mind, there is no question that especially in early years education environments there is a need for a great deal more reflection, openness and candour about the ‘adult agenda’ and the ways in which our needs get prioritized over those of children. Some of the more obvious issues are rigid timetables and schedules driven by bells and adult-centric agendas.

I once saw a KG teacher ushering a whole class of children in to the washroom, all at the same time. I approached and asked, “Wow, do they all need to go at the same time?” “No, i need to make them go now, as it disturbs my lessons too much when they keep coming and going whenever they want to.” The only thing i could reply was, “Shall I do the same with all the teachers when they’re attending a training programme next week?” I kept a smile on my face throughout, but it wasn’t reciprocated!

To me, part of the problem lies in the overriding paradigm that sees school as place where the primary aim is the dispensing of knowledge, facts etc. from teacher to child. All the time that drives matters in school, then aspects of personal and inter-personal relationships between teachers and children will be treated as peripheral, woolly things of secondary importance.

Here’s Sue’s blog post. I especially urge parents of younger children and those who teach in Elementary and Primary classes to read this, to reflect on it. We need to open honest, frank discussion on such issues if we are to really back claims that modern schools are interested in the holistic development of pupils:

Sue Lyle – Childism Blog Post: The Little Boy
(Click on the link above to read)

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