Comment: Why are we making children ‘School Ready’ ?

Today two newspapers, the Independent and the Daily Mail report that the Deputy PM is determined to ensure that the most disadvantaged children in society will receive 15 hours of free child care. This is either means that “Taxpayers will have to fork out £1 billion for Nick Clegg’s ‘obsession’ to create a ‘nanny state’ with tens of thousands of new jobs for childcare workers”. OR it will provide a foundation stone for a legacy of “removing the barriers to social mobility, which mean bright children from poorer backgrounds are overtaken by youngsters from more affluent families by the age of six.” The views are polarised.

Other MPs comment as follows:

David Davis, the senior Tory MP, said: ‘I suspect it is not going to work. It will cost a fortune [and] the state is not a very good parent.’

Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader also criticised Mr Clegg for attempting to create a ‘nanny state’.

The problem here is the fundamental question of what education is for:

Seth Godin has a cynical view here , but I put it to you that this is actually asking the wrong question.

Today Cleggy said that “Despite all the money and good intentions under Labour, when times were good, the needle of social mobility didn’t twitch. It’s because we didn’t start early enough.” He also said that the coalition is now “shovelling in resources to younger children on a scale that has not happened, ever”. This is supported by something I heard Tim Brighouse once say that to change lives you need to get to the kids BEFORE they were born. This underpinned the controversial but sensational work he did as the leader of the Birmingham LEA in the 1990s. I think he wrote about this in the following article, but I can’t verify because it is locked down and chargeable [The Rise of the Educated City Magazine article by Tim Brighouse, Viv Griffiths; New Statesman, Vol. 127, November 13, 1998].

This leaves me to suggest that we need an answer to a different question:

What kind of parents do we want for the children of our society?

Throwing child care at the weakest parents is a sticking plaster. Weak parenting is a problem endemic throughout all sections of society. Indulgence is a form of neglect. What we have to do is undo generations of apathy, distrust of authority, inertia, vanity and poor parenting. We have to undo the ME culture and persuade parents to make decisions based on the a different value structure. Here is an interesting article by William Ruddick of New York University: Parenthood: Three Concepts and a Principle.

There are three concepts of parenting:

1. parents tend, or care for their children;

2. parents raise their children; and

3. parents make and maintain a family

I will add two, more flawed, concepts of parenting:

4) parents have children to flatter their own vanity, children as baubles, so to speak.

5) parents have no model of parenting beyond that witnessed on Eastenders.

The final two are the problem.

So Mr Clegg, nice sticking plaster matey, but I ask you to seek to solve a bigger problem:

How do you fix future parents?

I leave you with this quotation from a book co written by Tim Brighouse & David Woods – Inspirations: A Collection of Commentaries And Quotations to Promote School …It is from an entry to a ‘My Perfect School’ competition.

“To have my perfect school you need a perfect world,and if the world were perfect, there would be no room for dreaming”

I wish we would stop fixing school and focus on helping people.

Clegg was right about one thing – I hope – that all parents accept their child into their lives with hopes and dreams for their future. Here’s a nice tune from Paul Field. Messenger from Heaven

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