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Education

Give me a child until he is 7 . . .

(67 Posts)
Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 12:16:14

This thread is inspired by a comment on another one, which made me wonder to what extent the education system should have a role in shaping the attitudes of children, even when (or particularly when) those attitudes are in conflict with the views of their parents.

For context, although this is not a TAAT, and I hope this thread broadens beyond the perennial topic of trans issues (please!), the comment was about how 'education' should teach children in a particular way about trans issues.

What I am wondering is, who decides which attitudes should be perpetuated, and who oversees the people who decide? Should there be a 'governing body' of elected people (maybe made up of randomly selected parents of state school children) who have a say, or is it up to the Secretary of State for Education ? How do we ensure that a future malevolent government doesn't use the school system to instil malevolent values, such as racism or homophobia? What should happen if a teacher's views are at variance with those of the decision-makers? Should children be exposed to a range of views, or should there be limits on the things they can be told to protect them from extremism or indoctrination?

Obviously, those who can afford to can opt out of the state system and pay for a school to instil their own values into their children - should this right be limited to parents with higher incomes, or should 'ordinary' people share those rights?

A lot of questions, I know, but the topic is a broad one, and one question leads to another. Any thoughts? My own views are mixed, and I haven't sorted out my answers to some of the questions in my own mind. I'm prepared to believe that most people (me included) would be happy so long as their children were being taught attitudes with which they are broadly in favour, but would take issue with others. I'm trying to think of examples from my own experience as a parent, but nothing is springing to mind yet.

winterwhite Fri 27-May-22 12:58:14

I just think of seven as an important developmental milestone, and that at that age children's personalities start to become stable. It's about imbibing in early childhood values such as kindness, tolerance, unselfishness and an inquiring mind. And this is done through the values and behaviours that children see in their immediate family and surroundings. A big mistake, IMHO, to link it with school.

Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 13:22:47

I agree. I'm not sure what I think about whether schools should try to 'correct' parental attitudes that conflict with the ones you mention, though. I don't know anyone who would want to bring up their children to be unkind, intolerant, selfish and closed-minded (but I suppose you never know grin); but those values mean different things to different people.

If parents were teaching children that a teacher considered intolerant, for instance, but the parents felt strongly that the 'intolerance' was in fact a matter of principle, should the teacher assume the right to impose his or her own values?

I'm trying to come up with an uncontentious example, but it's difficult. Suppose parents were strict vegans, who believed that meat is murder, and their child was telling his classmates that they were murderers. The teacher believes in freedom of choice and tells the child that many people eat meat and that murder only applies when the victim is human. As this contradicts the parents' views, should the teacher be telling the child to be tolerant of others (so that the parents are wrong), or do the parents have a right to bring up their child with their own values?

Sago Fri 27-May-22 13:39:34

St Iganatius Loyola founder of the Jesuit brotherhood was way ahead of his time when he spoke these words, the first 7 years of a child’s development are the most important.
What is a little sinister though is the fact that Loyala’s words were apparently, “ Give me the boy from the age of 7 and he’s mine for life”

NotSpaghetti Fri 27-May-22 13:43:54

Here's a great 15 mins podcast about a school/family disparity about climate change (centred on a young boy in California after the wildfires).
www.thisamericanlife.org/770/my-lying-eyes/act-three-7

nanna8 Fri 27-May-22 14:09:05

But so many of us go the opposite way from our parents and teachers just because. Not many people I know have exactly the same ideas as their parents had. They just don’t.

Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 14:51:20

Sago

St Iganatius Loyola founder of the Jesuit brotherhood was way ahead of his time when he spoke these words, the first 7 years of a child’s development are the most important.
What is a little sinister though is the fact that Loyala’s words were apparently, “ Give me the boy from the age of 7 and he’s mine for life”

Yes, which is why I chose the quote for the title grin.

Clearly, early education is very influential, and there will be times when parental views conflict with those of the teachers, and times when teachers won't agree with things they have to teach. On the whole, I don't think there were many times when I felt conflicted about what my own children were taught - I'm struggling to remember an example other than when my son insisted that the alphabet included 'ee, eff, gee, haitch' (😡) because Mrs X pronounced it like that, and once or twice when they learned things in RE that I found a bit difficult. Nothing important, though. The point is more that there was no persuading my son that 'haitch' is not how 'h' is pronounced, because he had been taught to listen to the teacher. There are, of course, many who would say that he was saved from his mother's ignorance by Mrs X, who is absolutely correct in her pronunciation - some of these things are not absolute, which is why there are, I think, questions to be asked.

These days, however, there does seem to be an agenda around gender politics, and I would definitely be at odds with the prevailing diktats on much of that. There are other threads for the specifics of the trans issues, but it got me thinking much more generally. Does a 25 year-old teacher, straight from university (or a 52 year old one with years of experience, come to that) automatically have a 'better' set of views than a parent? Possibly more sinister is the idea that 'someone' can set the agenda for controversial topics and how they have to be taught. Who polices that? Again, I started off by thinking of the notion that there are 100 genders, but maybe the same applies to topics such as slavery and colonialism? Who decides what is taught about these things and how is it (or should it be) monitored?

Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 14:54:19

NotSpaghetti

Here's a great 15 mins podcast about a school/family disparity about climate change (centred on a young boy in California after the wildfires).
www.thisamericanlife.org/770/my-lying-eyes/act-three-7

Thanks, NS. I can't hear myself think just now, but will listen to it later.

Jaxjacky Fri 27-May-22 14:56:57

Sago I though the quote was ‘..and I will show you the man’.
My brother went to a Jesuit school.

Ilovecheese Fri 27-May-22 14:57:49

Sago

St Iganatius Loyola founder of the Jesuit brotherhood was way ahead of his time when he spoke these words, the first 7 years of a child’s development are the most important.
What is a little sinister though is the fact that Loyala’s words were apparently, “ Give me the boy from the age of 7 and he’s mine for life”

I think it was "give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man", same meaning. I think it resonates with Catholics particularly because of the difficulty of shaking off Catholic guilt.

As long as there are religious schools I think it is too hard to say what is acceptable to teach. But perhaps try to keep to the values of the country is a good place to start. Like Doodledog says, racism and homophobia should never be acceptable. Other things I find a bit more tricky, loyalty to the Crown for instance, is that still one of our values that should be taught in schools?

NotSpaghetti Fri 27-May-22 15:03:57

...^But perhaps try to keep to the values of the country is a good place to start^
Maybe, ilovecheese but does it depend on the country?

MawtheMerrier Fri 27-May-22 15:09:28

Jaxjacky

Sago I though the quote was ‘..and I will show you the man’.
My brother went to a Jesuit school.

Indeed.
It is important to get it right especially when basing an argument on a quotation.

Ilovecheese Fri 27-May-22 15:26:12

NotSpaghetti

...^But perhaps try to keep to the values of the country is a good place to start^
Maybe, ilovecheese but does it depend on the country?

Do you mean the countries of the UK? I hadn't thought of that. Is education devolved?

Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 15:34:32

I thought it was 'I will show you the Jesuit'.

It doesn't really matter to the thread, though - the point is that things taught at school, particularly to young children - stick with them for life.

Loyalty to the Crown is a good example. I think my generation was taught that more than my children were - we sang Rule Britannia and Hearts of Oak at a young age, and certainly at primary school we were taught that many countries 'belonged to' Britain.

My O level History teacher was, with hindsight, fairly left-wing, and taught us about the Industrial Revolution, the Chartists and so on with that slant. I didn't realise at the time, and would probably have the political views I do now regardless, but he may well have had an influence.

Sago Fri 27-May-22 15:41:32

Our sons went to a Jesuit school, the eldest in particular has remained in close contact with the society, he attends mass at Farm Street and remains in touch with his ex Masters and peers.
The youngest went on to work with the Jesuit missions in India and Kyrgyzstan.

Their education was holistic, one spent a week caring for a severely disabled child, after undertaking intensive training, one walked Santiago de Compostela they both worked with struggling pupils from local schools mentoring them.
Their school life was one of real purpose.

The school motto “Quant je puis” has stayed with them both into adult life.

The values that were instilled into them were not ours, they were taught to question, to be kind and very importantly to always consider the consequences of their behaviour on others.

They both agree as did the then headmaster that “ he’s mine for life” was probably the true Jesuit mantra.

volver Fri 27-May-22 15:44:25

Do you mean the countries of the UK? I hadn't thought of that. Is education devolved?

Yes, education is devolved.

TerriBull Fri 27-May-22 16:08:15

I think it's imperative that children aren't indoctrinated in any way. I think I was, particularly at that young age. I went to a catholic school where at that time it appeared to me they had a free rein to feed their pupils, hook line and sinker all manner of untruths. For example, in preparation for making our Holy Communion age 7, a totally batshit weird nun who was in charge of instructing us in the procedure told us if our teeth made contact with the host, we would be biting Jesus' legs off! shock Quite honestly I believed that for ages until I was old enough to acquire some rationality, to be fair even my catholic parents, whilst not wishing to contradict this person, parents didn't argue with teachers then, did say, "she was probably having a joke" No! they didn't do humour all of this was delivered with a poker face. In retrospect I think there are certain people who shouldn't be around children.

We weren't taught anything about race, although a fair proportion of the pupils at my junior school were of Irish or to a lesser extent Mediterranean extraction, I'm a mix of both and English. At my convent school it was slightly different, we had fee payers who tended to be non catholic but more traditionally English, the Irish nuns appeared to strangely favour them, no doubt because they were a source of income. They often said this about the more moneyed pupils "so and so has breeding" whatever that was supposed to mean, as if she, the girl referred to was some sort of thoroughbred race horse, and we were just common and garden cart horses, it gave me a subliminal sense of a pecking order. Although they weren't adverse to simultaneously bad mouthing them when they filed out of the class if we, the catholic element all had to go up to the chapel for mass by saying when they were safely out of earshot "lets pray for their protestant souls so they don't suffer eternal damnation" shock It was a strange world I inhabited I realise I was imbued with the notion catholics = good and non catholic encompassing every other faith = not good and really, really bad if they were protestants because of what they did to u!. Although they were rather silent on what catholics inflicted on just about every other faith being all powerful entity they were at one time. It was only when I went out in the world I realised how very narrow the parameter were in my schools. I remember when my own children were going through their non denominational senior school being asked to write an essay on the difference between a fact and an opinion and how propaganda shaped history, which made me ponder at the time how indoctrinated I was at their age in that we weren't really expected to express an opinion on pretty much anything.

AGAA4 Fri 27-May-22 16:22:23

It can be other children who can be a problem because of what they have been taught at home.
I remember my GS aged about six in tears because his best friend had told him that because he hadn't been christened he would burn in hell.
Children are influenced by other children too

VioletSky Fri 27-May-22 16:50:38

I am baffled by this honestly. Many know I work in primary education.

Schools teach our British Values:

Individual Liberty
Tolerance
Respect.

Children have rights protected by the childrens act, they are taught those rights.

Children have protected characteristics under the equality act, everything is done to ensure those characteristics are indeed protected within the education system. Of course that may mean educating children that there is nothing wrong with having a protected characteristic and we do not treat others with protected characteristics unkindly.

Education in general is a hollistic approach, children are taught that there is always more to learn about theselves, each other and the wider world around them.

If you believe teachers push their views on any topic you are mistaken. Any topic is approached in a way that ensures children look at it from all angles and they are actively encouraged to form their own opinions based on what is known about a particuar subject and their own thoughts and ideas.

For example, we may talk about zoos. A staff member may be very anti keeping animals in captivity, there will be children who have enjoyed a zoo visit, there are even school trips to such places. As long as the activity does not break any laws then of course we are never going to tell a child something is wrong or bad no matter our own personal views. We simply discuss the pros and cons of any situation, the wider impacts, what we could change, wbat wethink worls well etc.

We teach children how to be open minded and how to formulate their own opinions for themselves. That is the very opposite of indoctrination.

However as I have already mentioned, we do have laws and legislation so if a child tells us they have an elephant in the garage and a giraffe in the bathroom then we are allowed to say that that is not legal in this country.

Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 17:15:53

Those values sound laudable, but they are rather vague. What happens when individual liberty gets in the way of tolerance, or tolerance for someone's individual liberty conflicts with respect for someone else's?

My vegan example is still not great, but if a child is calling another one a murderer for having a ham sandwich, does he have a right to tolerance of his views, or does he have to respect the individual liberty of the meat-eating child?

It was your comment on the trans thread, VS that it was a good job that education was able to counteract the views of parents that inspired this one. I really don't want this one to become another rehash of the trans arguments, so is there another example from your experience where 'education' counters parental views, or is it just on that issue?

VioletSky Fri 27-May-22 17:25:43

doodledog my comment on this thread doesn't contain the word "trans" at all.

silverlining48 Fri 27-May-22 17:27:38

I have watched the TV series 7 Up which began around 1956 with Michael Apted. It begins with the Give me a child until he is 7 and I will give you the man, or words to that effect.
I started watching this in the early 80s and have followed it ever since. The children from all walks of life are now in their 60s and have been interviewed every 7 years since, so for more than 50 years, and it has been fascinating.

Michael Apted sadly died not long ago so not sure whether it will be continued but it is well worth watching.

Ilovecheese Fri 27-May-22 17:38:32

The education that Vioetsky describes is current practise. The education that those of an older generation received was some time ago, I recognise some of what Terribull* described, I would hope that things are different now, but I don't know.
The ham sandwich problem is interesting.

Smileless2012 Fri 27-May-22 17:58:02

An interesting and complex issue Doodledog.

It's a fine line to have to walk in today's multi cultural society when it comes to what's being taught in schools today and must have been far simpler in days gone by.

Schools do need to work along side parents as there are the inevitable 'clashes' depending on a child's cultural and/or religious family back ground. Parents should not abdicate their parental responsibilities of child rearing to the school and schools should be aware of, and willing to accommodate within reason, parents wishes.

I agree that the 'ham sandwich problem' is an interesting example. The vegan child, entitled to his/her opinion and right to express it, needs to learn to do so in an acceptable way. Telling a meat eating child they're a murderer doesn't fall into this category, so being educated in how to express ones opinion in a measured and respectful way is needed and not just from the school, but from parents and the wider family.

Teachers need to put their personal opinions to one side as much as possible. A meat eating teacher and a vegan teacher should be able to approach this particular issue in a balanced way, regardless of their personal feelings.

A good teacher wont push their personal views but that's not to say that it wont and doesn't happen. As a very mature student with the OU, one of my tutors was pulled up by the adjudicator for my course for doing precisely that.

Doodledog Fri 27-May-22 18:03:05

VioletSky

doodledog my comment on this thread doesn't contain the word "trans" at all.

I am aware of that, but as I said, it was your comment on the other one that inspired this one, so I wondered if there were other topics which matched.

I loved the 7 Up series, silverlining. It is interesting to see the way attitudes have changed, and how the children have adapted to changes in their lives. It would be a shame if the programme ended, as it's not often that there is a chance to carry out such a far-reaching longitudinal study, and it covers such a range of areas, both geographical and sociological.

I wasn't sure if the ham sandwich example worked, Ilovecheese, but it does throw up how values can contradict one another. I agree that there are huge differences between the style of education I had and those of my children. I don't know if the old-fashioned ways were more or less deliberately designed to promulgate 'values', really. I don't think that teachers got so involved in the lives of the children as they do now (sometimes it seems that there is an element of social work in the role of a teacher), but maybe I just didn't notice because I was a child and not in need of intervention.

Values were taught, but explicitly, in the form of religious assembly (non-religious school) and compulsory RE, but we didn't have Personal and Social Education, or even General Studies, so on the whole subjects were taught separately and teachers came in, taught and left (or so it seemed to me).