Sunday, 28 September 2014
The title of this blog (In Search of a New Alcuin) means exactly what it says. I don’t suggest that I am a new Alcuin. On the contrary, I am dimly aware of the need for such a figure, and am trying to start a process through which, just conceivably, he may emerge. He will not be a person, I shouldn’t imagine, but a coherent series of ideas held and defended by a sufficient number of people that they stand a chance of becoming orthodox, and therefore of being considered for implementation. I remember Alcuin because he also sought ways to educate the young. I imagine he experienced at least some of the same problems education has now, especially politics, but he had the advantage of working almost from scratch, and of being able to develop a system with clearly defined goals, large resources, and relatively few preconceptions. The problems with state education today are many, and may all be said to derive, directly or indirectly, from forgetting the reasons for having such a system in the first place. To create something based on those reasons, whose only purpose is to serve those goals, will require that all the other motivations and purposes that have crowded out the supposed intentions, be recognised and removed from the process.
Wednesday, 24 September 2014
In all the wealthier countries of the world children are forced to spend much of their childhood in circumstances of semi-imprisonment and hard labour under the nominal charge, command and control of people appointed by the government for the purpose. Most children would change some aspects of this experience, and many would, at some point, prefer to stop experiencing it at all. This is generally accepted as a good thing, presumably because people don't think about it very much, and in any case, it has always been that way. As soon as you compare the price paid by children with the benefit they gain from it, you should realize that sacrificing 10-12 years of their youth in order to learn to read and write and add up, and acquire a rudimentary knowledge of some aspects of the world, which is all that most do get out of their education, is absurd. Further compare this with the reasons given by governments for forcing children to do this, and the promises they make about the benefits, and you will see that these things do not match. There is a serious problem then, which I have been observing from within for many years. Children waste their childhood for empty promises backed by force against them and their parents. This is a stark way of putting it, but it is true. The idea of this blog is to present and discuss some of my ideas about the purpose of education, the problems that currently exist with it , and how they might be solved. It's going to be messy, I warn you now. I don't have the time I would need or want to construct the argument from scratch in a coherent way. In fact one of the reasons I have started this blog is to use it to put it al together and turn it into a book, which I don't seem able to do any other way. It may never happen. There will be repetition, jumping from place to place, incoherence, randomly interploated posts about hedgehogs and my rural wanderings, possible also about cricket, football and baseball, and 1970 sitcoms. I do not know everything and I am not always right. I hope that a conversation might develop around the blog, and between us we can work out what is wrong, and come up with practical solutions that might stand some chance of being accepted by those who decide these things. It doesn't matter how right you are if no one's listening.