Wednesday, January 04, 2012

School and lack of structure

Can anyone really be surprised by the findings of the Prince's Trust Youth Index 2012 that unstructured lifestyles amongst children lead to educational underachievement? It's right there at the top of the stating the bleedin' obvious tables. Still, the story got a fair amount of prominence, especially from the BBC. The emphasis has been on the chaotic lives of children and teenagers from poor backgrounds - the cause being poverty in the narrow sense of the word rather than referring to the culture that these children are raised in. Theodore Dalrymple, for example, has written extensively about the slack jawed chaos of the underclass. None of this is news, as I've already said.

But what hasn't been mentioned in the stories about this report, as far as I can see is the educational system that encourages disorder and lack of structure. So-called 'free flow' teaching methods that are used in many primary schools do nothing to impose set timetables for activities. Children are encouraged to manage themselves and to engage in activities that they want to do when they want to do them. The idea of having a set reading time, or class story or any other organised activity that children have to take part in is anathema to such a system. If a teacher wants to read a story to the class at the end of the day, for example, then the children (including reception and year one children) can simply decide that it's boring and carry on playing or doing something else.

This lack of structure is supposed to help children learn for themselves - it's based on Piaget's theories. These children are young scientists driven by natural curiosity to learn - imposing structure on them is authoritarian and destroys their ability to learn and be creative. While that may have been fine with Piaget's little angels, for kids brought up in chaotic homes, with no rules, no structure and no direction, all it does is perpetuate the aimlessness into the classroom. Kids schooled using free flow pay for it later - they simply never get used to structure, timetables and the idea of being told what to do and when. It's a disaster for these kids, and yet it is sanctioned as a recognised and widely used teaching methodology.

Can we expect any discussion of this from the BBC or other liberal media? Nope. Far easier to focus on economics and to blame capitalism than it is to point out that the liberal educational establishment perpetuates and worsens existing cultural poverty in huge swathes of the country.

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