People who know me well know I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about edu-ma-cation. D'oh.
Education. It's SO important. I think it's the answer to almost everything. Seriously.
And yet the average government appears to consider education to be just this irritating thing that it has to put unreasonable sums of money into. (I happen to think the unreasonable part is accurate, just not in the same direction they do).
Every time I hear a politician whinging about how full our prisons are, how high unemployment is, how much welfare the system is having to pay out I get an overwhelming urge to yell 'then why the hell are we stripping our education system?" I'll get to that.
Education is one of the few areas that I feel our government, every government, should FULLY fund. Not just pay teachers properly, the wages they damn well deserve. Not just hire ENOUGH teachers so that our children get the attention they deserve. Hire all the ancillary staff to keep things running smoothly. Give schools enough to buy the BEST equipment. Pay for all the field trips. Provide uniforms. Or scrap them as an outdated concept. Whichever. Decent counselling services in schools, catering not just for the students but for the parents and the teachers too. School lunches. AND breakfasts.
And here's where I get really radical. Find out what works best FOR THE KIDS, stop organising school around hours convenient to adults. Actually use the research that shows that starting later works MUCH better for kids, they are more alert and more willing. Work out a format of learning and a curriculum that produces useful adults. Make learning something that the kids take an active role in, not just something that is done to them.
I can hear a lot of buts. I've told myself quite a few of them actually. You see I KNOW that the way our society is currently operating this won't work. Because most families either need both parents to be working or they don't have enough money and the net result of BOTH of these is usually the same, a family in which the kids are not receiving the attention they need to become all they can be.
What I am suggesting is EXPENSIVE, really expensive. But compared to the money we throw down the toilet keeping our prisons stocked to the gills it's chickenfeed. Compared to the rising mental health bill it's chickenfeed. Compared to the growing wage gap it is nothing at all. This country is becoming a place where the rich decide everything without consideration for the complex creature that society is. A place were the gap between the rich and the poor is widening every day, and the people in-between are rapidly becoming the just_scraping_by rather than an actual middle class. Not that I'm a fan of class-distinction.
What I'm suggesting is building a system that produces a vast majority of well adjusted productive adults. Adults with respect for themselves and others, who understand that society needs certain things to keep running smoothly. Adults ready to raise a new generation of children growing up happy and healthy, protected and free to become everything they can. Children free to CHOOSE their path in life.
Not just the education system would need to change.
I think there are a lot of attitudes out there that need to change. There's my personal bugbear, "I'm not a parent, why should I subsidise families?" Derp. Because society doesn't get terrifically far without new additions. You want to not help with society? Get back in the trees. It doesn't get very far if the new additions aren't given a reasonable shot at success either. The follow on for that is that if you give everyone a EXCELLENT chance of at least some success, society as a whole moves forward.
There's "I can pay for my family's education why should I help with yours?" See above. More successful happy people, better society. Better for everyone - YOUR KIDS INCLUDED. Please don't be so lame as to fear the extra competition from poor kids who turn out to be talented (shock horror). Society is a team sport.
"Parents should be responsible for their own kids". Yeah ok, there is a grain of truth in this one, selfish though it may be. I think a lot of parents take far less responsibility for their kids than they should. But the thing is it isn't just the poor families that are doing this, and it isn't ALL the poor families that are doing this. Most parents are doing their best. Poor families have some extra stresses going on that are hard for people who haven't been there to understand. It seems that even some people who have been there forget awfully quickly. (Yes, that was a blatant dig at certain members of my government). Those stresses often come out in ways that are really bad for the kids. But families that are doing better are just as guilty of mistreating their children. Of not spending enough time on their kids. Money doesn't making you a better parent, sometimes it makes you a worse one. Having the freedom to do what you want, sometimes leads to spending all your spare time entertaining yourself, fobbing your kids off on paid caregivers (or grandparents ;) ) while you get to have the life you might if you didn't have kids. For some people their children are just another symbol of their comparative success. Children are a responsibility, not being able to afford that responsibility shouldn't mean that the children end up on the scrap heap. This doesn't mean I think we should give low income families carte blanche to fuck it up completely without taking responsibility. Just that the system needs to do it's best too. Including giving families the help they need to be better influences. All families.
Go on, tell me I'm a communist. I haven't heard that one all day.
I rather foolishly actually believe that society can repair it's own faults by just working harder on bringing future generations up better. That virtually every problem in modern society will get better if we just make a bigger effort in this one area. If we remember that today's children are tomorrow's leaders then maybe it will occur to us that making them all stronger will make all the world a little better. Day by day, a little better. until maybe we can actually be the place so many of us dream of. The Utopia we all wish we lived in.
Children are a goldmine of potential. Not every child can grow up to be Stephen Hawking or (tries really hard to think of a sportsperson I give a monkey's about and fails). But every child is a vessel waiting to be filled, what we choose to fill them with identifies what kind of society we are.
What my society is currently identifying itself as is one that is OK with the less advantaged children being left behind. Willing to ignore the potential of those kids because, hey they're poor whatever. How many brilliant minds have we left behind? Or potentially worse, how many have we disillusioned to the point that they work against healthy society?
Let's stop messing it up.
Let's stop messing it up.