Transforming parents expectations and fears about their children's education
One of the biggest inhibiting factors that I have observed blocking the process of transition from a mechanistic system to an organic system is parents’ expectations of and/or fears for their children.
Parenting has become a huge industry and parents receive so many messages about what their children need and what children should be capable of, and what risks there are that children will not succeed in the real world if they do not accomplish xyz by the time they are x age.
Fear of failure seems to be one of the biggest drivers of parental decision making. Parents are terrified that if their children do not go to the right schools, or get the right marks, or participate in the right extra-murals, they will somehow be set up to FAIL in life. Parents are therefore very anxious to ensure that their children don’t fail, and this usually results in their choosing the safest options, rather than the most creative options, for their children’s schooling. This is also what motivates parents to persuade their children away from doing things that they really love and towards doing things that ‘make sense’, mainly in terms of future jobs.
The problem with choosing the safe option for your children is that it is often not the option the children would choose for themselves, or the thing that they are really best at. For example, so many children are steered towards becoming accountants or lawyers or doctors because they are intellectually capable of it, rather than because it is what they really want to do.
I believe that many parents will be quite resistant to an organic education system – mainly because it is something new that they don’t completely understand, and where the outcomes are not 100% certain. I have spoken to several teachers from expensive private schools who complain that many parents have very clear ideas of what they want their children to get out of school (usually good enough marks to get into the right university), and that this often means the school is operating to satisfy the demands of the fee paying parents, rather than working on what makes most sense for the child.
Fear of change is also a big part of what keeps human society repeating the mistakes of our past. The parents of most children today went to mechanistic schools, and although they may not have enjoyed school much, or got a lot out of it, they assume that this is just the way that it is.
There is a task required in shifting the collective consciousness of parents so that they start to understand that different is not always bad. This blog is my attempt to explain to parents that the old way is not necessarily the best way and to open their minds to the fact that organic education might be an attractive alternative.
Many parents are open to sending their children to Montessori or Reggio Pre-schools because they are ‘child-centred’ and yet they will not consider options like these for primary school or high school because they fear their children will be disadvantaged and not able to keep up with children who have gone to mainstream schools. I hope that this blog has started to illustrate why that belief is not at all true, and why the so-called ‘alternative’ schools might actually be better equipping children for their future.
How to manage parents’ expectations is an important question to answer as part of the process of transitioning from a mechanistic to an organic education system.
The other aspect of parenting that I think might also cause a few challenges in the evolution towards organic education is parents’ fears for their children’s safety. Fear for children's safety is what has resulted in so many security measures in modern schools. Modern schools often resemble prisons in the way that they keep children in and everybody else out. I know many parents who worry about paedophiles, serial killers and rapists attacking their children and would far rather lock them away safely in school than allow them out into the world. I realise that recent school shootings, particularly in the USA, perpetuate this belief that we need to protect our children from the real world. However, I would argue that the institutionalisation of children might be part of what causes such anti-social behaviour. I know that this is just my opinion, and that many people will argue that I am irresponsible for considering risking children’s lives by inviting community into school and taking children out into the community. I believe that we have to try to think differently about this and ask ourselves how we could still include our children in their communities whilst keeping them ‘safe’.
I would suggest that nobody is ever completely ‘safe’, even if they never get out of bed and avoid every perceived risk. I love my children as much as anybody, but I realise that I cannot watch them every moment of every day or prevent anything bad ever happening to them. To attempt to do this is the mentality that sends pre-schoolers to school with crash helmets on and sues the school for every scratch. This route has no end and becomes increasingly ridiculous as people try to cover the risk of every single potential eventuality (this is like European Union legislation, in my mind).
I believe that we have to equip our children to be able to take reasonable care of themselves and others, and then trust them and trust life. This is not to say that nothing bad will ever happen, but there is as much chance of bad happening in a mechanistic education system as in an organic education system.
I believe that somehow the education system needs to take parents along on all aspects of the journey to organic education, including overcoming fear of the unknown. There is certainly more thinking to be done regarding how best to do this.