Why can’t we let our kids learn?

This one is by special request, because so many of my friends think that what is being done to our children in the name of education is damaging, senseless and often downright cruel  and I keep saying it isn’t necessary. So now I feel I must give you chapter and verse.


We’ve known all about it since the early years of the twentieth century when the first 
educational pioneers, like  Susan Isaacs and Maria Montessori discovered that learning is a natural and pleasurable process. And if we ever need proof of the truth of what they were saying, we only have to look at any young creature playing. Kittens may look cute but what they are actually doing is learning how to catch their prey, apes romp in the trees learning to maintain their balance and enjoying every minute of it, human children play all manner of games and enjoy them hugely. What they are doing, without knowing it, is using this natural learning process. It’s what all children do when tests and Ofsted inspections and league tables don’t get in their way. So how does it work?

It always starts with curiosity, which is natural and in-built.

If and when the child follows his curiosity, he starts a whole series of activities in which he learns what he wants to know, by trial and error. Mistakes are part of the process and not at all frightening. You learn from them.

And when you have mastered the skill and found out what you wanted and needed to know, you move on to stage three, which is a state of rapturous happiness. Just watch a baby when it’s learnt to feed itself.

When the skill is mastered and/or the knowledge absorbed, and the child has been making use of it for some time, he puts it to one side and seems to forget it. But there is a fifth stage. After an interval no matter how short or long, the child returns to the skill and hasn’t forgotten any of it, it’s part of his character now, once learnt never forgotten, like riding a bicycle.

So why on earth don’t most teachers simply make use of this process, sparking interest whenever they can, providing the materials so that child can satisfy his curiosity and enjoying the whole thing with the children? One sad reason is, that few of them now are taught about the process. All the information about it was removed from the PGCE syllabuses a very long time ago, to the disappointment of the great educationalists of our much maligned sixties, like Leila Berg and Mike Duane of Risinghill fame and the great AS Neill who ran Summerhill school.

But there is another factor which has to be considered today. Parents and teachers and children are all told by our politicians that they have to be tested to show that they are learning, some of the fiercer ones are even talking about bringing back the cane, god help us all. And of course what they’re saying simply is not true.

The real reason we keep imposing tests, exams, Ofsted inspections and league
tables is that the big “educational” companies make money out of it, it’s an extremely lucrative business and the more exams they can persuade our idiot politicians to impose on our children, the more the companies can earn.

We are in thrall to greed.

14 thoughts on “Why can’t we let our kids learn?

  1. @berylkingston You and I and so many other mums and grandmas who pay attention know much more about how children learn that the paid corporate experts. Watching my children, I wondered why Piaget and his bunch got so much credit for jotting down what a child did, said, reacted to, etc. I could have done a more thorough job … though I admit that I am biased toward learning and love my kids. My kids were far more interesting.

    Of course, I called myself a “yes person,” because I encouraged them to try something new, to do something “outside the box” (with proper supervision. One summer, we sat to decide what we wanted to have as a summer project. … a book about them (the three!) Despite age differences and likes/dislikes – they made – and we sewed the binding on “Our Summer.” The truth is that though I have been a teacher all my adult life, I never took those pedagogy courses (no room in my schedule). So I had to figure it all out. Inviting our kids to learn is super! And you have to realize that your sense of humor will be honed as well.
    I recall my son’s request to make supper “by himself” – of course! (Age 10) “Do you mind if I sit and watch?” So we enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs (a little heavy on the oregano, but he was the chef). Of course, the following night his sister said, “My turn!”

    In the US we are very distressed by the situation in education. A longitudinal study (if I were so inclined) would have to include our propensity to “buy” a new program for math or reading, force it upon the teachers and students, fail miserably, then go look for another program. Here, the local town is responsible for the educational programs – such a mistake!

    Another HUGE area of difficulty is the gestalt of the “superintendent of schools”! It’s a plot for a novel, except that is strictly non-fiction!

    I am going to write a blogpost today and will send you a link. Have a lovely, spring-like day. We are not quite ready for spring … it is still February! With a virtual hug, Mary Latela


    • Subjected to teacher training was about right. I was spoilt. By the time I got around to taking my PGCE, Mike Duane had had his school closed down and was working at Roehampton and Furzedown TCs so he was my tutor.


  2. Before I was subjected to “teacher training” A.S.Neill was my hero. Following teacher training A.S.Neill was still my hero. Ofsted would have sorted him out!


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