Sunday, July 23, 2006

C'est la politique qui prime

I remember a time in my youth when a the leader of a militia was doing the rounds of universities. In one of his speeches, he emphasised the French proverb, "c'est la politique qui prime". Loosely translated, this means "Politics before all else". He argued that the students' education could not take precedence, sincec an unstable country would not provide them with a future. All considerations had to make way for politics.

I believe that people who love freedom and who have strong convictions always defy reality. A committed Christian forgoes some income to keep Sunday mornings free. A practising Jew limits his social engagements to keep the Sabbath. A determined student studies despite the bombs that take away both the peace and lights of his study area.

Obviously, my upbringing in a war torn country provided me with many opportunities to defy reality. I was blessed with parents who did not wrap me in cotton wool, and instead allowed me to grow and explore myself in what were very difficult circustances.

Yesterday, I had an experience where politics did come before all else. La politique a gagné. I had a loud disagreement with a person about whom I care regarding the current situation in the Middle East. I will not detail the argument here, except to say that I suspended my good relationship with that person and all that meant to me to take up a political point. All this, in the comfort of a lounge room in Melbourne.

What does that have to do with education? I remember a lecturer at teacher's college telling us that education was highly political. A tug of war has been taking place of late between the federal and state governments over who controls schools and universities. The funding of educational institutions is often a hotly debated topic, especially close to elections.

External testing seems to be the current catch cry. Politicians use it to peer inside the four walls of classrooms. They label children, and satisfy the community's need for accountability. As a teacher, I am too well aware of the drawbacks. The body of research on teaching and learning is being burnt at the altar of political control. The child is in danger of becomming a dot on a continuum. The joy of learning is at times replaced by the stress of performing.

Teachers cannot always go against the system. But we must refuse to entertain the system to the extent that it asks us to teach badly. All children are not the same. Let us defy reality as much as we can, and replace politics with joy on top of our considerations.

C'est la joie qui prime!

Elias.
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2 comments:

Tracy W

said...

I agree that not all children are the same.

But I want every child who is not severely cognitively disabled to learn how to read and do basic maths.

Even if this means replacing the joy of learning by the stress of performing.

Out of curiousity, which children do you think will be better off if the school system does not insist that they learn to read and do basic maths?

Elias

said...

Dear Tracy,

Thank you very much for your comment. I fully agree with what you say about all children needing to learn to read and do basic maths. I also want there to be rigorous assessments. If you read the post "you know what I mean" you may even conclude that I am very picky with my students.

Having said that, I disagree with the way in which such assessments are often used. I am lucky to be in a school that performs well, but some of the reason is the background of our students. It is highly unfair that schools who are devoted to educating the most socially disadvantaged kids get compared to us in a "league table".

I should be more explicit in future posts so as to avoid misunderstandings.

Thank you again.
Elias