Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
We love the idea that early childhood education can change the world.
Sometimes we let sneak through a suggestion that it can make the world a more equal place. Programs like Head Start, arguments based on looking at the impact of education on disadvantaged children, these slide too easily from being things we do so all children can experience equally good education, to things we do under the illusion that better education will lead to more equality in the world.
Not that way.
No matter how well we educate every child, in the end we are delivering them into a world that is stratified and unequal. They cannot all succeed. When they all get put on that normal curve, there are winners and losers.
In my experience, children are quite cluey about whether the odds are with them. I believe children who turn their attention away from schooling often do so with instinctive understanding of how this thing works.
What if learning to deal with oppression is actually quite a functional response to the world?
We often find it easy to be critical of people who say ‘they are going to have to learn to (sit still/hold a pencil/do meaningless colouring in/fill in boring worksheets) at school so they need to start now’. ‘No!’, we cry ‘Let them have their freedom!’ ‘Don’t crush their creativity!’ ‘Let school be the place to change!’.
But what if your experience is that school does not change. What if your experience is that school is something that has to be endured. And then work is something that has to be endured. What if your experience is that children~people need quite deep reserves of endurance to cope with the amount of boring crap they have to do and have no way of resisting.
Maybe, then, it is quite functional to learn the emotional self-control you need to cope with being oppressed and not hit out at your oppressor. I watched To Kill a Mockingbird the other day. And I was struck by how much self-control it took for the black people in that community not to riot.
Maybe, when people ask us to give children practice in doing some school thing, one thing they are asking is for those children to have a chance to learn how to cope with the feelings they get when they don’t want to do something, and they are forced to do it anyway.
© Grainne O’Malley 2013
Anarchy and the EYLF Pirates