Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HS FAQ: Overview

Your question:
Bhai we didn’t even know that we could keep our children at home and teach them. Why don’t you start with a small introduction to this concept?

My answer:
Let’s start at the beginning of the modern schooling system. In the ten thousand year history of human civilization this is not more than two or three hundred years old. Which means that historically speaking it started as if just yesterday. And the British helped in spreading the system in India to maintain and spread their business interests. So has our family just extended the ‘Quit India’ movement against the British to ‘Quit School’ for our children? No bhai, the modern schooling system is not bad. Before it spread across the world there were no means of education on such a massive grassroots scale. And even today we can see how disadvantaged the uneducated or the children who cannot go to school are in India. So this homeschooling business- It is only for parents who have themselves gone to school and who are convinced that they can do a better job at home than what the mass education system is currently able to provide for their children.

Educating children at home or outside the walls of a conventional school is a rapidly growing trend in the western world and appears to be catching up in India as well. It was estimated that in 2005 some 2 million children were being homeschooled in the US. (I heard somewhere that this figure is now 10 million in 2008) The figures are definitely going up. So friend, you can draw your own conclusions. My feel is that it probably just means that the modern schooling system has reached the end of its life and a big change is coming soon. So you can think that the millions of homeschooled children and their parents across the world and the three children and their parents in our small house in a small corner of the world are all together charting out the direction of this new big change.

Here is another viewpoint. Each broad era of human history from horticultural to agrarian to industrial has created its own separate social-political-economic-cultural systems. Usually the new systems come up on top of the existing systems which means that the systems evolve to more complex, better modes of being. The education system that we assume to be sacrosanct today has evolved for the industrial era of human history. The rise of Google and the fall of the big auto manufacturers signals that a new era of human history that we can call ‘informational’ is upon us. And the new education system to cater to this new era is still not in place. Take some time and think about that and see if you can sense the unsettling changes happening in the world around you.

Let me finish this answer with an interesting story that highlights the era-related aspect of the modern schooling system. The story goes like this- Before the spread of factories in the west, children used to get apprenticed with their parents from an early age. Boys would work with their fathers and girls with their mothers. You can imagine that ‘childhood’, with its special dress and special lifestyle that we know of now had not yet been invented. Any five year old wearing a spiderman dress would have died of shame. He also wanted to wear pant-shirt and look just like his father. Then the factory came and the father of this boy started working there and soon there were rules that forbade the boy from working inside. So the question that arose was what to do with this badmaash boy now. If you let him free he would probably play cricket with a cork ball and go around breaking windows all day. Some smart intellectuals came up with the solution- Why don’t we put him inside a room and teach him all day? At least the windows of the other buildings would be safe. But what to teach? The answer to that was really simple- Chemistry, language, anthropology, criminal psychology and every other ology- arre bhai there are so many things to know in the world just keep on stuffing him with the stuff yaar. And this, you see, is the secret story behind the birth of the modern schooling system and with it the birth of the special social institution now popularly referred to as ‘Childhood’.

What are you asking dost? Whether this story is real or not? Well, where I read it they were claiming it was true. Now believing it or not is up to you and me no?

1 comment:

  1. i am so enjoying reading all these posts : I also am realizing that Delhi Schools are dens of social snobbery .