Ciao, synthetics!

Earlier this week legendary fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana spoke out against same-sex families claiming that there should be “No chemical offspring and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed”. Dolce added that procreation “must be an act of love” and that “children of chemistry” are in actual fact “synthetic children”.

Whilst I do not agree with the intent of their statement or views about this matter, it did get me thinking about the state of education in the UK. Too much Governmental and Think-tank meddling in the educational policies and practices have led to an increase in monitoring and measuring, which, of course, is having an impact of our education system. Arguably the ‘natural flow’ of learning has been directed into a rented uterus using chemically toxic policies. This is creating a synthetic model of education in which children are being experimented with in order to get the best outcomes. In effect our children are being synthesised into something that they arguably do not want for themselves. Has anyone asked them what they want? Surely this would be the ‘natural’ thing to do? I wonder how influenced their answers might be after having been in ‘education’ since the age of four?

This synthetic education is supported in the media with a ‘back to basics’ narrative, which I might suggest is dated. An example of this recently came to light. Jack Marwood wrote in The Guardian that “…when it comes down to it, children are the ones who actually have to do the learning”, which is not exactly enlightening or revelatory. However, he goes on to write that “…children don’t always do what they are told, or learn what we attempt to teach them. What’s more, children are by definition immature and they don’t always know what is best for them.” This massive generalisation about our children has annoyed me! Just because you are older Mr Marwood please don’t assume that they don’t know what is best! Why should they learn what we attempt to teach them? They live in a different world to many ‘grown-ups’. Children are trying to learn about their own place in the world that others have created for them; a world that all too often dominates them. This is far more authentic than the synthetic ‘learning experience’ provided by schools who are forced to focus on performance, targets, levels and outcomes. Unfortunately, Marwood continues “Children, sadly, are not all passively waiting to be filled up with facts and knowledge like empty vessels.” Sadly? I think that’s brilliant, why should they be passive?

I wonder if the reason that some people want to reinforce this view is for control, power and dominance, which is a synthetic, man-made construct. Foucault (1975:201) stated that the “perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary” so that “the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action.” What this means for schools is that the threat of inspection and judgements about learning has permanent effects on the performance of the school even though an inspection team may not be present. Ultimately this controls the behaviours of the school, its leadership and teachers, and could be considered as synthetic and non-natural.

Perhaps the reason our education system is producing synthetic learning is based upon the chemical concoction of those who make decisions about the natural flow of a person’s life. Perhaps education and learning should be left to be natural and that we all need to recognise that life comes from love; education comes from passion; and that authentic education should be about meeting the needs of our learners.

Foucault, M., (1995) Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books.

Jack Marwood. Tuesday 17th March, 2015. The Guardian online. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/17/great-teacher-results-wrong-david-cameron-children-learn (Accessed on 20th March, 2015)

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