Saturday 10 November 2012

Life's hard... then you die.

I just caught a snippet of what passes as 'news' on BBC Breakfast as I sipped coffee and planned my day.

Former schoolboy crush, Maggie Philbin was earnestly discussing the use of calculators in primary schools with a no-doubt lovely, but a bit wet and dithery teacher of the sort we'd have eaten for breakfast, back in the days when schools were for education rather than indoctrination. I believe the cases for and against the use of calculators are both settled and a matter of common sense; over-reliance on tools before you understand what they do is palpably not helping.

But the more interesting aspect of the discussion was their use of words; words and phrases like 'enjoy' or 'make lessons more fun' which put the emphasis on the teacher to entertain, rather than teach. Is it any wonder we have people who grow up to expect life to be one endless round of giddy delights, instead of the mixture of pain and pleasure we actually endure?

Some animals on earth seem to have a life of pastoral ease, grazing away until the predator pounces or old age or starvation or drought takes its toll. They shudder, roll over and die. Did they enjoy life? Do eggs taste better from happier hens? [Bad reversed joke alert: What's a hen do? Practice the oldest living religion - baboom-tish. Sorry.] What's the point of life? There appears to be no point whatsoever other than that which we make for ourselves.

And I believe we get more pleasure and reward in every sense from that which we achieve by our own efforts. People put up with unimaginable hardships to cross frozen continents, to climb airless mountains or starve themselves in search of enlightenment, truth and triumph. Schooling, formal and otherwise, should give us the personal tools to set out on our own journeys. Education should prepare us to meet the world, a world where shit happens and sometimes there is nobody at our back.

So, sod the fun. Teach them the skills and teach them that life isn't a bed of roses, a basket of cherries or a box of bloody chocolates. The fun comes after you've learned to deal with the other stuff.

Then you die.


  1. Wet and dithery? Eaten for breakfast? Do feel free to come and meet me in person and find out how good your judgement is ...

    1. We are what we eat. You came over extremely blancmange-like.

  2. YoungNells is at an Academy and I do believe teaching is becoming more robust. We have seen major changes to more sensible teaching in last couple of years. Emphasis on Maths, Science and english, spelling,grammar, Shakespeare!! - less global warming nonsense and more genuinely evidence based Science.

    It's not back up to the standard when I was a girl doing GCE's but we are finally getting there.I'm a grandma raising a grad-daughter and I'm regarded by school as one of the old fashioned awkward squad , always demanding more and better standards. We needs more parents to do the same!!

    There is always hope!!

    1. Spare the rod and spoil the child was probably too far the other way, but I do believe we need realism, firm discipline and unyielding standards in the classroom from the very beginning.