I slip in, occasionally, my thoughts about education or upward mobility. I slip them in vaguely, gently. “We prefer climbing trees to ladders.” I don’t say much more than that.
A year ago I started this blog post, trying to say more than that. I didn’t get very far. It’s easy to say “I’m not a fan of selection”. It’s harder to explain why and consider what to do about it.
My daughter was in P5 and I could see the AQE looming, unwelcome, on the horizon. It’s impossible to escape the language and panic surrounding it all and our kids pick it up even if we, the parents, are “not a fan”. We can refuse to hold performance and results as values in our home, but someone else will speak them loudly. Next year will be the “big year”, our children are told, the “important year”. Have we got a tutor yet?
I have overheard it in the hairdressers – and a dozen other places – the tutor conversation. The parent claims to be reluctant, but they have been told that everyone else gets a tutor for their child, so if they don’t, their child will be disadvantaged.
Or will they?
Jonathan Auxier (the New York Times best-selling author of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes) was pulled out of school for a year by his mum because she panicked that he didn’t have a love of reading. He knew how to read, but he didn’t enjoy it very much. A love of reading was non-negotiable to his parents, so he was ‘home-schooled’ for a year. He read for 3 hours a day and otherwise remembers it as a very ‘low work load’ year.
Was he disadvantaged?
Depends on the advantage you are aiming for.
We hear from a friend of the stress of getting their child through the AQE, replaced the following year with the stress from the pressures of life at the sought-after Grammar school.
Is this an advantage worth panicking about?
There are good arguments on both sides of the selection debate, I can see them both. It’s the language I hate, the importance it is given. The way it dominates calendars and prayer lists and talk radio. I hate how fear is spread and our own child’s advantage guarded and fought for.
My daughter is in P6 now and the disruption caused by remote learning, with no return date in yesterday’s announcements, means everyone is worrying about the P6s. They are missing out.
I see this a different way. Every morning my daughter hears her teacher’s voice and sees her face and engages with the most ridiculous enthusiasm in the activities set up for her on SeeSaw. She responds with written work, videos, voice recordings and ICT skills which I marvel at. I doubt there is anyone in the world more exited about Tom Crean’s expeditions to the Antarctic, at inventing her own Viking goddess or measuring how far she can roll a potato across the floor with her nose in one minute. Will she be tested on this? Frankly, I do not care. Her love of learning is intact, her creativity is being encouraged, her interests affirmed. What do I want for her? This.
There are hard things right now, worth worrying about, different for each of us. There are uncertainties, impossible to predict. The AQE can wait. Maybe, it can be rethought.
‘Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom, no longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.’ (Jewel)
PS For those of us who identify as followers of Jesus, we are just not called to be part of a culture of upward mobility. As Shannon Martin says “Jesus promised the opposite of what the world offers like a prized show pony… His life on earth was a decades-long exercise in rescuing us from the things we think we want.” We are not to fear scarcity, and we are certainly not called to spread that fear at the hairdressers.