Monday, May 6, 2013

Private School Parenting... Again

So, we're back from holidays. And I have to deal with the private school again. Yippee.

We've managed a sort of detente with the sport people at the senior school. I met with the sportmaster and said as gently as I could that I didn't think we could commit Jake to anything more out of school hours. The school's written policy says that if you're doing some kind of sport/thing out of school hours that isn't actually offered by the school, then they will accord you some flexibility. Well, by my count Jake does two and a half hours a week of ju-jitsu (as well as taking part in the odd competition in other arts). On top of that, he does an hour a week at LYCO orchestra, playing the cello. As well as that, he has to have his cello lessons privately, outside school hours... because the school's promise to find a regular instructor during school hours fell over and did not happen.

Oddly, last term they didn't seem to think that was enough to let him out of their mickey-mouse kiddie games.

Well, add it up. That's over four hours of extra-curricular sport and music, not including the daily musical instrument practice. Now include the extra half-hour per day of commute to this school (if you compare it to the half-hour by bus to the local school), and incorporate the hour per night of (fairly pointless) homework they expect (for a twelve year old, in year seven!) -- that's an hour and a half of out-school time every day, given over simply because he goes to this shiny, shiny school. And on top of that, they want a "minor commitment" like debating, which took three hours and an extra commute every Tuesday night last term, and they want a "major commitment" to some kind of sport, to the tune of three hours per week in training plus extra time for fixtures, matches, special training sessions...

...nope. Just. Fucking. Nope.

Meanwhile, on the benefits side? They're not even trying to address his talents in English. It's all dioramas and novels for ten-year-olds. The only one doing a damned thing with the kid's abilities is me. And in his music classe? They send him off with a school cello into a room with a couple of other kids who already know a bit about music. They're supposed to play... stuff... largely on their own while the bulk of the kids who know nothing get their hands held through Introductory Rhythmic Clapping For The Morally Impaired. Oh, and aside from mandatory chapel attendance, there's also mandatory Christian Religious Education. No alternatives to either of those. Couple hours a week, there.

So: the English is a waste of his time. The music is a waste of his time. The religious stuff is crap, and actually got him into trouble in the first few weeks. But he says he's not hating geography, science, and history. I suppose that's something, right?

The primary school is better. I'll give them that. They don't demand quite such ridiculous quantities of extracurricular sport and shit, and Genghis loves his cricket, so he didn't mind the summer sport. Of course it's wintry now, so we're getting shin-guards and mouth-guards and hockey gear. (And I admit, I'm chuckling quietly. Frankly, I think that handing my incredibly competitive middle child a set of hockey equipment and putting him on a field with a bunch of unsuspecting kids who are bigger than he is will be... instructive for all.)

But now, of course, it's NAPLAN time.

I don't like the NAPLAN shit. It was patently obvious when it was brought in that schools in Australia would do what schools everywhere else in the world have done when this kind of standardised testing and curriculum were imposed. And sure enough, they've all gone ahead and started to teach to the tests. Basically, instead of trying to teach the kids, and then letting the NAPLAN system test them, the schools are trying to train the kids to do well on NAPLAN. Surprised? No. I didn't think so.

At least the local public primary school wasn't so fucking blatant about it. Sure, I understand that private schools depend on their image to attract custom. Yes, I know that they're concerned that if they don't look shiny on NAPLAN, parents may begin to ask, "Where's the value for all that money you got from us?" I get it.

Nevertheless, I think that coaching kids to do NAPLAN tests is contrary to the actual purpose of the school, and to the testing itself. I also feel that it's unethical, but who am I to judge?

However it be, I feel quite strongly that sending home with my ten-year-old-kid Genghis a four-page, fifty-question NAPLAN math test look-alike and insisting it be treated as homework is plain bullshit. You wanna coach your students to look shiny on the government's bullshit tests? Okay. Fine. Do it on your time. Don't shove it down the kid's neck when he's at home, and don't make me an enabler in your unethical subversion of the boy's education.

Let's put it another way. Whose problem is it if the school doesn't look shiny on the testing results? Is it mine? Is it the boy's?

Nope. It's the school's fucking problem. Inflicting it on my kid and calling it 'homework' is definitely unethical. And unacceptable.

In the end, we let the kid sit in front of the tube and watch old SF programmes with us, while he pencilled his way through the sheet. It was all piss-weak material anyway; stuff he mastered two years ago. They can have their finished sheet, if it makes 'em feel better. Nobody said he had to pay any fucking attention, or even ensure that he got the answers right. Frankly, for all of me he could have wiped his arse on those sheets and handed them back.

There is going to be a great deal of discussion at the end of this academic year in the Flinthart household. Unless I see something genuinely fucking revelatory from this oh-so-fucking-shiny school in the next three terms... I think I'm going to have to start pointing out to my wife all the things we could have done with the cash that went into that fucking place. And that would include hiring goddam tutors for the kids, if she really doesn't trust the local schools. Shit, if she wants to pay me what it costs to put three kids through that school, not only will the money go to better purposes, but the kids will actually get an education on top of it.