Sometimes Reports Into Education = Good Toilet Paper

I am sick of these “doom and gloom” reports into education that pretend to represent children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but instead put them down with cold disregard.

There is no better recent example of this than a  report, entitled “The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults,” by Labour MP and new “Poverty Czar” Frank Field.  According to the report, success in life is determined by the age of 5.  Beyond the age of 5, kids don’t have much say in whether or not they will make a success out of life.

By the age of five, a huge gulf already exists between the abilities of pupils from comfortable and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Research shows “we can predict at three and at five who will be unemployed, who will struggle to get a low paid job,” Mr Field said to the BBC.

Sally Copley, UK head of policy for Save the Children, said it should not have to be a choice between improving services and boosting the income of the worst-off families.  “By the time many children walk through the school gates for the first time, it’s too late for them.”

I don’t know where to start.  Perhaps by making some points on the term “success”.

1.  Mr Field defines success by how much a person earns (as well as whether or not they have employments at all).  In my view, a persons earnings, whilst not irrelevant, is not a complete reflection of a persons success.  Are they good people?  Do they follow the laws of society?  Are they good parents?  Do they treat others fairly?  Do they have integrity?  Using this criteria, lowly paid people can be far more ‘successful” than wealthy people.

2.  This leads me to an important gripe I have with the messages society seems to proliferate.  What job we do has no bearing on a persons success.  A taxi cab driver might not sound like a successful profession on face value.  But that same taxi driver has a crucial role to play.  They help the disabled and the aged, are crucial in keeping intoxicated people off the roads and protect vulnerable people from walking the streets and taking the trains late at night.  A house painter may seem like an ordinary profession, but have you ever looked at the difference a bright, well-painted room makes to a persons mood and outlook?  All jobs have a critical role to play in making life more enjoyable regardless of the pay involved.

3.  As a teacher, I don’t spend any time looking into the socio-economic background of my students.  I also don’t tend to get obsessed over rating the parents.  I feel very confident in my ability to assist all types of students from all types of backgrounds in becoming successful citizens and productive members of society.  I feel that my students have the potential to become every bit as successful as Mr. Field himself!  Mr. Field should not confuse, as he seems to be doing, the quality of a childs academic achievements with the quality of parenting that child is receiving.  There are many parents who aren’t able to spend sufficient time helping their kids with their schoolwork because they are working long hours to simply put food on the table.  In today’s world, we have to appreciate that all too many parents sacrifice what others take for granted for nothing more than to provide for their families.

What Mr. Field has done, for all his good intentions, is needlessly narrow the definition of success, outrage taxpayers for funding students when “it’s too late for them” anyway and provide an extraordinarily negative message to people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Mr. Field, thank you.  This world can never have enough toilet paper!

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5 Responses to “Sometimes Reports Into Education = Good Toilet Paper”

  1. Tim L Says:

    whilst I agree that “success” is about a lot more than economic success (and I write as someone who has chosen to leave lucrative programming for a bank to teach) I think that everyone should be given the best opportunity to be able to choose for themselves whether they want to be a taxi driver or a lawyer.

    The problem is that children from poorer backgrounds achieve far fewer qualifications than their equivalents from wealthier backgrounds. This means that those children have less ability to make a personal choice about what they want to do. Like it or lump it these qualifications are what determine what choices are available to those children.

    If we assume that the same range of abilities are present in all groups of children then the lower achieving of the poor suggests that they face other problems. If a government is trying to identify and reduce those obstacles it can only be a good thing.

    There is nothing intrinsically better about being a high court judge or a street sweeper, but shouldn’t every child capable of and wanting to be one or the other be given the opportunity to become either?

    • Michael G. Says:

      Thank you for your contribution. You make some good points. I still feel that the conclusion that 5-year olds from low-socio economic background shave little hope when it comes to a successful life to be quite objectionable.

      • Tim L Says:

        I think you are mistaking statistical trends with inevitability. As Mr Field himself demonstrates (his background is relatively humble) lower achievement in a group doesn’t mean everyone in that group will fail or has to fail, just that more are currently failing than those in other groups. Recognising that is the first step to fixing it.

  2. Jillian Says:

    What a sticky subject! Children from low socio-economic backgrounds may not have the same opportunities, support system or have access to all the resources that a child from a wealthier family does, but that is no reason to write them off! I went to a school where the majority of the student population was a minority group and below the poverty level. Teachers struggled everyday to keep them focused and inspired. For some it worked, for others it didn’t—the point is the teachers didn’t give up. Heaven help if we start pigeon-holing our kids before they are old enough to solve long division.

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