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!