Media wars, putting parents against each other. I was always used to the “mum wars”, the articles that would promote opposite sides of the coin between breast and bottle feeding, those that would portray reusable nappies as unhygienic and hard work whilst others highlighted the impact on the environment that disposables have. The working mum vs the stay at home parent. The opinions of parents in the media shift like the tides but all seem to serve one purpose, keep the mum wars going.
September is no different, each September the anti home education press hit out with claims of terrorist breeding grounds, neglect, abuse etc. While home educators respond across social media and in various interviews to promote it as a positive and valid choice for thousands of children across the country. Stories hitting the press about goings on in schools get people talking about the rules and policies in place in mainstream education yet still home educators are met with the questions about socialisation.
I found myself in a debate this week following this story hitting the news. A Christian couple choosing not only to deregister their child but to actually sue the school for allowing another male student to attend wearing a skirt. Now in my eyes the school did no wrong, the child was in school uniform, gender is a protected factor under the equality act so the school would have been in the wrong to discriminate in their uniform policy. They have provided a safe, supportive and accepting environment for a child to explore their identity and that, as far as I am concerned, is pretty brilliant. The parents who have removed their children from the school have not had any of their rights breached, they have done what many other parents across the country have done, disagreed with something within mainstream education and chosen to remove their children, as is their right to do. It does not need to be a court case surely?
But sure enough people came forward with the view that “boys are boys and girls are girls” ok? So what exactly does that mean? for me people are people and, regardless of sex or gender, children and adults alike should be encouraged to be kind, compassionate, brave and honest. Nurturing is just as important as hard working whatever a childs gender, and what a child is wearing has no impact whatsoever on these traits. why should a boy not be allowed to wear a skirt in a society that widely accepts girls in trousers? Of course there is the “cultural norm” but these norms are fluid through time, they are not fixed, so its ok to question them.
I was told that “the purpose of parenting is to teach the child and help him grow into an adult, not to let him do whatever he wants” and that ” truly loving and supportive parents will guide their child. Independence comes later.” While being told that the parents and the school were in the wrong for allowing a boy to wear a skirt.
“one of the purposes of school uniform is to familiarise the child at a relatively early stage with the truth that not everything in life will be a matter of his personal preferences”
“It is one thing to be yourself as an adult, but young children at primary school level need to learn to function socially first.”
So lets put this out there, we want our children to learn that to function and fit in with society they can’t be themselves? We will prepare them for adulthood by teaching them to function socially, we will do this by placing them in a room, divided into groups of 30 or so other children, segregated by age. We will tell them what they HAVE to wear and what shop they must buy this from and we will punish and humiliate them if they do not comply. With no choice or personal preference? Flipping that into “real society” ?It doesn’t work. When I have been in adult education and in employment I have been with people of all ages, and sometimes I have come across people who I don’t get on with for various reasons. Have I been forced to spend time with them? Nope. I have been able to step away, make a cup of tea, have a breather. Absolute worse case scenario, I handed my notice in and left. My personal preference.
Lets consider this idea of learning social skills and learning to function and how that learning is promoted in these schools. Here children are being told where to look, to walk in single file between lessons and if they feel sick they will have a bucket next to them and carry on with their work. No worries about the spread of illness or a persons right to privacy during bodily functions. Meanwhile at this school children are made to wear signs around their necks and are isolated from their peers if their uniform is deemed incorrect. And here children are isolated and miss their whole 60 minute lunch break if their parents are unable to pay for their school dinners.
I am struggling to make sense of how any of this is of benefit to our children and their learning. It seems to bare no resemblance to our society out here “in the real world”. Yet still, the debates and arguments continue with groups of people seeming so obsessed with their rights that they forget about the rights of others. We are all just parenting, doing what is best for our children. There is no denying that our children are all different, unique individuals, so why do some find it hard to accept that they need different approaches? And it seems to me, that many of the people shouting the loudest about children needing school to learn how to function socially, probably went to school themselves, and are those who seem to struggle the most with acceptance, manners and functioning socially.