Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Enough Hothousing and Homework It's Time We Taught Our Children How to Talk to People in Real Life; / Comment

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Enough Hothousing and Homework It's Time We Taught Our Children How to Talk to People in Real Life; / Comment

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Rinder

IDISLIKED a number of my secondary school teachers. It wasn't really their fault. By the time I was 14 I just didn't suit the condition of childhood any more. I was furious that these people trespassed on my time by insisting that I do homework, team sports or attend classes. I understood that the hoop-jumping was vaguely necessary but I couldn't bear being conscripted into a pressure-pot of nonsense scare tactics about "permanent records" or being told my life would be over if I got a C in maths.

My primary school, in contrast, had been bliss because the doors shut at 3.30pm and my class were freed until the next day. My life amounted to the plot-lines of Grange Hill, keeping records of Joan Collins's outfits on Dynasty and working out how to maximise my My Little Pony time. I was free to play, learn, push boundaries, explore and imagine without anyone suggesting that I ought to focus on life goals. Many four- to 11-year-olds now are like management consultant drones.

I often peruse Mumsnet or, as I call it, Stockholm Syndrome for mums who want advice on strollers while being anonymously judgmental. Therein lies a world of parents succoured into the belief that grades always correlate to success. If you're not at the right school by four, your prospects dwindle. By 11, like a Soviet gymnast, it's all over. The only way to ensure a child isn't on the streets by the time they're 16 is to spend on tutors and more tutors.

Not being a parent means I try to tread carefully on this issue. Having an opinion on education or children's behaviour when you're childless is met with a mix of rage or head-tilting sanctimoniousness but my family members who are primary-school teachers and my friends (nearly all of whom have young ones) are exhausted. The excessive homework heaped on children from a wildly young age does nothing to help this. …

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