This man has no business teaching kids

Today a blog post by a school principle has been gathering attention on the net, mostly because of the massive amounts of STUPID it contains. Seriously, my blood is boiling just reading it. Parents of the kids at his school should seriously be looking at whether he is up to the job – because I for one don’t think he is.

The whole post is about how children should basically have their reading choices policed by their parents because children can’t understand the difference between fact and fiction or some such shite. Basically it comes down to kids are stupid and need their parents to restrict their intellectual growth and development simply because this one guy lacked the mental ability to tell the fact that orcs aren’t real.

The guy in question is one Graeme Whiting who works at the private Acorn School in Gloucestershire. The school’s ‘about’ page has a few choice statements about the school’s policy:

designed to engage and cultivate the intellectual ability of each and every child. The school’s decision not to participate in state examinations means that pupils can continue to enjoy a diverse range of subjects throughout their time at school, and can discover their potential at their own pace

and

he school continues to place a great emphasis on subjects that help to develop students’ creativity and self-expression.

Which, you know, as a parent, I think sounds great. However, the blog post he made contradicts all of this.

You can read the blog post HERE for however long it stays up. I’ve copied it below because there are a few things I’d like to say about it.

The Imagination of the Child

Written by Graeme Whiting

Human beings have a conscious and unconscious brain. Stored in the latter, sometimes deeply entrenched in that mysterious, sensitive part of our brain, lie the secrets of our past, our inhibitions, our common habits and all the events that have formed each of our lives since we became conscious beings. Secrets of our emotions, our passions, and our hurt, can be lying there. In today’s world of transformational humans, millions of therapists worldwide make a living from trying to understand, and reveal, by various methods, what lies within the subconscious brain of those patients who come for help because of anxieties and fears, experiences and memories, often pictorial images of events that helped to shape their lives; predominantly bad memories, which is why they seek therapy.

Many of the current methods for trying to open up our subconscious brain are open to both praise and criticism, but my view is that we should strive, as human beings, to ensure that children are protected during their developmental years from negative experiences that linger within their subconscious and may prevent them from moving forward towards adulthood, unencumbered by such memories, particularly inappropriate images or text that confuses their imagination, as they do not have thinking brains until, at the earliest, fourteen years of age. The child can then move towards more conscious thought as adulthood looms. An eighteen-year-old doesn’t suddenly get a developed thinking as a right, or as a gift, just because in the eyes of the state they have reached adult age!

Ok, I’ll admit, none of us want to deliberately expose our kids to negative things, and it’s our instinct as parents to try and shield them and protect them.

This morning, I recalled the many memories that lie deep in my own subconscious; the deaths of my loving parents, my three brothers, my wife and perhaps even more deeply entrenched are the experiences I had as a young child growing up after the war in a very different England. I recalled vivid pictures of the school bullies, and of the grim-faced teachers as they beat me. I can remember their smelly clothes, and can recall those smells and facial grimaces when they carried out the barbaric punishment that was meted out to many young, poor children, in the nineteen-fifties. I have dealt with those images and memories without the help of a therapist and I feel I have put them away from my daily life, to be recalled if they need to be. Imagination is so rich and important that I cannot understand why any parent would not actively prevent exposure to modern-world electronic gadgets, screens, films and literature that will encumber the minds and especially the imagination of their children. Let beauty reign within the subconscious minds of our children, not fear and disturbing images cultivated by their amazing brains.

I love the first lines of ‘The Endymion’ by John Keats:

‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,
Its loveliness increases,
It will never pass into nothingness’……..

I am from a large family and my life as a child was not easy, but today I reflected on the care my parents showered on me, and indeed the care and understanding I received from specific times in my education; just one teacher actually, but it took until I had left school, and the army, to realise that that one teacher positively affected my life, and still does. Such a wise lady!

The more I reflect the more I believe that the concept of The Acorn School was hatched on a deeply unconscious level and it has taken most of my life to fully understand the reasons why I chose to create this beautiful school. Is it not a most unusual school? It may take the readers of this blog a lifetime to fully appraise what the school represents, and why I chose to give children an education based on moral values and individual teaching in each class of children, which enriches their imagination.

There’s nothing here that contributes to the discussion really, but I pasted it in the spirit of full disclosure.

At school I had a passion for literature; indeed I felt that by the age of thirty I had read all the books I wanted to read.

And THIS, this right here, is where the alarm bells started to ring. By the age of thirty I was in deep despair because I knew that in all my life I would never be able to read all the books I wanted to.

Those books were a strong influence and created in me feelings about what should be read by children, who cannot discern or understand, and these books helped to shape me as a human being.

Which basically comes down to how it was alright for him to read them but no one else. I find this view on children to be extremely patronising to be honest. My daughter is 9 and reads a lot so I know what she understands and what she doesn’t. And, and this is the important bit, SO DOES SHE. When she chooses books she chooses ones that fire her imagination, books that have something to say to HER. If she doesn’t grasp something she puts it aside. She’s not stupid.

Of course, there are many wonderful experiences that are also locked behind that door, but what concerns me with the modern world is that there seem to be no doors that cannot be opened by young children. Children can contrive, they can lie and they can get their own way; they can also be wonderful and beautiful if parents take the time to try to understand what childhood really is! Children are innocent and pure at the same time, and don’t need to be mistreated by cramming their imagination that lies deep within them, with inappropriate things.

Children have always been like this. Trust me – I used to be one. So did this guy, but he seems to have forgotten that. Sure, the internet etc makes things a little easier for kids, but honestly, think back to your own childhood – trading dirty magazines with your friends, watching 18 movies that your parents didn’t know about. Children will ALWAYS find a way. When I was a kid we had no internet and all the racy books in the library were in their own room – that didn’t stop a 13 year old managing to check out most of that stock before the year was out – where there is a will there is a way.

Parents walking around a modern shopping centre with their children are magnetised by the colourful and graphic attraction of the new book cover, and often, very little of the text is reflected in the beautiful and attractive cover. Such colourful covers attract children to the point of mesmerising them, and they make demands of their parents stating that they want one because every other child at school has one!

Wow. This is so incredibly insulting to parents. How dare this stupid man suggest that we parents (I’m choosing to ignore that I’m a writer because I really don’t think I could face attack this from both sides right now) are that stupid as to be lured by ‘colourful’ things like we are moronic lemmings. And personally, I would think that if every child at school is reading a book and that makes other kids want to read then SURELY that is a good thing? Why wouldn’t I want my kid to read more?

Sensationalism is the key for marketing literature in today’s world. Publishers and authors don’t really care who reads what, as long as they achieve high sales figures, and they go to great lengths to create those pictorial covers that hide the sometimes demonic, influential and unacceptable words that may lie within the text.

Okay, and NOW it gets personal. Who the FUCK does this man think he is? Is he an author? No. So how the FUCK would he know what we think about what we do? Does he know how little money we make? Does he know how many writers out there have written for years and years before being published simply because they LOVE to write. We are doing a job we love. Just like, I would say, he is doing a job he loves. I assume he gets paid for it. Because he gets paid am I to therefore assume that he doesn’t CARE about it? No. So what gives him the right to think that about me / us?

Gone are the classics, and when I asked my wife to write a reading list for the children of my school, many of the books she recommended were hard to find. A trip to the Amazon website revealed that thousands of great books for children can be bought for less than the cost of postage! Indeed, sets of classical literature, the stories that I read as a young buy, could be purchased and delivered to my door for less than the cost of driving to a bookshop.

The classics are not gone and are still a massive part of the entire education curriculum from primary school to PhD level so this comment is ridiculous coming from a teacher. He knows damn rightly which books are studied. Or he should. And if he doesn’t then there is something seriously wrong.

And here’s the thing. The classics are great. But so are many, many wonderful books that have come since. Am I supposed to disregard everything written in the last 100 years? How limiting would that be for both literature and development?

Last week I saw a mother sitting on a bench in a shopping mall with her young baby, sampling the milk from its bottle, to make sure it was the right temperature and flowed freely. It was a beautiful and very serene scene of motherly care. Will that same mother, in thirteen years time, when that baby becomes an opinionated young teenager, be able to offer the same care? Will the mother sample the literature that it reads like it did the baby’s bottle, check out the screen pictures, the Internet, or will she be usurped by her child who by then will certainly not be seeking sensible literature, but will almost certainly follow the masses, the modern trends, for whom reading will have become a thing of the past. This is the age of the mentally ill child, the obsessive age, the age where celebrities affect the lives of those who have been encouraged to adore them and who wish to be like them, but never can. This is a trap of falsehood for children.

On one hand I see where he is coming from and I’ve complained about a lot of these things myself. But I don’t think that censoring READING is really the problem here – do you?

I stand for the old-fashioned values of traditional literature,

I want to draw attention to this line in particular and I want you to remember it. He said

I stand for the old-fashioned values of traditional literature,

So let’s talk about those values shall we:

classical poetry, Wordsworth,

A hippy who thought everyone should roam the country and that living in towns and cities and general industrial development was evil and immoral.

Keats,

Writes shallow work that equates physical beauty with worth and life.

Shelley,

Many of his works, such as Hymn to Intellectual Beauty are concerned with the supernatural (which I thought we were against?)

Dickens,

Racist who wrote about ghosts and death.

Shakespearean plays,

Rape, murder, incest, misogyny. Great ‘values’ there.

and the great writers who will still be read in future years by those children whose parents adopt a protective attitude towards ensuring that dark, demonic literature, carefully sprinkled with ideas of magic, of control and of ghostly and frightening stories that will cause the children who read them to seek for ever more sensational things to add to those they have already been exposed to.

Such as all the works you have just suggested? Hmm.

What then of their subconscious minds? What then of the minds of children whose parents couldn’t give the time to look closely at childhood; the sensitive period of the development of every human being? Where will this addiction to unacceptable literature lead?

Those children grew up happy because they weren’t hampered by some adult trying to prevent them developing and growing by dictating to them what they were old enough or mature enough to handle and instead treated them with enough respect to allow them to grow at THEIR OWN PACE and not the pace we adults dictate for them.

I want children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty.

Except….look at what you just recommended?

Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Terry Pratchett, to mention only a few of the modern world’s ‘must-haves’, contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children;

And you have a psychology PhD that will back up that assumption? No? Oh dear. Well, have you READ any of those books? No? You just pulled a couple of names of popular books from the shelves of Waterstones and tried to shoehorn them into your argument to make you seem up to date, didn’t you? Hmmm….well then. Maybe you shouldn’t talk about what you don’t know.

Here’s the thing. I’ve read all the books listed and have my own thoughts on them. I the Lord of the Rings at a very young age and I can say that all I learned from it was bravery, loyalty and lots of songs about leaves.

Game of Thrones REALLY isn’t a children’s books, and including it on this list makes me think you really have no idea.

Harry Potter I adore. As a reader and a writer. It was a series that got so, so many children passionate about reading, and the magical elements in the story pale in comparison to what is essentially a tale about friendship and love and honesty and courage and doing the right thing even when the whole world is against you. Kids learn a lot from Harry Potter.

Terry Pratchett I started reading very young and continued reading right up until his death. As regular readers know my love of his work is very deep and impacted so much of not only my own work, but my development as a person. His work is deeply thoughtful, intelligent, visionary. It taught me about love and politics and religion and war and poverty and kindness and cruelty and the reality that is life. Good ‘values’ to have, right? I honestly think that his work made me a better person. And I think you would be hard pushed to find a reader of his books who doesn’t feel the same way, at least in part. So including him on this list is both wrong and hugely disrespectful of the wonderful body of social commentary that he left behind.

yet they can be bought without a special licence, and can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children. For young adults, this literature, when it can be understood for what it is, is the choice of many!

Reading fantasy makes children mentally ill.

You heard it here first folks.

I actually don’t have the words to voice how angry this sweeping, unjustified and frankly STUPID statement is.

Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar, heaps of it, and when the child becomes addicted it will seek more and more, which if related to books, fills the bank vaults of those who write un-sensitive books for young children!

So…kids reading is a bad thing? Because that’s what I’m getting out of this ridiculous statement. Honestly, if a kid reads something of mine and loves it so much they go and read someone else’s book then I’m cheering them on. Because kids SHOULD read. And we should be encouraging them to.

And I’m not buying all this ‘sensational’ crap either – have you ever listened to the games that children make up when playing among themselves. I mean, REALLY listened. They are full of magic and princesses and witches and balls and talking animals – just like they have ALWAYS been and probably always will be.  Kids have a far bigger imagination that we can ever comprehend as adults. If they chose to read about those things they ALREADY have created in their imagination then so what?  Let them. Let them read as much and as widely and as passionately as they want to.

I just don’t understand why an educator would EVER suggest that a child shouldn’t be encouraged to read. Honestly. This man and his view are truly frightening when coming from someone who is responsible for the education and development of children on a daily basis. I sure as hell wouldn’t want him teaching my child with this opinion.

It is the duty of parents to spend time to study such matters and form their own conclusions, not to think that because the world is filled with such sensational literature they have to have it for their children, because everyone else does! Beware the devil in the text! Choose beauty for your young children!

Jesus Christ. The way he talks you’d think we were all handing our kids copies of Fifty Shades. I operate a basic screening in our house – if you can reach it you can read it. Really OBVIOUSLY inappropriate books are on the top shelf and the kids respect that. But in all honesty kids are smart – they aren’t interested in my Val McDermid’s, and they lost interest in the Terry Pratchett’s as soon as they realised that it was one long chapter (hehe).

Book covers are carefully designed to appeal to a certain audience – a quick look at ANY bookshop will tell you this – again another sign that this guy hasn’t bothered to do any sort of research into this at all. Kids books all look similar – bright colours, cartoonish. If a child has read a book with that sort of cover and liked it then it will be attracted to a different book with a similar cover. For instance, you don’t see many books in the childrens section with black covers, do you? But the YA section is full of them.

Honestly. This guy is talking through his hole and I’m actually embarrassed for him and seriously worried about the kids in his care. If I were a parent with kids at that school I would be asking some serious questions right about now.

I’m off to calm down.

Chat later.

Love, etc

C

 

 

 

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