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An education system that needs education

You know how there are things you will never understand? For me, into this category along with things like pearlised lipstick, high-heeled runners, bigotry - especially, but not exclusively of the religious kind - and people who don't wash their hands after they go to the toilet, are parents who complain that their children aren't getting enough homework.

Apparently there are parents of even primary-school age children who think, "My child spends six or seven hours a day, eight months a year, for 14 years in school and does say, an hour of homework a day all of which will end in the stresspit of Sixth year and the Leaving Cert, but I want them to have MORE schoolwork to do at home."

I don't have anything against school and I think most teachers do a good job, some are great. But I do think that the stuff valued in education systems the world over is unhinged. Like, quadratic equations. Who cares? English monarchies, the periodic table, Keats' poetry, the tuiseal ginideach - why are these considered something you should know as standard?

By all means dangle Ode to a Nightingale, the atomic number of magnesium or Henry VIII in front of everyone and let them run with them if it appeals. Of course sums and spelling are important, but beyond the basics why force maths, literature or history on everyone? Why not art, music, film and drama? Why not exercise five times a week instead of Irish? Why not learn emotional intelligence and psychological tendencies? Rules of the road and nutrition and vacuuming and parenting? Stuff you might actually use as well as a selection of stuff you might quite like to pursue yourself at a later date. Childhood should be a relatively responsibility-free time in life. Filling childhood by learning largely useless stuff is mad. Seeking to reduce children's free time with more mad and sad stuff is full on-bonkers.

But then, you know how there are things in life you will never understand?

Sunday Independent