The dreary reign of the childhood snatchers
Once upon a time - no, not once upon a time because that time is now – sadults seek to rob children of their childhood. They are the childhood snatchers. They want tots to begin formal education too soon. They want to confine these inquisitive, lively bundles of energy to tiny chairs. They want to seat them around tables or in rows. They want them to learn to read too early. They want them to learn numerical algorithms too early. They want them to wear neat uniforms instead of messy dungarees. And they want them tested and measured and judged throughout their school careers. For what can’t be assessed is ‘play’. And play has no place in the world of the childhood snatchers. It is ephemeral, valueless, childish. And the sooner children put away childish things the better. Because the purpose of schooling for the childhood snatchers is to produce conformity. Children must be clones of the childhood snatchers. Reading the books they like and throwing aside any others (and the sooner the better). Following the same path through adult life (and the sooner they set out on this path the better). Writing ‘correctly’ but not necessarily with wit, verve and style (and the sooner they can spot conjunctions and adverbial clauses the better). Education for children in England is dominated by the childhood snatchers. And sadly some parents collude with this – their children must be tutored, coached, organised. Childhood is not for exploration but inculcation. Childhood is not a distinct and valuable life stage – it is nothing more than preparation for adulthood. And the sooner children become mini-adults, the better. The time has come to reclaim childhood – to allow children time to explore, have fun, play. We start formal education earlier than other countries and we expect teenagers to make option choices at 14 which is, again, earlier than in most other countries. We test our children far, far more than in other countries as if only that which can be assessed externally is of value. It’s time to end the reign of the childhood snatchers. You have until 25 January 2016 to respond to the Education Select Committee inquiry into the purpose and quality of education in England. UPDATE 2 January 2016 09.18: Petition to reclaim childhood will be brought to the attention of the Government by Nick Herbert MP. The petition was started by James Glasse, author of 'Requiem for Childhood'. He runs the Save Childhood Network website.