Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Monday, October 15, 2012

Back To School

Careful folks, I feel a rant coming on, and this time my target is my own alma mater. Well, not just my old school, but school in general really.

There are essentially three things that annoy me about the way school works these days. The first has to do with something that as you all know is a particular passion of mine, and that is cooking.

Back in the day, it was called 'Home Economics'. we went to class and the classroom had counter-tops  ovens, a fridge, etc. just like any normal kitchen. It also had a teacher and a bunch of ingredients. You got to class, the teacher told you what you'd be cooking that day, and you got the ingredients out, weighed and measured them, followed the instructions, and hopefully came out with something resembling the item you were assigned to cook, be it the Cornish Pasty, an Easter cake (I forgot the baking powder in mine - it still tasted good though) or the infamous Open Sandwich (known to you Yanks as an Open Faced Sandwich, yet still just as pointless. See to me, a sandwich requires a top slice of bread - otherwise it's just a slice of bread with stuff on it, i.e. NOT a sandwich).

One of our young charges, Matthew, aged 12, has Cooking every Monday morning. What that means for us as parental units is that we have to make a last-minute mad dash to the grocery store on a Sunday to buy the ingredients that we don't have on hand. We would do it earlier in the week, but he usually forgets to furnish us with the ingredients list until the last minute, but that's another matter. Then in the morning, because they don't teach kids to cook and measure out their own ingredients (which blows my tiny mind - oh, and forget pastry, they just ask us to send some ready-made stuff rather than actually teaching the children to make pastry from scratch, which, let's face it, ain't that hard to do) one of us has to measure out the ingredients (I can't send a whole pack of whatever and trust that they'll measure it out there and send the rest back), find containers for all these items (which I have to again trust that I'll get back) and usually a dish to transport the finished product in, and then the poor little bugger has to try to carry all this assorted shizzle to school along with his school bag and possibly his P.E. kit. With all this to deal with, how are they supposed to instill a love of cooking in a young impressionable child? In two or three years he'll get to make choices for the subjects he wishes to study for exams - and somehow I feel that Home Ec. will not be among them.

If the powers that be decide that they have to make cutbacks in schools and say to themselves, well, let's stop providing all these ingredients for cookery lessons, what possible sense could it make to make the parents provide all the ingredients in this way? Wouldn't it make more sense for the parents to chip in a couple of quid each per week and then the teacher or someone could get the ingredients together? I gather it has been done this way before, which makes me wonder why they stopped. The larger question is this: if we are to assume (realizing of course that it's not always safe to do so) that the teachers are the ones that create the lesson plans, then why aren't the teachers, who presumably do a lot of extra work organising lessons and creating things such as documents and such on their own time, procuring the ingredients in some way? And before you start on me, realise that I was married to a teacher whose parents are both teachers and had a lot of teacher friends. I know they do a ton of extra work on their own time, a lot of them go above and beyond, and this is because teaching is a profession that only a fool would get into for the money. It's a calling, a passion, a true vocation, and any teacher who doesn't feel this way should quit right now, because you're not helping the kids.

If on the other hand, this "make-the-families-provide-the-ingredients" method of teaching cookery is something mandated by the bigwigs, if the fat cats are the ones that dictate what recipes should be taught, then I apologise to the teachers. If they are doing it because they are not being allowed to do their own thing and decide for themselves what to teach the kids to cook, then I am sorry for them, and the kids involved. It just gives me a sense of the frustration that must have been felt by Jamie Oliver when he decided to do Jamie's School Dinners, where the ignorance of kids about food was truly heartbreaking.


The next thing I find frustrating about school is the issue of vomit. I am sorry to lower the tone, but the universal mandate is this: "A kid vomits, he can't come to school for 24 hours." It has been this way for years, even back in the early 90s when I was working in a home daycare setting. A kid threw up, we couldn't have them back the next day. Hard on the parents.

See, the reason I have a hard time with this is because there are so many reasons for a person to barf that don't involve being ill. All a person would need to do is gag on a bit of sandwich, swallow a bug, or smell something revolting, among other things. Believe me, I've seen it. I remember once while working in daycare, a child walked past me while I was changing another child's diaper, and the smell was enough to make her throw up everything she'd just eaten on the spot - and we'd had spaghetti for lunch. Oy vey.
To me a better indicator of sickness would be a fever, a runny nose, a persistent cough. But a liquid laugh - no, not necessarily.

But what that means to us is if one of ours pukes in the schoolyard, he's got to come home immediately and then stay home all day the next day. Even if there's nothing obviously causing the vomit. Does that policy make sense to you?


The third and final thing that drives me absolutely bonkers about school policy is something that would never have happened when I was at school in the 70s and 80s, and that is the issue of what happens when children get into physical altercations at school.
Because Britain became mad on Health and Safety in the 90s and Noughties, we cannot possibly have one child who hits another in our midst, can we? That would not be safe. So again, instead of doing something constructive like giving these disruptive children a chance to make up for their transgressions by putting them to work on something in detention (which would require someone to supervise them, therefore costing money), no, let's send them home and say they can't come back for a whole day, make it the parent's problem, shall we? Because undoubtedly in this day and age, if you were to say hey, make the kid put on a hi-vis jacket, grab a picker and pick up litter in the schoolyard for a couple hours, then some mollycoddling parent that drives little Bobby to school in their massive SuperGasGuzzlerBastard Range Rover every day despite the fact that the little bugger only lives 500 yards away, would scream and holler about human rights violations etc. and take the school to court. And that would never do.

The schools surely realise that they are giving the kids what they want by doing this, don't they? They must be aware that most kids, given the choice, would rather stay home than go to school? I mean it's a no-brainer.
"Well Tommy, you can either go to school like a good boy or stay home and play on your PS3. Which one do you choose?"
"Hmm, dunno.... 's a tough one." This would never happen. It's more like,
"Well, Tommy, you punched your mate in the face. Everyone saw you do it. Have a day off, mate."

 So what exactly is the point of this ridiculous exercise? Like I said, they make it someone else's problem and save money by not having to pay someone to watch them. And then when the behaviour worsens because the children know they can get away with anything with no actual punishment, they'll blame it on their upbringing. Because if it were any other way, that would reflect badly on the quality of the school, and the board of Governors would not take that very well at all.

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