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Parents soon find out that young children are natural learners. They are like explorers or research scientists busily gathering information and making meaning out of the world. Most of this learning is not the result of teaching, but rather a universal researching activity, as natural as breathing. Our brains are programmed to learn unless discouraged. A healthy brain interacts with what it finds interesting or challenging in the world around it.
We parents achieve the amazing feats of helping our children to talk, walk and make sense of the home and the environment in which it is set, by responding to this natural learning process. All this is achieved, with varying degrees of success, by so-called amateurs – those of us who are parents, along with other care-givers such as grandparents.
But, this process of natural learning can be hindered or halted by insensitive adult interference. Sadly, the schools available to us, whether state or private, are usually based on an impositional model which, sooner or later, causes children to lose confidence in their natural learning and its self-correcting features, and instead, learn to be dependent on others to 'school' their minds. This trains children to be obedient to a script written by remote strangers rather than one of their own, using the help of people who love or care about them.
The consequence is that parents wanting an effective and morally healthy education for their children based on natural learning principles, have a dilemma. The system is not in the habit of providing any of these things, and often has a vested interest in providing the opposite. So, like the vegetarian pioneers, the non-smoking rights movement and the environmental protection groups, parents wanting education that respects natural learning principles, will have to argue and organise to try to get it.
Dr. Roland Meighan was formerly Special Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham.