Arvika, 24 November 2012
The fanfare which accompanied the announcement of the new Swedish Education Act (2010) - the one that effectively banned homeschooling because, its creators claimed, parents couldn't possibly accomplish the same results as the state-certified teachers - is looking increasingly absurd following the publication of the previous academic year's results in the province (län) of Värmland in which I live.
According to one of the two leading newspapers in the province, Värmlands Folkblad (19 November 2012, No.269), "every fifth student fails to meet the requirements". With an average in the whole of Värmland of 21.4% of students failing the new assessment tests in one or more subjects, panic has ensued amongst local educators and politicians alike.
"It is the weakest students we are losing in Sweden today. And it makes me incredibly sad, says Eva-Lis Siren, Chairman of the Teachers Association".
With Munkfors School having a 42.5% failure rate, and schools in Arvika Municipality suffering almost as badly - Kyrkebygskolan (35.5% failure) which my two eldest children attended), Centralskolan (30.3% failure) where my homeschooled children are or have been monitored - the results are both alarming though not, in my view, surprising. A local 'Free School', Kläsbol Högstadium (now press-ganged by the new law into following the state curriculum and method of continual assessment) did somewhat better (9.1%). The school which did best - another Free School modelled on the British system, the English School of Karlstad, scored an impressive 2.5% in the failure stakes.
The professional teachers and politicians cannot be expected to shoulder the blame for this fiasco, however, even though the bad-mouthing has already begun, with one leader blaming the (now not so) 'Free Schools'. Knowing many of the teachers personally, including heads and class teachers, I can say that these are very professional and competent people who know their job and do their best, including doubtless those who suffered humiliation at Munkfors when they appeared at the bottom of the list and were interviewed by a critical press to 'explain themselves'. Though there may be the odd 'bad apple' here and there when it comes to teachers, as is always true in any school, the problem is not with the professionals but with the SYSTEM.
I am a retired professional teacher and educator, and I know exactly what this system is like. Pseudo-liberal Education Minister Major Jan Björklund and his gang of Marxist-indoctrinated Swedish bureaucrats did not invent it. It has been around a long time and we in Britain had it long before and suffered because of it. The new educational system is basically the latest 'tweek' of a system doomed to failure, a system that regiments both students and teachers even more, burdening overworked teachers with pointless paperwork that either denies students quality teaching time or teachers their rest and sanity. I know, I have been there - that's one reason I switched to homeschooling both for my own sanity and for my children's education prospects.
The whole way we educate our children, whether at schools or at home, needs a total re-evaluation. Educator John Taylor Gatto observed:
"Learning can't take place in pieces of time cut out for the convenience of an institution or in lessons set apart from the world in which students live. We don't learn when life is divided up into sections that have little connection with each other." (1)
It can, of course, take place in such institutions as state schools but the efficiency rate is poor. Test any student how much they remember a year later and you will find the retention rate is significantly less than 50%. That's why schools have to go over the same material again and again. But engage a pupil in a situation where they are motivated to learn, enjoy their learning, and where there is a practical application in situ, then they will never forget it. That's one reason why unschooling is so successful.
An experienced state-school teacher, writing a comparitive report about state schools and home education, stated:
"Most children are inherently trusting. They assume we adults know best, so they generally acquiesce to school attendance. They learn to study, not because it necessarily interests them, nor because they really want to, but because they trust that it will be good for them, or they fear what people will do or say if they don't cooperate. They learn to give us what we want. Most try to get the work done and out of their way; some doing the minimum to get by and keep out of trouble; others do more than necessary to seek our approval. Fundamentally, though, the study skills they learn are a pretence, a pale shadow of the deep learning capacity seen in HE (Home Educated) children who follow their own interests." (2)
There will always be a proportion of students in any state school system who neither trust that school is good for them, who don't care if they don't cooperate, or who simply cannot thrive in such a barracks-like environment. They're either unmotivated or can't learn in such a situation. Or there are social problems connected to bullying, the drug culture, or family problems that inhibit their intellectual growth. Whatever the issue is for this 21.4% (in Värmland), it's not going to be solved in a school which is viewed by them as a jail, as a confinement, or as a cell. For many of these students school is, as John Gatto would call it, a "vampire network" that should have a stake driven through its heart, and where school bells innocolate each child to indifference and apathy.
There will always be a large minority in the school system that fails to have their potential drawn out and it won't usually be the fault of well-meaning teachers. That's one of the reasons we need homeschooling and different kinds of (non-state) schools with different curriculums to meet individual needs. Keir Watson, the British state-school teacher I cited earlier, has further observed:
"We make children believe that their future depends on their school attendance. However, we set them up to fail, because in trying to learn by the school method they find it hard to maintain interest, they get bored, they want to go and play - and we teach them to interpret this as their failure. We tell them to concentrate when they can't. At least not for a 6 period day. Some turn against themselves becoming withdrawn, depressed, anxious or switched off, others feel it as an acute injustice, and turn against authority, enjoying the disruption and consequential pantomime they can create around them. Changing these behaviour patterns which they learn at a very young age is very difficult, despite well meaning intervention, and by 16 few leave school as thriving learners - just listen to prospective employers and Universities Admissions Officers.
"Most children hate school. Their uncontrollable excitement at the end of the day, week or year is palpable and symptomatic of released suppression - as a teacher I witness this regularly and it does not feel healthy and is nothing I can be proud of.
"As most pupils equate school with education they become seriously switched off learning. This is a huge disservice to the individual and to society. I am reminded of it daily when pupils say 'Here is your homework sir' rather than 'Here is my homework sir'; when asked if they study anything outside school time most will look at you as if you are mad: 'I already give the best part of my week to school, why would I study anything at home!'. HE (Home Educated) children often complain that their schooled friends do not have many interests, and do not readily engage in debate for fear of looking 'uncool' - a coping mechanism to deal with school peer pressure. This is evidence of the damage school can do to the natural learning capacity of children. I appreciate how readily some people will dismiss these views as extreme, but I see the evidence day in day out, as do many anxious parents."
For Major Björklund the answer is more disciplinary powers to the teachers, as you would expect of a military man with no professional experience in teaching whatsoever. What of students who absolutely do not learn or thrive in state schools and whose parents keep them at home to homeschool them? Björklund's rottweiler, Lotta Edholm, would have these children traumatised even more and their parents devastated by ripping them out of the environment in which they thrive best - their homes - destroy their families and put them into foster care or into state institutions as has happened with Domenic Johansson. Those homeschoolers who manage to escape such terrorism by fleeing the Swedish Gulag have enough healing to go through.
You'd have thought that these officials could understand smashing up families is a lot more destructive than providing alternative education for the one in five who can't make it in Björklund's new school system. However, they don't even comprehend the damage done to those 21.4%, let alone those who pass but are damaged anyway. Keir Watson observes:
"Many parents of children withdrawn from school tell of a kind of healing process that takes place for a period (6 months to a year) while children get over the experience of school. Some parents, also, need this time to stop feeling they need to replicate school...After this recovery period children remember how to play and keep themselves busy all day. Rapidly then arises a great sense of inquiry and confidence. From this point on a parent may find that keeping up with the child's interest becomes a full time occupation and learning really takes off. You can't stop them learning it would seem, even though the learning appears chaotic, non-linear and non-school-like." (4)
And that terrifies the establishment locked as it is into an outmoded militaristic view of education. Yet it isn't actually "chaotic" - it works, and it works much better. For then you have an enthusiastic learner for life who is far better motivated to do well and serve society.
People like Education Minister Björklund, Stockholm School Gulag Chief Edholm and the others pretending to be liberty-loving liberal democrats remind me of the movie, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) starring Jack Nicholson. If you've never seen it, I highly recommend you do. It contains sharp intellectual and psychological tools for peeling back the illusion that is the modern Swedish 'Paradise'. Better still, get the original book by Ken Kesey. David Albert explains:
"Kesey's novel takes place against a backdrop of relentless institutional conditioning. While meetings on the ward may seem to be democratically organized and inmates - no, here they are called 'patients' - are urged toward accountability, one quickly realizes that there is no democracy at work in the asylum and that accountability is a sham. Inmates are tracked, without their consent, into well-demarcated groups as acutes and chronics, and then further subdivided into walkers, wheelers, and vegetables. The highest value to the Combine is neither democracy nor accountability, but COMPLIANCE, pure and simple, and its favorite strategem is to divide and conquer. And if that doesn't work, there are always drugs." (5)
It will not take you long, if you are aware of how the state schooling system works (it's pretty similar everywhere in the West today), that a reasonable comparsion can be made between a school and an asylum, and between the whole Swedish Utopian System and an asylum. Both are policed by largely unaccountable psychiatrists and social workers, who represent the 'church' of state and its political and bureaucratic 'priesthood', whose false 'urgencies' and 'alarms' we have been programmed into responding to with Pavlovian-style reflexes. We assume they are 'experts' (because it's been drummed into us) when they're not. Far too many of them are psychopaths. For these people, whose mindset is not infrequently fascist in outlook and behaviour, only self-reliance can be the antidote to such institutional stupidity and human destruction.
Homeschoolers in particular scratch their heads as to why these 'pigs in the parlour' behave in such an absurd, illogical and violent manner. I owe it to homeschoolers and to others who have become their victims to explain this mindset as it's really very simple to understand given a little elementary psychological know-how.
To explain the insane behaviour of some of these people you need to understand what psychologists call the Dunning–Kruger Effect which "is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes".
Incompetent individuals in, for example, the fields of education and family psychology (which is what we are here interested in), tend to vastly over-estimate their own level of skill. What is frightening is that this commonly tends to be the basis of central planning. You will notice that the people who have actually created jobs tend to be a little bit sceptical of centralised planning and people who have never spent much time in the free market.
Take Karl Marx, for example. He couldn't get a job on the railway, tried to invest in the stock market and failed completely, made his life a complete mess, and believed...in central planning! He was incapable of running his own life. Marx was completely incompetent in the real world and concluded he could get competence running everyone else's life like your psychopathic social worker.
Incompetent individuals fail to recognise genuine skill in others. You have to be really good at something to recognise that someone else is really good at something. It takes an experienced educator, one who has had teaching experience, like Keir Watson, to recognise that homeschooling works, for example, or for an experienced and successful family man or woman to be competent to become a good social worker and deal sensitively and constructively with families.
Incompetent individuals also fail to recognise the extremity of their inadequacy. No, of course, if you can train incompetent individuals to become competent they will, albeit with embarrassment, be able to look back and admit they messed up because they had no idea at the time the egregious errors they were making. So in psychological tests anybody who scores in the lower 25% in humour, grammar and logic grossly over-estimate their test performance and ability. You can see this in nationalism when people say, "My country is best!" when it isn't.
People who reject logic reject it because they think they're good at it, and they think they're good at it because they're really bad at it. It is not an easy thing to achieve truth-reality consistency, something which the establishment politicians seem to be unable to do when it comes to homeschooling as with social workers who have no clue what true family life ought to be like, many of them coming from dysfunctional backgrounds themselves.
There is another problem in bringing truth, reason and evidence to incompetent people: evidence tends to reinforce error. Individuals who receive unwelcome information may not simply resist challenges to their views but may come to actually use this information to reinforce their original (erroneous) convictions even more strongly, illogical though this may seem to be! This is known in psychology as the 'backfire effect' or 'motivated reasoning'.
"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (Charles Darwin).
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision" (Bertrand Russel).
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool" (William Shakespeare, As You Like It, V.i).
When incompetent people have power, a country is doomed to an ignominious decline into barbarism. The problem for Sweden, and other nations imitating her, is, in part, one of a lack of competence in the places it matters the most. Intelligent, informed and experienced teachers whom I know in my own municipality have a greater understanding of homeschooling than most of the politicians and judges on the higher rungs of the ladder of power. They didn't at first because hardly anyone homeschooled beyond the third grade. Even with this absurd and illegal 'law' that makes homeschooling virtually impossible, there are those locally who know better than the Björklunds, Edholms, Schellers, Hoffstedts and others in Stockholm with their heads in the clouds, blinded by their Marxist Utopian dream and indifferent to the suffering of others they trample in order to realise that dream.
The schools in Värmland may not have achieved the régime's targets last year but that is no fault of the teachers. It is the fault of a system that belongs to the dinosaur age of education. This is the 21st century, not the 19th, and slowly - very slowly - Sweden and the world are beginning to wake up. The Berlin Declaration of 2012 is the first of many waves that will grow and force a backward planet to wake up and reinvent education. It won't be liked by the statists and utopians but theirs are failed and dangerous dreams that have historically done more harm than good. Home education is here to stay, it's going to grow and in due course burst upon the Swedish scene for a people weary of the anti-family, conformist control freaks in their ivory towers still trying to make the Communist Man work. It didn't in the 20th century and it won't in ours either, even though the gurus of this failed political crede are still trying to make it by propaganda, deception and barely concealed violence. Man is not a uniform animal, he is an individual, and he needs the air to breathe as one. And the sooner they wake up to that truth, the better for all of us.
(1) John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: 2005), p.xiii.
(2) Keir Watson, Memorandum on the Badman Report to the British Parliament (September 2009)
(3) Keir Watson, ibid.
(4) Keir Watson, ibid.
(5) John Taylor Gatto, op.cit., p.xvi-xvii.