Under a teasing sun warming
behind the classroom glass
the glacier slow drag to term’s end
and then, just when it seemed that
the final day would never arrive,
it did. Freedom day, best day of the year
the start of the summer holidays
and naturally children’s thoughts,
once freed from classwork, turn quickly
to lessons, recording attainment
and graduating, cap and gown
…from university – at 8 years old!
If a child naively thought that they could do children’s things in the summer hols, then they should think again. For here we introduce Children’s University for 5-14 year olds; killing two birds with the one stone; more pressure on our children to ‘achieve’ and that false achievement then celebrated.
Actually, this university is a delusional summer school puffed up by verbiage and an all-smiling, professional website, as is SOP nowadays for anything connected to education. This done without (apparently?) considering the pandemic effect on real childhood experiences and achievements by conflating them with phoney ones, like the C U. Here, after completing the required number of educational units, which have to be diligently recorded (at five years old, ha ha!), children even attend a cap and gown graduation where they get their ‘degree’! No doubt, all this is Faceborged by proud (and obviously better!) parents. Everybody graduates, of course, except they don’t really. But the inversion, devaluing and degrading of language is real, as is the child’s loss of valuable playing time.
Some may say: Now, hold on, Seneca. This claim hardly does credit to the wisdom you feign in borrowing the mantle of your illustrious namesake; what’s wrong with someone putting together some activities and lessons for the summer hols? Kids get bored sometimes, you know! Stated thusly, the answer is – absolutely nothing! Doing things, educational or otherwise, with children over the holidays (and especially, your own children) is natural and right. Organising at local level, also meets my approval. But the C.U. idea goes beyond this organically-sized project. And taking the thinking, beyond the simple idea, to second level and beyond allows us to see danger shaping up.
Firstly, in the obligation on parents and children to be thinking of lessons and attainment during what is traditionally a downtime; ignoring that this downtime is central to consolidation of learning and mental recovery. As if still at school, the child’s mind never gets into holiday mode, but always has a lesson coming up; moreover, one which has to be recorded into their uni ‘passport’. I liken this situation to an adult going on holiday and daily checking their work emails or updating their professional development folder!
Secondly, conferring the word ‘university’ on children’s activities contributes to the phenomenon of ‘word inflation’, whereby the ordinary (or, dare you think it, substandard?) is redefined in glowing terms; thus to inflate the conceit of the hearer to better deceive them. By transferring meanings across adult and child domains we devalue terms and concepts, and confuse the recipients. It is a form of psychological manipulation, and by this means the disingenuous and downright lies enter into the things they describe. And thusly, are our schools full of bullshit. A cornerstone of the revival of our culture has to be an awareness of how this malefic language degrades us, wedded to a conscious attempt to restore natural language by rejecting the verbose, the deceitful and the Orwellian.
Finally, I am concerned at the real threat that comes with funding and nice websites – that of subversion. Can anyone doubt now, with White racism and sexism found everywhere, that such a ready-made platform (tailored to the demographic most desired by our masters) will soon find itself dancing to their tunes.
Anyway, I don’t believe the claim that such programmes create a sense of achievement and boost confidence. I think that, regardless of a child’s real interest in the topic they are studying, it is seen as just another adult-mediated thing they are forced to do. And parents are, at best, patronising their children if they buy into this idea of the Children's University.
I think that parents should be wary of such programmes. Let your children have real time off. If they get bored, then that’s their problem to fix.
There is a time and a place for everything, but it seems that every time and place is to be seized as an opportunity to impose ‘good ideas’ on our children. Everything is about achievement, it seems; it’s as if children are preparing their C.V. at 8 years old. Maybe they are.
What think ye?