Monday, July 30, 2012

Parenting beyond boundaries

Radical Unschooling

Radical unschoolers seem to have this reputation of being really free-wheeling, anything-goes-to-the-point-of-unparenting folk, and I really don’t think that’s true of anyone, especially the Christian radical unschoolers. Everyone has their “thing” and even the most liberal atheistic RUS will have what they will and will not accept when it comes to their children.

To not have personal standards or requirements of our children is to tip over into the realm of neglect, and I think that folks who have made the active choice to unschool, no matter how wacky their ideas may seem, are far from neglectful or uninterested in their children. They may make decisions that in the end are possibly unwise and at worst irresponsible, but that is not the same as just not caring about your kid – who they are, how they feel, and what they do.

Even in parenting without limits and boundaries, there is still the fact that we are feeding into our children our own thoughts, feelings, experiences, wisdom, and knowledge. We are still under the command to raise up disciples. The difference comes in the manner in which we do that discipling.

Christian Radical Unschooling

To a Christian radical unschooler, our bottom line is that our children, regardless of their age, size, gender, birth order, giftings, issues, etc, are our fellow human beings and should be treated with the exact same dignity, respect, and consideration as any of the other seven billion people on this planet. The only difference between our children and the dude down the street is that we have been given special spiritual and physical responsibility for them as their coverings.

So what it really boils down to is: “How do you disciple your neighbors – when you are directly responsible for them and they live in your home?”

Different people have different ideas about what constitutes discipling: from a strict, methodical, punitive discipline approach, all the way to just “hoping they’ll make the right decision” without ever once giving any example or instruction. For ME, I look to Christ and His apostles as my example for discipling others, including my children. Jesus led by example, and asked folks to follow Him, but did not coerce or browbeat anyone into making that choice.

My children follow me. They mimic me. They mirror every word I say and attitude I exhibit. They go where I go and breathe in the spiritual air I breathe out. *IF* I am doing a good job in following and mirroring Christ, then it eventually will come to a point where their faith must be their own, and their OWN hearts must be either for or against God. They will no longer be mirroring, but walking on their own.

The Freedom to Choose

One day, they will make that choice for themselves, whether to walk the way Jesus walks, or to walk the path that leads to destruction. I believe that God is not interested in righteous pagans. It is not my desire to have children who “look good on paper” but are really just whitewashed tombs. So I would much rather have raised a child who can say, “I don’t believe,” and have the intellectual honesty to tell me as much, than one who professes faith but is a complete hypocrite inside.

Setting limits and boundaries about what is acceptable behavior doesn’t teach the heart and mind, nor does it form character. Those things are “inherited” through following another’s example and making it one’s own. By demanding certain rules be followed, we miss the opportunity to allow our children to naturally grow from mimicry, to making choices for themselves.

When we attempt to exert our will over another to create a limit or boundary to their behavior, whether our child, or someone else, we are doing something that God Himself does not even do.  We are bound by natural laws – we cannot simply flap our arms and fly away for example – but our behavior is governed by our own internal controls.  God does not MAKE us do anything. He gives us commands, and requests we follow them, but it is up to us to choose whether or not we will do it.  When we find it difficult, He gives us His Spirit and power to accomplish those things.

That is, I believe, the key to parenting without limits. We invite our children to follow us, which they do as a natural extension of being our children. When they are young, and find something harder than others, we assist them to make the choices we feel are best (i.e. taking them to church with us, removing them from dangerous situations, etc). As they mature, and no longer need our assistance, they begin to own their behavior for themselves; forming their own relationship with Christ.

In the end, we only have control over the behavior of ONE person on this planet – our own. Everyone else, we are merely coaxing along to follow our example. We should work to make it a good one, because our children are apt pupils. They WILL learn what we teach them – whether we realize we included the lesson or not.


Don't blame Britain's universities for their lack of state-school students

Vince Cable's efforts to force universities to admit more working-class students are ridiculous, given what the Government has done to slow social mobility, says Archie Cornish

Vince Cable’s calls for elite universities to admit a greater proportion of working-class students or face financial penalties are a little empty. As of September, proposals state, "elite" universities will face penalties of up to £500,000 if they do not admit an externally set quota of state school students.

Cable is casting the Russell Group universities in the role many feel the banks occupy: rogue, self-interested institutions which burn and pillage society and must be slapped on the wrist, or better handcuffed. It is a piece of political evasiveness as cheap as David Cameron’s cack-handed (and inaccurate) observation last year that Oxford had only admitted one black student. The government’s ministers have always struggled to distance themselves from the institutions which propelled them into power, but are usually met with little more than impatience: Oxford and Imperial College London have reacted to the Business Secretary’s remarks by telling him to mind his own Business.

This government has severely damaged access for Britain’s universities. It introduced the infamous £9,000 maximum fees, which most of the big names are set to charge, and which were met with sometimes obnoxious (that flag-swinging) but undoubtedly serious protests. The government has always argued that it had to hike the fees given the economic climate, and while this may be true, there can be no excusing its atrocious presentation of the policy: the £9k bombshell was interpreted as a standard (rather than maximum) fee, and the its architects failed to emphasise the waivers and delays available for poorer students. When this year’s applications to UCAS were predicted to fall by 10 per cent in January, the sound of two and two being put together could .

Given how much the Coalition government has done to compromise poorer students' access to top universities, it is ridiculous for Cable to portray them as obstacles in the path of reforms.

That's not to say that reforms aren't needed. Oxford, Cambridge and the other Russell Group universities have an unhealthy stranglehold on power and influence in Britain. More needs to be done to ensure that applicants from a wider range of schools get into top universities, so that the future elite is drawn from more than private schools and some exceptionally good state schools.

Oxford itself has decided to target prospective applicants not by school but by income, seeking out those whose families earn less than £16,000 a year, and who traditionally will not go to university. This makes greater social sense - but, unfortunately, poorer headlines. Michael Moritz’s donation of £75m, on the other hand, made a big splash. The welcome reception of the millionaire’s gift, which by next year will already assist 100 students, suggests that in the face of unrelenting funding cuts, universities must ramp up their strategies for targeting alumni for support.

True change in education needs more than money, though, just as real social mobility relies on more than quotas and figure-fixing. The director of the Sutton Trust, which last year rated Cambridge’s Oxbridge-feeder Hill’s Road Sixth Form College as an "elite institution", explained the school’s success in terms of the high percentage of children whose parents are Cambridge dons. If this shows anything, it is that there is more to school success than the private-state dichotomy Cable relies on.

In contrast, Cable’s remarks are just not subtle enough. The top universities really are not evil opponents of change, and the government’s attempts to fashion themselves as crusaders for social mobility are transparent and hypocritical. Like so many proposed actions on universities, it is a surface solution to a deep, complex problem.


Britain's "Academies" given power to hire unqualified teachers

I agree with this.  I was a successful High School teacher despite having not one minute of teacher training

Thousands of state schools will be allowed to hire unqualified staff to teach for the first time because ministers believe the best teachers are “born, not made”.

Under existing rules, all mainstream state schools have had to ensure their teachers held “qualified teacher status” (QTS) after completing officially recognised training.

However, the Department for Education announced that academies will be given the same freedom that private schools have to hire anyone they think would succeed in the classroom.

Headteachers of academies will be able to employ professional scientists, engineers and musicians, or experienced staff from overseas, who could make excellent teachers but do not have QTS, the government said.

Under new contracts announced yesterday, all schools that become academies from November will automatically be given the new freedom to hire staff without QTS.

Michael Gove, the education secretary, will also allow all 1,957 existing academies, including around half of state secondary schools, to apply for the same power.

Mr Gove was unavailable for comment on his reforms, which are expected to be resisted by teachers’ unions.

The education secretary has already clashed with the two biggest teaching unions, the NASUWT and the NUT, over a series of changes that they say amount to an attack on teachers’ pay and working conditions.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Independent schools and Free Schools can already hire brilliant people who have not got QTS.

“We are extending this flexibility to all academies so more schools can hire great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists who have not worked in state schools before.”

The spokesman said the “vast majority” of teachers were likely to continue to have formal teaching qualifications, and that no existing teacher’s contract will be affected.

But the extra “flexibility” should help schools improve more quickly. Officials said schools would continue to be held accountable for the quality of teaching through Ofsted inspection and league tables.

Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, a leading independent school, said an unqualified teacher who trains on the job is often better than someone with a postgraduate certificate in education.

“I strongly believe that teachers are born not made and I will actively seek out teachers from all walks of life who have the potential to inspire children," he said.  “We have 39 teachers without formal teaching qualifications, including me.”

However, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, representing secondary heads, urged academies to ignore the reforms.

“Teaching is a skill, and the idea of employing individuals who have not been given the tools to do a professional job flies in the face of the coalition government's aspiration of creating a high status profession,” he said.

“Of course subject knowledge makes a difference but it is no replacement for professional training.”

“This policy change is a retrograde step which ASCL would advise academies to ignore.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, accused the government of a “dereliction of duty.”

“All children deserve to be taught by qualified teachers,” she argued.

“Parents and teachers will see this as a cost-cutting measure that will cause irreparable damage to children's education. Schools need a properly resourced team of qualified teachers and support staff, not lower investment dressed up as ‘freedoms’.”

Stephen Twigg MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: "While we welcome more professionals coming into teaching there need to be clear safeguards and ensure there is adequate training capacity in schools. If there are issues with teacher training and development, they should be addressed head on, not avoided.

"These kind of announcements should be presented to Parliament, not sneaked out hours before the Olympics opening ceremony."


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