Weeknote 1

Tuesday 15th November, 2022

This is my third (?) attempt at weeknotes, let’s see if I can stick to them this time. I won’t be writing them at the end of a week, I’ll likely write them on Tuesdays as that’s my ‘Masters day’ and when I get the most time to myself.

This past week I’ve had COVID and it really did a number on me. Sore throat, snot, cough, exhaustion, loss of smell. I started the week thinking it was heaven sent as I felt close to burning out from working too much and this seemed a good excuse to really stop, then ended the week feeling so totally weird and trippy that there was no way to put a positive spin on it. I am now, thankfully, more-or-less back to normal and have tested negative. Going out of the house today has felt like a real privilege and an adventure.

I have been in bed reading a lot. I read Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society and the follow up Tools for Conviviality. I also watched this excellent YouTube video about his work. I’ve recently been dipping into some of the classics of Sociology of Education - Foucault, Bourdieu, Freire - and whilst I like aspects of their work (particularly Freire) they do not resonate and captivate me in the same way as Illich’s writing does.

The last time I felt captivated in the same way was reading G.K. Chesterton, who, like Illich, is Catholic. They are neither liberals nor socialists. Not conservatives nor progressives. G.K. Chesterton advocated for distributism, which I think I largely agree with, and Illich is hard to pin down. I don’t really know what I am talking about but I wonder whether Catholic intellectuals are able to have more interesting takes on things than Protestants as Protestantism is so closely linked to industrialisation and capitalism.

Another book I’ve been enjoying is George Dennison’s The Lives of Children, first published in 1970. Dennison describes how he set up a small alternative school in a poor neighbourhood on the Lower East Side of New York City. I am interested in learning about progressive education projects in poorer areas, as this type of education is often thought of as only possible for children from more well-off/educated families who have the requisite values and behaviours. There’s a lot of classism inherent in this kind of statement, by saying that poor kids need more ‘structure’ or more ‘knowledge rich’ learning we underestimate and undervalue their home cultures, and assign them a subhuman status. Without intervention from us, we think, they will never learn self-control or all the things they need to be successful. This is a very colonial mindset imo and it’s hard for educators (including myself) to unlearn.

Finally, I’ve been working my way through the archives of About Learning, a podcast by Stan Pinsent. I, first of all, dipped in and out of the episodes that interested me, but then went back and listened from the beginning. The podcast has been recorded over a few years so it was fascinating to hear his thoughts evolve, and I think we’ve ended up at similar places. He’s a trustee of Human Scale Education, and I think this is an organisation that broadly reflects where I am at with education — schools need to be smaller and focussed on relationships.