It is often said, education is a way out of poverty. If you study hard, get good grades, secure that job, buy your dream home and raise a family - you have achieved success. Yet is it really that simple or is it time to question whether working-class children are even equipped to succeed in the modern world, or are they falling through the cracks?
Be impartial they say, yet you could argue we are all partially educated.
Participate in democracy they say, yet the education system fails to create anything other than social robots.
Reliance on parental involvement for informal education is important of course, yet they ‘forget’ those parents who were educated in the same system.
STEM subjects are vital. Science enhances analysis, English increases vocabulary and Math forms the ability to problem-solve. However, when did we stop learning how to learn?
Critical thinking is key. Some don’t understand it, others don’t value it and leaders are in fear of it. Yet, it is the single most crucial attribute one needs to thoroughly understand the modern world, and how to play the game we call life.
Call it what you like, Sociology, political, snowflakey, or woke. The fact remains that it is simply allowing yourself to be educated through multiple and different prospects. Then, and only then, can you authentically make decisions based on your newly founded, well-rounded, reality.
So here I am, in tens of thousands of pounds in debt, but appreciative of my degree, nonetheless. There is no way I could be here, in Scotland, participating in a writing retreat without the realisation of my critical thought. Generated from my informed opinions and inner voice just bursting at the seams to be heard. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a degree to come to this realisation, we all have the ability. However, it is suppressed by material ideas and oppressed by systems larger than yourself.
Work this one out, if knowledge is power, and your knowledge is regulated. Does this mean they control our power? Scary thought, right?
School in the 90s, back when school dinners were sufficient portions, communities traversed, and homework was completed with pen and paper. That’s how I remember it anyway, I received the majority of my hot meals in school, I got told off by the Neighbours and my sums were calculated on the back of a debt letter whilst using a pen from the local bookies! It’s not all bad though, is it? I remember thinking at primary age, “if I work hard in school, I’ll get a good job, then I’ll have loads of money, won’t I?”. Work hard, play hard yeah? Expect my hard work, good grades and polite manner didn’t clothe me, feed me, or protect me.
Comprehensive school, where your ability is categorised, your hormones are in turmoil, and you’re held increasingly accountable for your behaviors. What a cocktail! At this point, you have more social agency as you gain responsibility and more academic freedoms as you select your options choices. However, it’s important to note that in the current education system you’re under constant restrictions and regulations. You could be labeled as the ‘gift and talented’, I was neither. You could get the opportunity to participate in external courses such as the Duke of Edinburgh program, but I wasn’t naughty enough. So where was I you may ask, well, I was falling through the cracks.
Growing up I witnessed domestic violence, lived in poverty, and observed inequalities all around me. The only way I could understand this experience was by recognising that ‘this is NOT fair!’ My parents didn’t value education much or truly see the relevance in things such as algebra or adjectives. I’d say, “it’s parents' evening next Thursday”. The response I received was, “not a chance, I didn’t like school, to begin with, and I’m never going to voluntarily go back there”. Year after year, a general consensus of parental involvement was encouraged by the school, yet there was no one to push me forward, and no teacher noticed I stood alone. And this is where I found my new comfort zone, hidden and unnoticed, in the cracks.
I wasn’t alone there, other children, much like me, were also there. I believe this is what the government or educational institutions refer to as ‘problem children’. I found a new power, resistance! I was angry enough, vocal enough, however, I was not educated enough. As a blind sniper, I distributed my ammunition by drinking in the street, causing trouble, and making poor choices. I got away with most, I’m in the cracks remember. I liked it there, my attendance was good enough and my grades were high enough to sustain my position in the comfort zone. And I remained in that position right throughout the rest of my compulsory education.
As I grew older and at the start of my adulthood, I noticed the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Despite my resistance, nothing had changed. I’d actually protected myself in the surrounding walls of the cracks. I’d had enough, change of tactic!
As a mature student, I enrolled in a university, still tormented by the notion of “this is NOT fair”. How can I understand society if I’ve never studied it, it's like driving a car without ever having a lesson? I didn’t go to university for the sports societies, the student discount, or the 18 to 30s holidays. I went to learn the language I needed in order to be heard.