We Don't Need No Education

I feel that I could lecture indefinitely on the injustices of the education system in England if I really got going. And Student Finance for that matter. I also can't think of anything worse than parroting what is common knowledge; poor or non-existent careers advice, class dichotomies, a rigid and outdated curriculum.
It’s the time of year when school children, and in particular, college students stress about impending examinations. Phrases such as “your whole life depends on these grades” are casually tossed into conversation, amidst the angst and nerves permeating revision classes. There is also, annoyingly, an abundance of self-righteous articles bestowing advice to worried parents detailing how they should help their teenagers prepare.
At high school I was an undeniable geek. I worked hard and would hope my head is filled with things other than fanciful daydreams; but I also took the teachers’ word as inevitably possessing some grain of truth and rationality, given their authority.
So upon the arrival of A-levels, it is hoped that you have developed a strong independent work ethic. Yet I feel that too many students are afraid to embrace independent thought and define their own individuality for fear of being perceived as rebelling against the system. Furthermore, I think the schooling system actively supresses individuality and creativity.
I used to spend three hours a day on the bus travelling to and from a college further along the Norfolk coastline than I was technically permitted to attend. It was a great college with a true bohemian vibe. Half my day would be spent beavering on the sewing machines in the textiles workshop; the afternoons shimmered by in the summer heat as I hung out of the bay windows of my English classroom reading the classics. More than often I would simply chat to my fantastically unconventional English teacher, who would shake his head passionately and urge me to rise against the establishment, silver earrings jangling and huge feet kitted in Doc Martins with purple laces. 
Of course it wasn't that rosy. My attendance averaged about fifty per cent. I had daily altercations with my tutor, head of year, and in particular, my scary history teacher (there’s always one). Why? Because I refused to be in college when I could work so much more efficiently on my own. If I wasn’t sat at my desk at home, I’d most definitely be found skiving lessons sat in the library or out on the lawn. I really do object to time-wasting in educational institutions. Of course it’s not acceptable to routinely skive lessons. But if you feel that you can utilise and manage your time more productively than people organising it for you, I do wish that teenagers would do it.
I was told that I was going to fail. I would never get a university place. My head of year begged me not to take four A-levels. And I was blissfully oblivious to insults. 
The day one collect's A-level results is a rite of passage; a defining moment in a young person’s life that heralds your adventures into the big, wide world. My English Literature teacher once said to me that “There’s nothing that can match the feeling of opening your A-level results, getting what you wanted and knowing that you worked for it”. Forever late, I was the last person in the year to collect them. And I’ve never been more proud than when I stood in the shade of the beech tree on the tennis lawns, on a baking August afternoon and saw, in tiny black print, in a uniform column, four A-stars.
Now I’m in my first year at university, all sense of order really has flown away just like those flighty teenage years; as to be expected. I work until six or seven o’clock in the morning and sleep until the afternoon. The other day my Mum rang and bossily insisted I listen back to a Radio Four documentary about exam advice. Before I could interject and say that a) I don’t need any advice and b) I loathe self-righteous, self-help gurus; in classic, airy lucidity, Mum declared:
“This silly woman rang in worrying that her daughter studied until eleven at night. Well she’s in for a reality shock! I mean look at you working ‘till the early hours. I hope she gets used to seeing her daughter with huge black bags under her eyes. They just don’t live in the real world do they chrissie?!”
Anyway. What I really mean to say is that you should stand by your work patterns; nobody can tell you what is best for you. Don't let others inhibit your sense of 'self' and ability to succeed.
I hope I will be able to write a blog post sometime soon, though I have two very difficult exams to revise (I mean start learning stuff) for in a couple of weeks.  This week I inconveniently decided to get conjunctivitis which meant I couldn’t really see for a few days, let alone work. On the plus side, following in the vein of free-spirited academic timetabling, I got to dance with my university ‘FUSION’ Dance Troupe once more at a charity gala; our last performance of the academic year. Even though my mother threatened to come up to London personally and pin me down in bed in the hope of a speedy recovery. It's times like these I can just hear her intoning “You can’t tell them at that age”.

The blog title is taken from Pink Floyd’s classic hit ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ from the album ‘The Wall’ which protests against the rigidity of British schooling.


  1. Hello Dear One!

    Yes, I say that because I feel like an auntie at this point. I feel your harangue and please know that you'll be fine, in every way! You will survive the educational insanity and will ultimately gain something from it, despite the parts that are archaic. You will heal and rebound from your current malaise, and most importantly, you have a mother that loves you!

    Even at the age of 59, I can still hear my father mournfully intone, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." Too true, but I still benefitted from his counsel even if I didn't follow his advice.

    Your performance looks lovely. In my next life I will be a dancer!

    Love, Jean

  2. I just wanted to tell you that your writing is really inspiring! Thanks for indirectly leading me to your new (quick) blog entry ;) Please keep doing what you're doing here as a writer :) I am so sure you've inspired a lot of people already. And school is school. We gotta learn what we can and I definitely agree with the contradiction of living life within (and with) the education system and everything it projects and teaches to society.

  3. I wish I knew my work style - I'm 2nd year at uni and just can't knuckle down, not sure how I'm here, haha! Your writing is lovely by the way!

    Also, thanks for commenting on my blog post! I'd say that the absolute best primer for pores is Benefit's Porefessional? :) xx

  4. First of all, thank you so much for your wonderful comment on my blog, you have no idea how much that means to me! Secondly, I agree that some features in the educational system can stifle creativity such as some teachers sticking rigidly to the course and not wandering for a minute or engaging in interesting conversations that are slightly off topic. My art teacher has taken a strong dislike to me because, although I like her telling me what she thinks I should improve on, I like coming up with my own ideas and not just doing what she wants me to do! It's so annoying as art is my favourite subject but I just don't feel like she cares, as she doesn't encourage you like good art teachers should. But I do tend to work best with inspiring teachers and an interested, engaged class, and I'm so lucky to have some brilliant classes like that. But you're right, everyone has their own way of working best, and sometimes the educational system doesn't support that. Thanks again for your lovely comment!

  5. It still shocks me that students are going to have to pay crazy amounts of money from sep 2012 to receive an education, I don't know what I would have done. I mean of course there are student loans but do we really wanna be in THAT much debt? x

  6. This is fabulous. I have exactly the same attitude as you do to the education system; I have my first two public exams this week and the general mood at school is that getting good grades is the most important thing in the world, let alone understanding the words we regurgitate onto the exam papers or even, you know, ENJOY the experience of learning! There's some subjects I end up buying the revision guides for and learning two years worth of work in the same number of weeks before my exam in it. I haven't learnt the information; I've memorised it without understanding what it actually means. For me this is only in Science-based subjects and I'm lucky that is isn't for all of my exams! The difference in the amount of learning required for such exams is staggering too. For example, my History exam has required minute attention to detail and a high standard of effort in class all year and will also need painstaking hours of careful revision for me to be in the position to get a decent grade.On the contrary, my Biology exam revision consists of me copying out around 12 pages of bullet points from the exam board stimulus and re-writing it until the language is embedded in my brain, despite the fact that I don't completely understand all the processes I'm writing about.

    Your A-Level English teacher sounds brilliant. If I was ever an English teacher I'd want to be really eccentric and teach enjoyable classes that people wanted to attend and give them more freedom with their choice of books to read and write about etc. Sadly, most teachers are under as much, or even more pressure than the pupils they teach to hit targets of grades and exam results meaning that the syllabus is shoved down our throats at 100mph without much opportunity to stop and ask "why?" about most of the topics we are taught about. Luckily I do have some fantastic teachers, many of whom resent this robotic way of educating the youth of today but they still have to find a way of ticking all of the red tape boxes they are forced to or risk their jobs. It is a vicious cycle and one I am sorry to say I will be pleased to be out of in several years time.

    On a final note about your work patterns; I find I write the best essays and can concentrate the most post-10pm when all is quiet and it is just me, my pen and my paper. Yes it means I can sometimes be zombie-fied the next morning, but I'll have written a killer 1000 word piece on Macbeth that I'm really happy with. Everyone works differently - ie I have to have music on, but the music CANNOT have words (so it's a mix of film soundtrack and classical) but I don't see what the problem is as long as the work is completed to the deadline that has been set! Great to see so many posts about education; actually if you get a chance read Caitlin Moran's column on today's Magazine in The Times - it talks about her views on the education system (though it focusses mainly on primary schools) from her perspective as someone who was home schooled. She raises many of the same issues and also acts what the "point" of all this teaching and supposed learning is if it's just to pass exams. Really enjoyed this Christobel!

    Alexandra xx


  7. This couldn't be more akin to my own experience of the English State Education. During my GCSE years I averaged around 50% attendance as I couldn't justify sitting in lessons when I could use my time so much more efficiently on my own. Teacher's became frustrated with me as they couldn't comprehend how I was achieving and missing their lessons. What they failed to understand was I was working harder than many of my peers and that studying individually allowed me the freedom to develop which the restrictive curriculum prevented. I do not intend to sound arrogant or presumptuous about my own ability and all the teachers could have greatly expanded my knowledge and understanding had they had the opportunity to teach in a more cohesive environment. The problem is not the people working within the system but the system its self. Students are reduced merely to statistics which reflect the success of the school.

    My French class had 37 people in it, 30 spaces at desks and around 25 text books. People question why state schools fail at languages.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post it is extremely thought provoking and I was inspired to write an anecdote from my own experience of state education.

    Ellie xxxxxx


  8. Yes, everyone does have their own work style. Many ladies in my family are insomniacs -- working best at 2 am. I, on the other hand, prefer the early to bed, early to rise ethic. One thing is for sure. I didn't realize what hard work was until University! High school was way too easy, and it was only when I hit Uni in England that I discovered the world was full of far more brilliant people than I :)

    Glad to see you dancing! And I remember that song.

  9. I love that song! =)



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