I've enjoyed reading the posts in this thread, Mifunes' and DonkeyToons' are the ones I can most easily relate to and reflect many of my own experience with school.
I went to state schools and they were decent schools I guess. I was a pretty disruptive influence in class, from the time a started primary until the time I left secondary and even into sixth form. I was probably the kind of cronut parents are trying to keep their kids away from when they send them to private school.
I was a clever kid and enjoyed learning, I started reading books without encouragement from an early age, but curiously grew out of this during my high school years, before starting to read again when I was 17. I don't think it's a coincidence that I didn't read much during high school because the way we approach learning in the UK completely crushes any enthusiasm one might have for a subject they're studying. Reading during high school English boils down to the "Point - Evidence - Explain" approach needed to pass the exam. A student could write a brief essay skilfully and concisely appraising a passage of text, but if they haven't used the PEE structure they'll struggle to attain the B demanded at GCSE level by most employers.
This for me is the problem with the education system in this country; the box-checking required to pass exams. As a result there's too much exam coaching and rote learning going on for school to be either enjoyable or effective. For me, the way we examine for every subject is suitable only for maths.
I'm another person who has found it easier to learn things out of school, under my own steam, than I ever did in class. French is a great example. A bunch of boring people with no imagination come up with a syllabus to be learnt: They must know numbers 1-100, they must know this list of colours, this list of hobbies, this list of food, these modes of transport
(I loved how l'aeroglisseur was included in this at my school to give a decent list length
), verb conjugations for aller and etre, but only these two verbs and only in the present tense. We won't discuss structure, similarities between the French and English languages, or prepare them in away for having a conversation in French. Let the rote learning extravaganza commence.
I thought my French teacher was fantastic, very enthusiastic, great sense of humour and her lessons were always enjoyable. She had no chance of actually teaching us proper French though because the curriculum didn't allow it.
I was talking to someone the other day about how patriotic (and if we're being perfectly candid, xenophobic and racist) I was during my youth, how I never wanted to leave England and that I dropped French when I was 13 as a result. I was asked if I regretted dropping it and my honest answer was no, because I legitimately believe that I'd have needed to start again from scratch even if I'd studied it for a further two years at school.
I finished high school at 15, I think the minimum wage for kid that age was about £2 an hour and I was eligible for Education Maintenance Allowance (£30 per week plus bonuses if your attendance was over a certain amount I believe). So there was every incentive for me to continue with my "education". I'd came to enjoy school anyway because of my mates there, and had no idea what opportunities would be out there for a 15 year old kid in a small town with no money and a handful of GCSEs. Leaving the safety net of school at that age had "stacking shelves for 50 years for minimum wage and then dying" written all over it and it frightened me.
So despite longing to get out of school my entire life I found myself staying on for sixth form and eventually going to a well respected university.
A couple of people have expressed regret at not having the chance to study a subject they love to a high level. Don't worry, you didn't miss out on much, in my experience higher education doesn't really represent that, it's a continuation of the same crap you go through at school.
The real eye-opener for me was a Risk Assessment module in my second year. Holy s*** it was boring and not the sort of thing I was expecting at all when I signed up. I was the only one in the year who failed it, the others didn't just pass it, they aced it. No one could understand how I had failed such a banker subject, but the lectures were too tedious to attend. Revising for it was mind-numbing and I couldn't commit to it, so I just accepted I was going to fail it and enjoyed myself. In the end I scored just enough not to be thrown off the course, but by that point I was past caring, I'd realised it wasn't for me. Not just the education but the kind of career that would inevitably follow; people in big companies, in boxes, doing set tasks, the product dropping off the conveyor belt may have once held an interest for them, but the actions they perform day after day are faceless and mundane.
University was great for me. Meeting new people, broadening my horizons, learning to stand on my own two feet. I had some fantastic times and learnt so much, unfortunately little of it relating to my course. I always performed well on the big projects, they interested me and I found them easy to invest in, but I bombed way too many of the filler modules to with a decent grade.
So on the subject of state vs. private education, for me it makes no difference, They both set you on the same soul destroying path. Perhaps had I been privately educated I'd have scored better grades, my degree might have led me into the field I'd chosen to study, I'd have a mortgage, a company car and an excellent salary. And I'd probably be f***ing miserable.
I fully intend to never have kids (irritating little shits the lot of them
) but if the worst should happen and I one day end up with one, I know I could provide a better education for them than they'd receive at school. I guess there are three problems with home-schooling though:
1 - Having the free time to do it
2 - You're denying them the company of people their own age and keeping them somewhat sheltered and isolated, home-schooled kids always seem a little strange
3 - You're having to spend all day with the irritating little s***
Just an aside on the mocking of subjects like horticulture and animal husbandry, I think they should be taught in schools to some extent, for a couple of reasons. Firstly I remember back to a conversation I had with a former schoolmate before I went to university. He was a nice lad, but he was, for want of a better term, a simpleton. He was adamant that algebra shouldn't be taught at GCSE on the basis that he had never, and would never, use it in his day to day life. I tried to explain that the world as we know it would exist without basic algebra, that the building we were stood in would collapse, that his car wouldn't work, that his phone wouldn't exist. He didn't get it.
The point I'm trying to make is that although you may never use that knowledge yourselves, it's pretty f***ing important that someone, somewhere is using it if you hope to see food on the shelves next time you go shopping. It also doesn't hurt for people to know where their food comes from, you'd be amazed how ignorant some people are when it comes to this.
The second point, and feel free to dismiss this as paranoid rambling if you wish, but there may come a time when you have to start providing for yourselves again, My generation, and the ones above and below, are used to lives of convenience, being able to pick what they want off a shelf or a menu or even having food brought to their house. But imagine if some catastrophe meant this was no longer possible, if modern civilisation collapsed due to a a supervolcano erupting, or a solar storm causing global power outages, or a nuclear war or act of cyber terrorism. Perhaps more realistically in the UK, what if the pound's value crashed? Overpopulation means the UK has to import 40% of its food, a figure which is rising all the time due to population growth, and which could spike dramatically due to rising sea levels, much of the UK's arable farm land is in low lying wet areas. The Levels already take a pounding every time it rains, and the Fens are just as vulnerable. Both will probably be lost by the end of the century.
I look at my Grandad's generation, skilled gardeners who are able to produce, store and use large amounts of food from small patched of land. Our generation would have no chance, these skills are being lost, many people wouldn't know how to cook their food even if they could produce it.
One final thing: I'm still quite old-fashioned in that I like to handwrite everything, so if we could just spare a quick thought for the tree that was sacrificed during the creation of this post...