Category Archives: My Favourite Quotes

A short history of school

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”

said the world’s most darling mathematician, Albert Einstein, clearly outlining that school and education aren’t same thing.

But can they be mutually exclusive?

“Semantics” you might say. But really, education is what you learn and school is where you go to learn it.

Einstein was clearly criticising the formal school system. And rightly so. It couldn’t have been easy for a child who learnt to speak late, and who had an inquisitive mind and an overconfident contempt for authority.  No one saw his genius mind craving the gift of a more creative environment where he could be inspired and encouraged to think beyond a textbook, instead he was expelled from one school and told he wouldn’t amount to much, back when the yardstick to “much” was money or fame or teaching.

Fortunately, he amounted to far more than that thanks to the gift of a compass he was given at age five by his father. Thus began his obsession with magnetic fields, and the rest is an entirely different history lesson.

The question is what would have happened if his genius was noticed and given room to grow whilst he was in a classroom. Would this have made any difference? He might have solved more of the world’s greatest mysteries, or maybe not. Maybe the only difference would have been a happier childhood.

But before we get into the pros and cons and overall efficacy of the formal education system, we need to look at its history, because there can’t have been a single child throughout history, sitting bored and restless through a class that hasn’t sullenly wondered whose bright idea it was to “invent” school.

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So who was it?

In short, it is blamed on credited to American politician, Horace Mann – also known as “Father of the Common School Movement”.  Also, “Most Unpopular Visionary, Like Ever!”

So if you hate school, this is the guy you should be penning your letters of outrage to, kids. Although before you do, it would be best to realise that, to quote Mark Twain, “there are no new ideas”. Mr Mann didn’t think of it from scratch or all by himself. Education has actually been around for thousands of years, and school houses for hundreds. But it was Mann who started this whole “professional teachers promulgating organised curriculum to pupils” thing and even went so far as to implement it and then make it a legal requirement.

By 1918, his system of schooling had every child in the state of America attending at least primary school, by law. Naturally, word spread by any means possible (no doubt by gossipy parents moaning about relatives who were suddenly deemed ‘uneducated’) and soon schools were popping up all over the place. Kids, mostly boys, were being forced into brushing their hair and carrying the first of billions of sandwiches and pencils across a threshold of The Room of No Talking, and Breathing Only When Necessary. Here they sat for most of the day listening to a teacher tell them what they needed to know which would guarantee them a spot in society or prison, depending on their test marks and general behavioural disposition.

But mostly depending on their marks.

Anyway, this is a vastly simplistic outline of how we came to our current school system and we haven’t even touched on why it was necessary to create it, which is popularly thought to be a result of a changing societal structure brought about by the Industrial Revolution – with conspiracy theorists going so far as to say it cleverly created a compliant populace.

However, the point is still that the idea of finding ways to impart knowledge to children was not new by that time. Before Mann and The Committee of Ten reshaped and formalised the education system into a school with pupils, teachers and a curriculum, there were competing models, although these didn’t include the building of schools. This responsibility fell mostly to families to ensure that Jane could read a book to pass the time until she is able to nab herself a suitable enough husband, and John could become a farmer or shipping magnate, both requiring him to be able to at least read, write and do basic arithmetic.

This is what nowadays we refer to as “home-schooling”. A concept that strikes fear in the mind of a very high percentage of modern parents, who would sooner stab at their own eyes with coloured pencils, or worse, attend a parent teacher meeting, than try to teach Maths to their recalcitrant child every day.

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Here we are 100 years later, lots has changed in our schools, we have a better understanding of how a child’s brain works, we recognise the importance of nurturing the individual, but also a vast amount hasn’t changed. The way our kids are taught, the emphasis placed on the results of standardised testing, the millions of square pegs being squashed into round holes.

Just like the telegram morphed into an iPhone 7, school today should operate entirely differently to the way it did 100 years ago.

So why isn’t it?

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Life Tests – A Mini Timeline

“Life is a test of endurance, strengths, challenges and patience.” – Kim Hoth

Not the most profound quote, Kim, I hope you didn’t make money off it. But still, it did inspire me, for a bit of fun, and in anticipation of my 40th birthday, to put together a Timeline of Noticeable Tests I’ve been set by the Universe so far;

  • School:  1980-1991   – For someone with ADD (back when it was called laziness) and the social and sporting aptitude of a mole, school was a dark hell. To add to this, it was girls only, and coupled with the fact that I have two sisters and no brothers, a school social with a boys school was the Devil Ruler of that dark hell. Result: Pass with a certificate in the ability to remain invisible whilst wearing a yellow dress, a black cape and a tricorn hat. Yes, that was the uniform chosen by nuns, obviously.
  • Pregnant at 21: 1994-1995 – Due to not being overly excited at the prospect of any career path I was attempting to follow, and clearly having shed the ‘uniform of chastity’, I decided to travel a bit, find myself so to speak, and learn more about what it is I wanted from life. Well I found myself in London, knocked up and wanting an explanation from a particularly useless brand of birth control pills.                               Result: Pass with distinction in time travel abilities by going from age 21 to 40 in a single day.
  • Marriage: 2000-2008 – Yes, marriage is a test. A test of endurance, strengths, challenges and patience, quite right! Trust me, no matter what those teachers tell you , giving up can sometimes be an option. Put your pencil down; throw in the towel, or your hands in the air. It doesn’t matter. No-one puts a heavyweight together with a featherweight in a boxing ring, except when the referee is a Family Law Judge. Or someone will get badly hurt.                                                                                                  Result: Miserable fail, with written request from Principle of the Universe to make no further attempts at it. Ever again.
  • Divorce: 2008– present -Divorce is not really a test. It’s like a final contractually binding exam set by the Universe to ensure you live up to your promise to leave the subject of Marriage alone forever. Only, none of the things you’ve learnt are on the paper. In fact there is no paper. There is a train track and some rope, and an oncoming train filled with the relatives of your ex, and lawyers. The test is to survive being run over by the wheels of 18 carriages with your ex at the helm… Every day. For a year.  And not be hospitalised, but rather wake up every morning with a smiley face and make school lunches, and you may be rewarded with anti-anxiety medication. But that’s all. There is no accolade apart from surviving. If you do, then with no recuperation time whatsoever, you might find yourself in the midst of a test in…
  • Single-Parenting:  2008–present – This test is one of the easiest and the hardest. It’s like Life Orientation, one of those subjects they invented after I left school, obviously, or possibly it was invented after I left school for a reason, anyway. You can’t really study for it, and its multiple choice. So by the time you’ve guessed thousands of answers, eventually you just start colouring the answer squares in a particular pattern, like flowers or clouds shaped like happy faces, so at least it looks pretty, even if it’s wrong. The problem with this test is the fact that you don’t get your results for 20 years, which are presented after a final tally of children and grandchildren seated around your table for Christmas 2025, and like any multiple choice test, you have a 50/50 chance of doing brilliantly, or failing miserably. Result: Like in cricket, I won’t know until the end.
  • Retrenchment: 2012 – ? This test, being merely a month old, seems pretty easy, pleasant even, as it has eliminated a whole lot of the small daily tests. Like dreading a call from my boss who has already been at work in sunny Johannesburg for an hour, whilst I’m late and sitting in traffic that is moving 7cm every half an hour because it’s raining in Cape Town.  And how to explain to your child that it’s impossible to attend his grade’s Special Assembly at 8:30am on a Tuesday morning even though all the parents are welcome and encouraged to attend and everyone else’s parents are going to be there. No more of that, thanks to the Retrenchment Test. I’m quite sure it’s one of those tests that you think are really easy, but then you look around and see other people crying and chewing their pens, then you notice that feeling in the pit-of your stomach which you get when its starts to dawn on you that you’re probably missing something. I think my clue to the level of difficulty of this one, is the fact that its putting a real spanner in the ease of the single parenting test. I can’t help but think “eat toast and apples for a month” is not the right answer to “Money: What the hell are you going to do now” under the section In The Event Of You Getting What You Wished For.

I think I’m going to attach this to my CV. I reckon it blows any University degree right out of the water.

If I’m going to quote quotes about life’s difficulties, I prefer that one that goes something like. “Wine empties today of its troubles and tomorrow of its strength”…no wait, I just looked it up …its “Worrying doesn’t empty today of its troubles, but tomorrow of its strength”.  

Well, the first one makes way more sense to me anyway, but then again I’m not quite 40 yet, perhaps you need to be older, experience life a little to really get it.

“Silence is Golden, Duct Tape is Silver”

Before I had a teenager around, I would’ve thought this a lovely quote. Sadly, they can puncture inspiration like last summers lilo, and everything is the opposite of what you think to be a sane and reasonable thought. Although my son’s and I do share a sense of humour, and mostly our days are filled with a particular type of hilarity shared amongst ourselves. And only ourselves. This shared hilarity does not extend to times like when I use my voice reserved for when the cat is doing something particularly cute, and I’m telling her how cute she is, which sometimes also involves a bit of singing, which she loves because I can see it in the way she looks like she is actually smiling… And my teenage son walks past and mutters “Nurse, she’s out of her bed again”.

These moments render the quote entirely untrue because:

1. Many a teacher has told me will tell you that the class clown is never class captain.

2. “You fancy one more night on this planet?!” Is not the beginnings of a conversation where two people are about to get along.

3. Neither of us get anything done whilst I am holding him in a headlock with one arm behind his back, and demanding an apology and at least two examples of proof of how obvious it is that that comment does not apply to me. Which is as forthcoming as the Toothfairy is to Shady Days Home for the Aged.

I’m just saying, people should be careful what they say. Teenagers and Presidents in particular. Thats all.

Edward Monkton the Philosopher

I loathe self-help books. I’ve tried to read more than a few, as I am the person self help books are written for after all. “Screw it, Lets do it”…Im a sucker for punchy titles, they get me all worked up and gung-ho for about 4 pages of totally unrelatable lucky coincedences that certainly didn’t show themselves to me before my twelfth birthday. After which, my blank mind ready for the new attitude adjustment clouds over whilst I frantically scan through the rest of the book looking for the Chapter that starts with “Step 1 – Make Yourself a Cup of Coffee”. “Step 2 – Sit Right On Back Down and Drink It”. And so on, until I have successfully completed all 100 steps and can smile down on my children who are playing ‘I Spy With Absolutely No Fighting or Swearing’ in freshly cleaned pyjamas and brushed hair. And the next morning, I make 20 new friends at my new job doing what I LOVE (which obviously will become clear as day to me around chapter 6 or so, and will surprise me in a good way because it wont be just drinking wine, but a how-to point by point reference on turning that hobby into a lucrative business) which in turn will have the banks endlessly phoning me offering me credit, as opposed to the current offer of an ultimatum, due to finally reaping the rewards of following my passion. Or, none of that will matter, and I will struggle along to make ends meet but will be gloriously happy and content because happiness is not about smoked salmon salad if you can imagine your baked beans to taste like that, which is a mindful state that can be reached through meditation, if you try hard enough (I would even read this chapter twice to fully grasp these concepts). Occasionally like Paulo Coelho’s books, the subliminal sub-text is where the philosophy lies, which makes it easy to read and enjoy the story, but very difficult to relate to my own life. Except maybe the view of the sea from my bedroom window, which is supposed to blow in winds of change rather than winds of gale force hair extraction, and the rolling tides mean more to me than a more accurate weather check than SABC 3. My point is, that if those books aren’t just shameless self-promotion by the author, then there are vital chapters missing between “You are Here”and….”A Flowery Description of Where I am and Where You Want To Be”. I just don’t understand them.

Edward Monkton on the other hand, is philosopher extraordinaire, insightful, truthful and highly, highly relatable. Also, can be read, and applied in the same amount of time it takes to curse the universe for your lot in life. Honestly, he pretty much says what the others are saying, but in a couple of lines with pictures. Read these and I guarantee you a brief moment of happiness, although your baked beans will taste the same as they’re supposed to. They won’t really help with that.

See more of his greatness herewww.edwardmonkton.com/

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Sons as Daughters

I love this quote. I found this on imgfave whilst trawling researching for nothing  stuff on the internet, and I love it. I must admit that I do have the courage, which is clearly evident on school dress up days and I have to do their hair and make-up with tiny pin-prick tears in my eyes. Which Im sure counts as a small part of what she meant.

How Are You?

I’m seriously considering printing this onto 7 t-shirts and wearing one every single day of the week.

Exactly!

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