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Marieke Hopman


9 februari 2016

Onderwijs en de plicht om te studeren

9 februari 2016 | By | 2 Comments

Dear all,

By now I have interviewed about 20 people on the right to education in the Netherlands, of whom about 50% children. Some of these people had positive experiences with education, some negative. What seems to be a big factor in how children experience their education is the amount of enforcement involved.

How do you remember your education? Was/is it something you do because you MUST or something you do because you WANT TO?

Today I met a 10 year old boy who had even more trouble school timetablethan most children with the obligatory character of education. He simply felt greatly unhappy with teachers telling him what to do (“today you finish paragraph 5.1 of maths and you read 10 pages”, etc). Philosopher Michel Foucault compared a school to a military institution. According to Foucault, schools are focused on teaching discipline, like a military academy. Students are taught discipline like soldiers. You can see this by how even the physical side is forced; you have to sit/stand/walk/stand in line when the teacher tells you to, the timetable is strict.

Any student should who has a problem with authority will not make it to the diploma.

However, the boy I met today now does not study much at all. He is at home most of the time, and his parents are trying to give him space for him to find out what he wants and to start studying it. They believe that with time, something will interest him and he will find the motivation to study, because it is interesting to him. After all, you can learn how to read and write and calculate not only from studybooks. Imagine for example that you find a great interest in stars, you will want to study stars by reading about them, maybe take notes, explain them to others, calculate their positions.

The idea sounds great and wouldn’t it be great if school was just much more FUN? Or can it not be all fun? Does the right to education involve a duty to study? dutytostudy


  1. Wiron

    I, as my father, have had great difficulties enjoying authority- he from military and his bosses, I myself from school, police, city hall employees, you name it. This doesn’t mean I don’t respect authority. And I have a need for leadership, guidance, as do children.
    It does mean that running an authoritative system is far more complex than being an authoritative figure. The one passing on the authority has a difficult job, because he is indirectly passing on a message, trying to make it his own but failing many a time. This is the difference between good teachers and lesser ones. I failed being a teacher because I struggled with this authority issue all the time. Crowd control and having fun are always linked to eachother, this is an unhappy marriage.
    Leadership is never accepted by everyone, so we conjure up a system that will create acceptance. At school, teachers are trying so hard to find the right way, but crowd control and a serene learning environment are the tools that create the best opportunities for all the kids to develop the skill set they want to attain in order to fit in the society’s system.
    So, if all parents realized this and all bore enough intelligence to be a responsible example to their children, I think home schooling and some private tutoring would be the ideal answer. Alas, we are not all scholars. Sometimes we just want to blow something up. Or hurt someone. And get paid to do it.

  2. Marieke Hopman

    Thanks for your reaction and sharing your most interesting thoughts, Wiron!
    I really like your reflection on how crowd control and having fun are always linked together, yet this is an unhappy marriage. I a way that applies further than to education only; I’m thinking of festivals and the extensive control present there. And on a more general level we can say this is the legitimization of the state and its laws; we are with so many, we need a form of control as a condition to have fun.

    However in education I am not convinced that crowd control is necessary. Or at least, it makes me think of my education when “control” mostly meant if you do not follow the rules you get punished. Much a small kind of dictatorial system in the classroom.

    However, in my experience as a teacher I was never much concerned with keeping order. And when I was (the rare times when I had to teach 32 1st grade students in an overcrowded classroom), I felt like what I was doing was totally useless and they were not learning anything. Even if you forcefully get all 32 to be quiet, they are not exactly listening or doing exercises. A classroom environment of control is more or less a battle field. There is a battle between the students and the teacher, and even if the teacher “wins” in the sense that it is quiet, the students fight back by finding ways not to participate in the lesson…

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