Schools fail us

As all parents of Greek schoolchildren are well aware, they feel obliged to get actively involved in their children’s homework – which these adults make a habit of supervising. However, this tendency to hover, according to a renowned child psychiatrist interviewed in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, rules out any child creativity. The habit, in fact, is believed to reflect both the failure of the Greek education system and a covert form of adult aggression directed against their own children. The average parent would probably scoff at the psychiatrist’s evaluation; most parents would rather not be burdened with their children’s school tasks. But that is impossible given that Greek schools are essentially demanding that families set up a second classroom inside the home. This is precisely the problem pointed out by child psychologists. Their criticism of parental behavior is not intended to reprimand them. What experts are trying to say, rather, is that the best interests of the children would be served if their parents tried to convince teachers that home is not meant to function as a secondary place of learning but as a place to offer care, affection and socialization. About six years ago, when the examination curriculum was cut in half, Kathimerini criticized the measure as wrong-headed. First, 13-year-old children were made to study until midnight; then they were told that half of what they stayed up studying was not considered important enough to be included in the examination syllabus. And how could it be otherwise? Students are asked to memorize volumes of useless information. They are not taught how to think, how to search for information or how to produce a research paper. Children’s labor, parental anxiety, and psychiatrists’ warnings all boil down to the same problem. We have not yet agreed on what schools’ exact purpose is, what they must teach and what they must exclude, how much of a workload they should put on pupils’ shoulders, and how much free time they should allow them to develop themselves as social beings. No doubt, psychiatrists can sometimes sound dogmatic or extreme. But nobody can disagree with them on the following: The more pressure we put on children – like we do now – in a school that fails to stimulate critical thinking, the more likely they are to end up on the psychiatrist’s couch.