Perhaps I shouldn’t have been encouraged to read. I mean, I grew up on a farm. Well, two farms, which either makes me doubly-farmish, bi-farmal or even half-farmy: fa? Whatever. I was one of the rural working class.
Except I wasn’t. I loved where I came from, and still do. I’m proud of my country roots, from which I have grown into my (objectively) marvellous self. But I also wanted more because, well, there was more: there is more. And I wanted what I didn’t have because why the hell shouldn’t I? Who was going to stop me? I found that the more I read and listened and talked and watched and tried, the more success I had.
So, quite frankly, if my teachers at primary school had complained that what I was tested on in my SATS was too ‘middle class‘, and if some vigilante do-gooder, intent on releasing every child from a future of thirteen-striking-clocks in Airstrip One, had leaked that paper in order to spare me from its challenging, life-skill-threatening questions, I’d have been bloody furious.
I mean, how dare that happen? How dare some well-intentioned, but utterly confused buffoon, choose to denigrate my current ability and potential for success based on where I grew up? So what if those middle-class values weren’t mine? So what if it wasn’t relevant? The test was meant to level, not to speak to my inherent plebeity, my inner plebeian. There may well have been all sorts of problems with the test, but it would have been more unfair to not allow me to take it, lest I – what? – aim for something else in my life? Are there not intelligent, eloquent farmers out there? Are children who grow up in the countryside forever tied to the land, tilling and sowing into old, weather-beaten age, illiterate and ignorant of the values of others?
And yet – and yet – I wouldn’t have been bloody furious, would I? Because I wouldn’t have known any better, or different. If that route had been taken away then, who knows? Maybe I’d be feeding dad’s cows more often. And that’s fine, in itself. But to not have the option!
Forgive me, but I didn’t think education in Britain was about maintaining the status quo. It seems, however, that some of those most concerned with our children’s health and mental wellbeing are also those least concerned with their futures.