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Giles Coren: ‘I’m not going to send my kids to school’

Posted at 8:00 am, April 28, 2015 in Fun London
School © Flickr: Brent Hoard

© Flickr: Brent Hoard

Giles Coren has had it up to here with education.

I know I’ll get battered with a hailstorm of #middleclassproblems for this, but I am honestly not exaggerating when I say that my dreams of a happy life were briefly shattered a few days ago on what is misleadingly called ‘primary school offer day’.

Misleading because, like a record number of London children this year, my daughter Kitty did not get anything you could call an offer.

There’s this great school 200 yards up my road, for example. Kitty’s nursery is bang opposite and when we walk past in the morning she shouts: ‘That’s my school! I’m going to go there when I’m four and a half!’

But there must be 30 kids living even nearer to it than us and shouting even louder, because Kitty didn’t get offered a place there. Or at the less good school a similar distance in the other direction. Or even at the quite shit massive one half a mile away, which would have done. And she obviously didn’t get a place at the C of E school on the high street because she is unlucky enough to have two Jewish grandparents, and when you go and betray the Son of God to the Romans you can’t expect his followers to give you an education in London 2,000 years later, can you?

So in the end do you know how many offers my little Kitty Cat got?

None. What she got was an instruction to register at a terrifying mop-up joint for children with no school. A place so bad no form teacher lasts past half-term and parents literally weep when they drop their kids off. That’s not an ‘offer’, that’s a custodial sentence.

I don’t blame the authorities and I don’t blame the schools. I can’t blame the baby boom that has made 200 yards into a yawning educational chasm and I’m in no position to blame successive governments for under-investment, because I voted for most of them.

I’m just fucking furious.

So furious, in fact, that I am not going to send my girl to school at all. What’s the point? If the state won’t offer us a decent school, why should we obey its stupid laws? For in truth a formal education has no relevance at all in twenty-first-century London.

In a Wiki-world of instantly accessible information, what use are facts committed to memory? When your phone can do any sum you ask it, what use is maths? As the world hurtles into a drone-policed future of infinitely accelerating digital growth, who needs history to tell them what happened in the past? Who gives a shit about ‘before’? And when every place on earth exists out of space in the palm of your handheld device, who needs geography to tell you where it is?

Sitting in a row facing the front teaches you nothing except how to sit in rows. How to conform, how to be nothing. So I am going to keep my children at home with me and let them learn the basics by osmosis: how to cook a meal, drive a car, read a paper, do a tax return, change a fuse and not spend an hour each morning and evening sweating their bollocks off on the tube (using it only to pop into town for lunch when it’s nice and empty).

You don’t need to know much to get along in this town. Just how to get a smile out of a stranger and a nice cup of tea out of a coffee chain (don’t let them put the milk in before it’s brewed), how to love one person your whole life, withdraw cash without people seeing your PIN, get to as many places as possible by walking through parks and to wait on your bicycle way out in front at traffic lights, not on the inside of a construction vehicle driven by a tired fat man eating a sandwich and not even bothering to indicate left.

Everything else is just detail.

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