Wednesday, 3 February 2016
ADOLF HITLER, TONY BLAIR & THE DELIGHTS OF TOUCH TYPING
I taught all three of my children to touch type whilst they were still young enough to find the tedious exercises involved not only challenging but fun. I think the oldest was about ten and the youngest was so eager she had to be prevented from making a start until her seventh birthday when her hands were just about big enough to manipulate the Olivetti Portable. Touch typing easily slipped into our curriculum during our home schooling years and they each tapped away with growing expertise and efficiency. Home Schooling - now there’s a topic we’ve visited before and you might well wonder what is left to be said about it. But for the unversed reader I should explain that I educated my younger two children for ten years though their older brother always went to school. It transpired later that perhaps he was the one who might have benefited most from the experience but making errors of judgement is the domain of parenting as you will be aware. We did not set out on this alarmingly alternative path from a philosophical stance but simply because it was clear that our almost six year old son was failing massively to adjust to school and as a result, suffering greatly. Later his sister, two and a half years younger, was kept home to keep him company. This turned out to be another mistake as she was not only desperate to learn to type but also champing at the bit to get to the local primary school. After a shaky start, over the years we investigated a wide range of subjects from Greek Mythology to Russian History, from Astronomy to Comparative Religions. (see more in my book: PUTTING THE JOY BACK INTO EGYPT, An experiment in Education, Hodder & Stoughton 1982) We acquired a vast library of books and a growing assortment of pets (goats, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, mice and axolotls). The children learned to play musical instruments including violin, piano and trumpet and we budgeted carefully so that our son could make a trip to Greece with his father during his obsession with mythology. Over time I began to realise that children educated at home by a dedicated teacher-parent and a family prepared to make financial sacrifices would in all likelihood end up better educated than those who attended school. They were also immune to the bogey of Peer Pressure. That now all seems obvious of course. On the other hand it has to be said that even mediocre schools offered a necessary social curriculum that accustomed the student to structure, deadlines, expectations, seeing themselves within a group, etc. And that somewhat hidden curriculum, missing from our son’s educational experience seemed ultimately to defeat him, and has caused him a great deal of bitterness, whilst the lack of it seemed not to affect his sister in any protracted manner. They are now long since adults and hovering on middle age but from time to time people still ask what I think was the most important skill they acquired during those years at home. Was it the opportunity to study topics in depth? Was it the trips to the High Court to observe the Justice System in action? It’s a question I have generally found difficult to answer – until yesterday when the husband was acquainting me with the exhilarating contents of his current library book which concerns the early years of Adolf Hitler. He excitedly explained that I would love the book wherein various theories are postulated as to why Hitler became the person he was, and what his basic philosophy of life turned out to be, including some of his thoughts on education. Like Tony Blair, who came a long time after him of course, it seems that Hitler wanted all children to have the opportunity to embrace modern technology. Tony Blair is said to have announced in Brighton in 1995 that one of his aims for the future of the nation, was that all children should have access to a laptop computer; he would do his best to make that happen. Adolf Hitler, in the 1930s, is said to have voiced his firm belief that all German children should be taught to type and have access to a personal typewriter. And strangely, when I have asked any of my own children about their education and the ultimate usefulness of skills they absorbed, each one of them without hesitation replies: Learning to type properly – learning to touch type. Who would have thought that the routine and rather humdrum ability to use a typewriter appropriately would ultimately assume such significance for each of them and prove so useful in their chosen career paths? Perhaps it’s simply a case of Mother doing something right for once!