In brief

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Let the Children Sing

By Leonora Langley

The Book Guild pound;16.95

We know, don't we, that the national curriculum is restrictive, and threatens to stifle creativity? And we're fully aware that, as Leonora Langley tells us: "Students complain that much of the school day is a waste of time and completely unrelated to their lives."

It's a familiar message, and yet we can't hear it too often. To that extent, Langley does children a great service by reminding yet another group of readers of the importance of a liberal and creative approach to schooling and child development. She supports her case by including interviews with a range of professionals, parents and children, including a 16-year-old who speaks for many teenagers when she says: "What's a bit sad is that teachers often fail to realise that what a pupil is outwardly projecting may not be exactly what they're feeling inside."

If it feels as if there's a "but" coming here, then it's to do with the at times extravagant way the author criticises formal schooling, in broad terms that belie the book's generally inclusive and tolerant approach.

"I am convinced that the fundamental problem with mainstream schooling in the UK," she writes, "is its emphasis on the functional and mechanical, which produces automatons, or else fragmented human beings with deep psychological problems, unable to cope with the real and diverse challenges of life."

It isn't that simple. Some children are damaged by their schools, some are not. Many, indeed, are rescued from damage inflicted elsewhere, dusted down, cuddled and set smiling on their way. That's because no curriculum or system can come between a good teacher and a child.

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