What is school for?

My children have to go to school every day. As far as I can understand, the lessons they learn at school are academic and social.

The academic lessons are interesting because we can contribute and add to them at home. We read with them, do their homework with them, and explain how things work around them. 

The social lessons are harder to replicate or to know when you’re contributing as a parent to the learning. Even though we have a big family, I think that it simply cannot replace the socialising lessons learned in a school.

At home the kids sort themselves (more often than not) into order of physical strength. The oldest wallops the next in line and gains access to the toys.

At school we are exposing our children to a class full of similar aged humans. It’s not so clear cut who’s the boss in a classroom as it is at home. So the children have to cooperate and negotiate positions in the hierarchy.

In the class and the playground, similar strength children are differentiated by personality traits such as the below:

  • extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
  • openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient and confident)

All the above traits play a factor in how much time someone else wants to spend with you, and in how well you are able to negotiate access to anything of value (a nice toy, for example).

Happy Wednesday, Chimps.


It is often said that teachers are important, noble, and essential (disclosure – I come from a family full of teachers). But why do people say this exactly?

I think it is because of the long term. Teachers (if they’re doing their job) are trying to prepare young people for long term success. This is not the case with so many jobs.

Wall Street traders trying to profit as much as possible in the shortest time frame. Or the fast food store selling the cheapest rubbish to as many people as possible. This sort of short term-ism or race to the bottom is not really useful with proper teaching. Instead it requires patience, creativity and a long term approach.

What stops many teachers making the impact they ought to make or gaining the recognition they deserve? I think it is likely the system in which they have been employed for so long. The industrial model of education which we still mostly use, treats children like factory employees, squeezing them into predefined boxes and encouraging cramming for tests. This is not necessarily preparing them for the real world problems in this Information Age. But I digress.

Teachers, like doctors and nurses, are heroes.

Happy Wednesday chimps.