A lesson in gutsy broadcasting
MUCH AS PARENTS naturally want the best education possible for their children, the experience of actually sending them to school seems to test this noble aspiration to the limit. This week’s radio, certainly, provided powerful testimony to the problems that accompany the start of the school year.
On Liveline (RTÉ Radio 1, weekdays), parents rang in for several days running to complain about the nonreceipt of textbooks they had ordered from the website schoolbooks.ie. So regular an item has it become that Joe Duffy ruefully mused that, although it was an important issue, it didn’t necessarily make for riveting radio. (He was right.)
On Wednesday’s edition of The Last Word (Today FM, weekdays), Matt Cooper heard objections to a new school-bus policy that may result in siblings being unable to attend the same secondary college. This too was an emotive but complex issue that descended into technical arguments about distances between home and school. At the end, the presenter played Alice Cooper’s glam-rock classic School’s Out, perhaps hoping it would put an end to such discussions.
Reliably crotchety as ever, George Hook (The Right Hook, Newstalk, weekdays) judged his show’s idiosyncratic “happiness index” to be in a state of flux because “the schools are back and the kids are happy but the traffic is terrible”.
The casual listener, particularly one with children entering the classroom for the first time, could have been forgiven for forming the impression that, far from being a temple of enlightenment, school is a bothersome burden, for parents anyway. Anyone thus spooked would have done well to tune into Tuesday’s edition of The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays), as the presenter explored the practice of home schooling. Interviewing three guests who had been taught at home in Ireland, D’Arcy discovered this approach was not rooted in patchouli-scented alternative lifestyles but was more often driven by necessity.
One woman, Emma, was educated by her mother when her elder sister proved a troublemaker in class; another guest, Megan, was similarly tutored after her unhappy brother was taken out of school. Fionn, meanwhile, had been instructed by his single mother, a nonobservant Protestant who baulked at the penitent Catholicism drilled into children at the local school.
That said, some of the teaching techniques owed little to traditional classroom practice. Fionn got a “practical” home education: “I was put in charge of lighting the fire at six years old.” One can’t imagine Health and Safety allowing those lessons in junior infants. Yet despite their unconventional primary education, D’Arcy’s guests all made the transition to secondary school without any great difficulty.
It was an interesting item, well handled by D’Arcy, who resisted the temptation to make fun of the more outre educational techniques. Indeed, he pointed out that home learning was enshrined in the Constitution, which designates the family as “the primary and natural educator of the child”.