|A is NOT for Apple|
Bea's talk was entitled "A is NOT for Apple and other things you learn when you don't go to school". The title refers to the fact that A originated from shape of an ox's head, turned upside-down later in the development of our alphabet (see image). The apple thing, then, is a distraction - an irrelevant connection between the letter A and an object which just happens to begin with the letter A.
One of the central themes of the talk was the need to respect and trust children and give them the opportunity to enjoy their childhood. Our culture has created an assumption that is exactly the opposite - children cannot be trusted, and must respect their elders, even when they are telling them off for things which they never knew they were doing wrong. Imagine for a moment that you invite a guest into your home, someone from a completely different culture, who doesn't understand the need to, say, tidy up at the end of a meal (perhaps they have servants to do that where they come from!). When they fail to offer their help, you don't start bribing them, or telling them off for being so rude, or saying "after all the things we've done for you, and all you can do is just sit there", like you might with a child. No, you politely request their help, with an explanation of why that is the right thing to do in this culture. Why shouldn't we give the same sort of respect to our children? Won't it make their lives happier, as well as helping them to understand that there is more to life than obeying the commands of their "elders"?
One of the difficult things about our schooling system (at least until I finished school) is that it very much trains children for obedience - for following the social norm, and fitting into The System above becoming autonomous individuals. This is bad news for transition, because it makes the highly established social norm of consumerism and profit-motivated capitalism harder and harder to break. It leaves school-leavers (and university-leavers, for that matter), at the mercy of "the marketplace", which is in turn at the mercy of banks and other corporations who want to earn a return on their investment (their investment in this case being a human being - using that term seems wrong to me, but its the way they see it!).
I'm not suggesting for a moment that all children should be home educated, and believe that there are some skills and knowledge sets that can only really be learnt in a professional college setting, but shouldn't we let our kids discover for themselves what knowledge they require, rather than dumping our prejudices and assumptions in their heads without thought to the relevance?