When my Australian children began to attend school, they could read. But they had not been able to get into kindergarten because demand exceeded supply of places. While they missed the socialising available at kinder, they were well prepared by by my wife and I. Purely as an aside, 15 of us parents in our catchment district then undertook a door-knock survey of the expected demand for kinder in the following 5 years. This forced the relevant bureaucrat to get off his perch and solve the problem. That was lesson no. 1 for me.
At the first Annual General Meeting of the Parents & Citizens Association I had ever attended, I asked a question. By the end of the meeting, I found myself a vice-president of the P&C. Lesson no. 2 – keep trap shut at meetings. Because my 5-year old daughter and her classmates had to sit on a cold concrete floor during a very cold winter for some classes (why?), I proposed that the P&C buy little carpet squares to protect little bottoms; whereas the principal wanted the money spent on curtains for the school hall. The parents won. After another similar difference of opinion, I resigned (to work on my thesis). Lesson no. 3 – go with the flow, or get out.
In those days, parents had no status, and no rights. Question a teacher, and be known throughout the school as a difficult or, worse still, an ‘anxious’ parent! At an early stage, my daughter read from a text book that Marco Polo had discovered the Silk Route to China; and that he had travelled in his uncles’ caravan. She pointed out to her teacher that, in the circumstances, the uncles must have known the route. (She did say that her dad had agreed with her.) The teacher agreed with her too. Lesson no. 4 – beware such a perceptive child. But, as a good student, she was popular.