Sign post

Our elder son starts primary school in January, two months before his fifth birthday. One of the innumerable forms we’ve been given to complete is a “Home School Agreement” by which we agree, as parents, to various basic requirements (try to make sure our son turns up, that he does his homework etc) and the school likewise agrees to do its job properly.

All well and good – though scarcely likely to make much impact on the sort of parents who need to be asked to play a constructive role in their children’s education – but then I reached the bottom of the page, where I found this:

THE CHILD

I will try to:

  • Keep the school’s Golden Rules

Our Golden School Rules – how we behave:

  • We are gentle – we don’t hurt others;
  • We are kind and helpful – we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings;
  • We listen – we don’t interrupt;
  • We are honest – we don’t cover up the truth;
  • We work hard – we don’t waste our own or other people’s time;
  • We look after property – we don’t waste or damage things.

Child’s signature: __________________ Date: ___________

A blameless list of requirements, but what’s got me feeling very uncomfortable is this business about having four-year old children signing a form like this.

Various reasons for this. First, I’m a lawyer. So I’m aware that signing things is a serious business – which is precisely why we don’t normally let four-year olds do it. By signing an agreement you state irrevocably that you have read, understood and agree to all its terms (even if none of those things is actually true).

Second, what is this “agreement” for? Say our son breaks one of these rules and is facing some disciplinary consequence as a result. Will his signature on the form be used against him (“You’ve broken your agreement”)? If not, then the exercise is pointless. If so, then it’s reprehensible.

Third, I’m all in favour of teaching children responsibility and good behaviour, but I’d appreciate it if the school could present me with the peer-reviewed developmental evidence that confirms that this is a constructive and beneficial way to teach this to children. Rather than being, say, an exercise in bureaucratic back-covering combined with Blairite social engineering.

Fourth, aren’t children allowed just a few years of their lives without being introduced into the world of form-filling and contractual obligations?

Finally – and here I’ve got my lawyer’s hat on again – what’s the benefit to my son in signing this? If we don’t make him sign the form, the school will still accept him. If a client came to me with a list of obligations they were being asked to sign, without there being any negative consequences for refusing to do so or any real benefit for doing so, then I’d advise them not to make a rod for their own backs and to decline to sign.

Now I’m not out to make a big scene about this – there’ll be no newspaper front pages about “Father’s fight against school form reaches the High Court”. After all, it’s important for our son that we have a positive relationship with his school. My inclination is to amend the form so that it reads, “We will try to ensure our son knows, understands and keeps the school’s Golden Rules”, and then sign it ourselves as his parents.

So this is where I’d appreciate feedback. Am I being over-scrupulous, making a fuss about nothing (“Just sign the d*** form!”). Would amending the form be a craven cop-out to an intrusive and obnoxious process (“Give me a pointless-form-free school or give me death!”)? Or is my proposal the best way to meet the school’s reasonable expectations without putting inappropriate expectations on my son? Replies welcomed in the comments.

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65 Responses to Sign post

  1. Twylah says:

    I’m sorry, but you can blame idiot parents for this. I’ve railed about it for seven years (since our oldest started kindergarten). Schools and teachers resort to these tactics because once upon a time, a rabid parent sued the school district on some trumped-up issue, screaming “I/my child was never told that my child couldn’t chew the teacher’s leg!”
    I kid you not, I once notarized my husband’s signature on a permission slip. The teacher wasn’t amused.

  2. Twylah says:

    I’m sorry, but you can blame idiot parents for this. I’ve railed about it for seven years (since our oldest started kindergarten). Schools and teachers resort to these tactics because once upon a time, a rabid parent sued the school district on some trumped-up issue, screaming “I/my child was never told that my child couldn’t chew the teacher’s leg!”
    I kid you not, I once notarized my husband’s signature on a permission slip. The teacher wasn’t amused.

  3. Twylah says:

    I’m sorry, but you can blame idiot parents for this. I’ve railed about it for seven years (since our oldest started kindergarten). Schools and teachers resort to these tactics because once upon a time, a rabid parent sued the school district on some trumped-up issue, screaming “I/my child was never told that my child couldn’t chew the teacher’s leg!”
    I kid you not, I once notarized my husband’s signature on a permission slip. The teacher wasn’t amused.

  4. Twylah says:

    I’m sorry, but you can blame idiot parents for this. I’ve railed about it for seven years (since our oldest started kindergarten). Schools and teachers resort to these tactics because once upon a time, a rabid parent sued the school district on some trumped-up issue, screaming “I/my child was never told that my child couldn’t chew the teacher’s leg!”
    I kid you not, I once notarized my husband’s signature on a permission slip. The teacher wasn’t amused.

  5. John H says:

    “Notarized”? Is that as opposed to, um, “forged”…? 🙂

  6. John H says:

    “Notarized”? Is that as opposed to, um, “forged”…? 🙂

  7. John H says:

    “Notarized”? Is that as opposed to, um, “forged”…? 🙂

  8. John H says:

    “Notarized”? Is that as opposed to, um, “forged”…? 🙂

  9. Thomas says:

    You’re not overreacting at all, John, although this would be a moot point were your four year old allowed to carry a gun at school (armed children are well-behaved children don’t you know).
    Well, it couldn’t be helped…

  10. Thomas says:

    You’re not overreacting at all, John, although this would be a moot point were your four year old allowed to carry a gun at school (armed children are well-behaved children don’t you know).
    Well, it couldn’t be helped…

  11. Thomas says:

    You’re not overreacting at all, John, although this would be a moot point were your four year old allowed to carry a gun at school (armed children are well-behaved children don’t you know).
    Well, it couldn’t be helped…

  12. Thomas says:

    You’re not overreacting at all, John, although this would be a moot point were your four year old allowed to carry a gun at school (armed children are well-behaved children don’t you know).
    Well, it couldn’t be helped…

  13. Craig says:

    In my experience (with boys aged 12, 10 and 8) the kids actually like this sort of stuff. They enjoy being given a little bit of responsibilitiy, and a tiny little peek into the world of adulthood.
    My 10 year old was telling me very proudly on Friday that he had just got his “pen license” at school. He was using a pencil, now he was allowed to use a pen.
    Now really, its very silly to have a licensing scheme for pens. But he was so pleased, and I think that shows the value in some of these things.

  14. Craig says:

    In my experience (with boys aged 12, 10 and 8) the kids actually like this sort of stuff. They enjoy being given a little bit of responsibilitiy, and a tiny little peek into the world of adulthood.
    My 10 year old was telling me very proudly on Friday that he had just got his “pen license” at school. He was using a pencil, now he was allowed to use a pen.
    Now really, its very silly to have a licensing scheme for pens. But he was so pleased, and I think that shows the value in some of these things.

  15. Craig says:

    In my experience (with boys aged 12, 10 and 8) the kids actually like this sort of stuff. They enjoy being given a little bit of responsibilitiy, and a tiny little peek into the world of adulthood.
    My 10 year old was telling me very proudly on Friday that he had just got his “pen license” at school. He was using a pencil, now he was allowed to use a pen.
    Now really, its very silly to have a licensing scheme for pens. But he was so pleased, and I think that shows the value in some of these things.

  16. Craig says:

    In my experience (with boys aged 12, 10 and 8) the kids actually like this sort of stuff. They enjoy being given a little bit of responsibilitiy, and a tiny little peek into the world of adulthood.
    My 10 year old was telling me very proudly on Friday that he had just got his “pen license” at school. He was using a pencil, now he was allowed to use a pen.
    Now really, its very silly to have a licensing scheme for pens. But he was so pleased, and I think that shows the value in some of these things.

  17. Chris Jones says:

    I think this is horrid.
    Haven’t they any Lutheran schools in England?

  18. Chris Jones says:

    I think this is horrid.
    Haven’t they any Lutheran schools in England?

  19. Chris Jones says:

    I think this is horrid.
    Haven’t they any Lutheran schools in England?

  20. Chris Jones says:

    I think this is horrid.
    Haven’t they any Lutheran schools in England?

  21. Rick Ritchie says:

    And when I read the rules, I thought that perhaps you would be objecting to their adopting the term “Golden Rules” for themselves. Do they have their own Ten Commandments, too?
    I have an idea for the punishment if he doesn’t comply. They grind up the slips and feed them to the kids mixed with water.
    I agree with all your reservations, John.
    Your suggested emendation is a fine idea. And it does communicate an attempt to work with the school.
    Twylah, that exapmle of leg-biting was hilarious. (And unfortunately totally believable.)

  22. Rick Ritchie says:

    And when I read the rules, I thought that perhaps you would be objecting to their adopting the term “Golden Rules” for themselves. Do they have their own Ten Commandments, too?
    I have an idea for the punishment if he doesn’t comply. They grind up the slips and feed them to the kids mixed with water.
    I agree with all your reservations, John.
    Your suggested emendation is a fine idea. And it does communicate an attempt to work with the school.
    Twylah, that exapmle of leg-biting was hilarious. (And unfortunately totally believable.)

  23. Rick Ritchie says:

    And when I read the rules, I thought that perhaps you would be objecting to their adopting the term “Golden Rules” for themselves. Do they have their own Ten Commandments, too?
    I have an idea for the punishment if he doesn’t comply. They grind up the slips and feed them to the kids mixed with water.
    I agree with all your reservations, John.
    Your suggested emendation is a fine idea. And it does communicate an attempt to work with the school.
    Twylah, that exapmle of leg-biting was hilarious. (And unfortunately totally believable.)

  24. Rick Ritchie says:

    And when I read the rules, I thought that perhaps you would be objecting to their adopting the term “Golden Rules” for themselves. Do they have their own Ten Commandments, too?
    I have an idea for the punishment if he doesn’t comply. They grind up the slips and feed them to the kids mixed with water.
    I agree with all your reservations, John.
    Your suggested emendation is a fine idea. And it does communicate an attempt to work with the school.
    Twylah, that exapmle of leg-biting was hilarious. (And unfortunately totally believable.)

  25. TK says:

    For most sports teams, our son is required to sign a similar type waiver promising good behavior,etc. A few years ago I asked our family lawyer if such a waiver would really hold up in case of serious injury and he said no. He said that it was ridiculous and not to sign it. So I proudly turned in my forms with a little yellow sticky note explaining that my son was not of legal signing age and wouldn’t be signing the form. The hockey association called me a few days later to say that he certainly didn’t have to sign the form, but he would not be allowed to play unless he did. I checked back with my lawyer and he agreed that the club can make any rules it wants for players. So….my son signed the d*** form.

  26. TK says:

    For most sports teams, our son is required to sign a similar type waiver promising good behavior,etc. A few years ago I asked our family lawyer if such a waiver would really hold up in case of serious injury and he said no. He said that it was ridiculous and not to sign it. So I proudly turned in my forms with a little yellow sticky note explaining that my son was not of legal signing age and wouldn’t be signing the form. The hockey association called me a few days later to say that he certainly didn’t have to sign the form, but he would not be allowed to play unless he did. I checked back with my lawyer and he agreed that the club can make any rules it wants for players. So….my son signed the d*** form.

  27. TK says:

    For most sports teams, our son is required to sign a similar type waiver promising good behavior,etc. A few years ago I asked our family lawyer if such a waiver would really hold up in case of serious injury and he said no. He said that it was ridiculous and not to sign it. So I proudly turned in my forms with a little yellow sticky note explaining that my son was not of legal signing age and wouldn’t be signing the form. The hockey association called me a few days later to say that he certainly didn’t have to sign the form, but he would not be allowed to play unless he did. I checked back with my lawyer and he agreed that the club can make any rules it wants for players. So….my son signed the d*** form.

  28. TK says:

    For most sports teams, our son is required to sign a similar type waiver promising good behavior,etc. A few years ago I asked our family lawyer if such a waiver would really hold up in case of serious injury and he said no. He said that it was ridiculous and not to sign it. So I proudly turned in my forms with a little yellow sticky note explaining that my son was not of legal signing age and wouldn’t be signing the form. The hockey association called me a few days later to say that he certainly didn’t have to sign the form, but he would not be allowed to play unless he did. I checked back with my lawyer and he agreed that the club can make any rules it wants for players. So….my son signed the d*** form.

  29. Richard Wolfe says:

    Ummm. . . as a lawyer myself, does your school’s administration REALLY believe a four year old has the legal capacity to enter into written agreements? Sheesh. Don’t think I’d sign.

  30. Richard Wolfe says:

    Ummm. . . as a lawyer myself, does your school’s administration REALLY believe a four year old has the legal capacity to enter into written agreements? Sheesh. Don’t think I’d sign.

  31. Richard Wolfe says:

    Ummm. . . as a lawyer myself, does your school’s administration REALLY believe a four year old has the legal capacity to enter into written agreements? Sheesh. Don’t think I’d sign.

  32. Richard Wolfe says:

    Ummm. . . as a lawyer myself, does your school’s administration REALLY believe a four year old has the legal capacity to enter into written agreements? Sheesh. Don’t think I’d sign.

  33. Mark Shane says:

    I think amending the form would show that you are taking it too seriously. I recommend telling them that your dog ate it. (To avoid telling a lie, I would actually feed it to the dog. If you don’t have one, buy one, and then feed it to him. This has the added benefit of giving your son a head start over his friends in the art of creative academic excuses — always start with the basics. Plus every boy should have a dog.)

  34. Mark Shane says:

    I think amending the form would show that you are taking it too seriously. I recommend telling them that your dog ate it. (To avoid telling a lie, I would actually feed it to the dog. If you don’t have one, buy one, and then feed it to him. This has the added benefit of giving your son a head start over his friends in the art of creative academic excuses — always start with the basics. Plus every boy should have a dog.)

  35. Mark Shane says:

    I think amending the form would show that you are taking it too seriously. I recommend telling them that your dog ate it. (To avoid telling a lie, I would actually feed it to the dog. If you don’t have one, buy one, and then feed it to him. This has the added benefit of giving your son a head start over his friends in the art of creative academic excuses — always start with the basics. Plus every boy should have a dog.)

  36. Mark Shane says:

    I think amending the form would show that you are taking it too seriously. I recommend telling them that your dog ate it. (To avoid telling a lie, I would actually feed it to the dog. If you don’t have one, buy one, and then feed it to him. This has the added benefit of giving your son a head start over his friends in the art of creative academic excuses — always start with the basics. Plus every boy should have a dog.)

  37. As someone who has signed one of those things, I can tell you that signing it will be the first and last time you see it.

  38. As someone who has signed one of those things, I can tell you that signing it will be the first and last time you see it.

  39. As someone who has signed one of those things, I can tell you that signing it will be the first and last time you see it.

  40. As someone who has signed one of those things, I can tell you that signing it will be the first and last time you see it.

  41. You think this is ridiculous? Just wait until you see what the R.E. curriculum has in store for the poor little bairns. You’re going to need medication.

  42. You think this is ridiculous? Just wait until you see what the R.E. curriculum has in store for the poor little bairns. You’re going to need medication.

  43. You think this is ridiculous? Just wait until you see what the R.E. curriculum has in store for the poor little bairns. You’re going to need medication.

  44. You think this is ridiculous? Just wait until you see what the R.E. curriculum has in store for the poor little bairns. You’re going to need medication.

  45. Eric C. says:

    Your idea of making a note in place of his sginature is infe, I think.
    In response, you might also make up a sheet for the teachers to sign that has a list of things they must/not do. FIsrt on the list is of course:
    We shall not attempt to teach any child values which are at variance with those which they learn in their own homes.
    Of course, they won’t sign it, but perhaps they’ll get the point.

  46. Eric C. says:

    Your idea of making a note in place of his sginature is infe, I think.
    In response, you might also make up a sheet for the teachers to sign that has a list of things they must/not do. FIsrt on the list is of course:
    We shall not attempt to teach any child values which are at variance with those which they learn in their own homes.
    Of course, they won’t sign it, but perhaps they’ll get the point.

  47. Eric C. says:

    Your idea of making a note in place of his sginature is infe, I think.
    In response, you might also make up a sheet for the teachers to sign that has a list of things they must/not do. FIsrt on the list is of course:
    We shall not attempt to teach any child values which are at variance with those which they learn in their own homes.
    Of course, they won’t sign it, but perhaps they’ll get the point.

  48. Eric C. says:

    Your idea of making a note in place of his sginature is infe, I think.
    In response, you might also make up a sheet for the teachers to sign that has a list of things they must/not do. FIsrt on the list is of course:
    We shall not attempt to teach any child values which are at variance with those which they learn in their own homes.
    Of course, they won’t sign it, but perhaps they’ll get the point.

  49. Polly says:

    I think I would lose that form. What a bunch of bunk. As if that would stop an impulsive 4yo. And this is in the country that gives kids a quota for how many times they are allowed to say the F word in class?

  50. Polly says:

    I think I would lose that form. What a bunch of bunk. As if that would stop an impulsive 4yo. And this is in the country that gives kids a quota for how many times they are allowed to say the F word in class?

  51. Polly says:

    I think I would lose that form. What a bunch of bunk. As if that would stop an impulsive 4yo. And this is in the country that gives kids a quota for how many times they are allowed to say the F word in class?

  52. Polly says:

    I think I would lose that form. What a bunch of bunk. As if that would stop an impulsive 4yo. And this is in the country that gives kids a quota for how many times they are allowed to say the F word in class?

  53. Bunnie says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

  54. Bunnie says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

  55. Bunnie says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

  56. Bunnie says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

  57. Eric C. says:

    I guess making sure feelings don’t get hurt now includes making sure your kiddies don’t talk about piggies:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2818809.stm
    Yikes.
    Eric

  58. Eric C. says:

    I guess making sure feelings don’t get hurt now includes making sure your kiddies don’t talk about piggies:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2818809.stm
    Yikes.
    Eric

  59. Eric C. says:

    I guess making sure feelings don’t get hurt now includes making sure your kiddies don’t talk about piggies:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2818809.stm
    Yikes.
    Eric

  60. Eric C. says:

    I guess making sure feelings don’t get hurt now includes making sure your kiddies don’t talk about piggies:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2818809.stm
    Yikes.
    Eric

  61. John H says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

    I didn’t have too much of a problem with the content of the rules. You’re right that sometimes feelings need to get hurt. But then blood sometimes needs to be spilled in a just cause. Just not generally at primary school. 😉

  62. John H says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

    I didn’t have too much of a problem with the content of the rules. You’re right that sometimes feelings need to get hurt. But then blood sometimes needs to be spilled in a just cause. Just not generally at primary school. 😉

  63. John H says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

    I didn’t have too much of a problem with the content of the rules. You’re right that sometimes feelings need to get hurt. But then blood sometimes needs to be spilled in a just cause. Just not generally at primary school. 😉

  64. John H says:

    I take offense at the “we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings” portion of the document.
    Sometimes feelings need to get hurt.

    I didn’t have too much of a problem with the content of the rules. You’re right that sometimes feelings need to get hurt. But then blood sometimes needs to be spilled in a just cause. Just not generally at primary school. 😉

  65. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » Looking at the small print

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