– Photo:Kids do not belong at a desk 7 hours/day. This is no way to optimize learning. We wrongly identify education with schooling because most of our education happens outside of the school environment.
Kids need less school rather than more, our current system of education stifles the natural curiosity, joy and a love of learning, and that between school, television, video games, and the internet, kids today are left with less than 12 hours a week “to create a unique consciousness.”
It appears to me as a schoolteacher that schools are already a major cause of weak families and weak communities. They separate parents and children from vital interaction with each other and from true curiosity about each others lives. Schools stifle family originality by appropriating the critical time needed for any sound idea of family to develop — then they blame the family for its failure to be a family.
Why, then, are we locking kids up in an involuntary network with strangers for twelve years?
Look again at [what I consider to be] the seven lessons of school teaching: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, and surveillance. All of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And over time this training has shaken loose from its original purpose: to regulate the poor. For since the 1920s the growth of the school bureaucracy as well as the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, has enlarged this institution’s original grasp to the point that it now seizes the sons and daughters of the middle classes as well.
Observations and valid criticisms
1. What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is ONE RIGHT WAY to proceed with growing up.
2. Schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.
3. I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress genius because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.
4. Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive.
5. The primary goal of real education is not to deliver facts but to guide students to the truths that will allow them to take responsibility for their lives.
6. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen — certification probably guarantees it won’t.
7. This was once a land where every sane person knew how to build a shelter, grow food, and entertain one another. Now we have been rendered permanent children. It’s the architects of forced schooling who are responsible for that.
8. School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know.
9. Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted — sometimes with guns — by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard.
10. The lesson of report cards, grades, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.
11. Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.
13. Most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only in so far as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.
14. Skill teachers are made scarce by the belief in the value of licenses… Most teachers of arts and trades are less skillful, less inventive and less communicative than the best craftsmen and tradesmen. Most high-school teachers of Spanish or French do not speak the language as correctly as their pupils might after half a year of competent drills.
15. Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools because sound common sense tells us that only children can be taught in school. Only by segregating human beings in the category of childhood could we ever get them to submit to the authority of a schoolteacher.
16. Once a man or woman has accepted the need for school, he or she is easy prey for other institutions. Once young people have allowed their imaginations to be formed by curricular instruction, they are conditioned to institutional planning of every sort.
17. School initiates young people into a world where everything can be measured, including their imaginations, and, indeed, man himself.
18. School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence.
19. The public is indoctrinated to believe that skills are valuable and reliable only if they are the result of formal schooling.
20. School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.