Welcome to Unschooling.
My wife and I have three children, ages 11, 17 and 22. I am happy to announce that their exposure to school has been minimal and two out of three of them, at this point in time, have no intention of seeking “higher education” in any formal sense.
If it’s not broken – don’t fix it!
Public education is one of those institutions that almost everyone seems to agree is broken, yet almost everyone continues to support. Perhaps this is because many people do not recognize that it is the fundamental structures that are the problem. Everything from funding to testing methods are blamed, when in fact, the entire institution should be abandoned.
I submit that the schools are not broken and therefore they cannot be fixed. The entire premise of school is a flawed one that goes against the basic nature of man.
The Stated Goals
Public education advocates claim that it benefits society, because it allows people from various economic demographics to receive education, and allows them to have a fair opportunity to be productive in society.
Is It Working?
Yes! Well…maybe. When we look at statistical data for literacy, it appears that the introduction of public education in the U.S. (Est. 1867) had a profound impact on literacy rates, especially where minority groups were taken into account.
Or did it?
This type of data can only be assumed as correlation, not necessarily the cause of increasing literacy. If we want to assign this type of credit, based on correlations, then we could just as easily look at literacy rates improving as a result of the abolition of slavery (1865) and continuing progress toward personal liberties among all U.S. demographics, or proliferation of printing technologies shown here (check out what must have been a revolutionary access granted to the general population based on the progress of technology from the 1860’s onward).
Some even assert that literacy rates were already improving before the introduction of public education, and that the public sector stepped in and took credit for momentum that preceded the first schools.
It is a fair argument to say that much of what the public school system takes credit for, is just as much the result of a growing population, wide-spread prosperity in the largest-ever middle class, individual liberties and technology – all culminating in greater access to literature and communication for all people.
What does not seem to be debatable, is the growing consensus that our schools have become inadequate and are not keeping up with the growing societal demands placed upon current and future students.
How We Learn
Many of the best and most well-intentioned teachers attempt to be more effective, by trying to “make the kids want to learn”. I find this terminology somewhat humorous. If someone wants something, you don’t need to make them seek it. But what they mean to do, is find ways to direct a students’ attention toward the stated curriculum by associating it with the interests of the student. This is a slight move in the right direction, but why must we direct them at all? Exposing people to knowledge is all that is needed. As an individual begins to recognize the importance of learning a given subject as it relates to their own objectives, their own desires will lead them to seek out the direction that leads them to mastery over their individual passion. How beautiful a society might it be if all people were allowed, from the earliest ages of curiosity, to pursue productive mastery of that which they hold most fascinating?
The division of labor has brought us from nomadic tribes, to a beautifully complex society. As we continue to specialize and gain mastery over our specific interests, how much more advanced might we become?
Only if every individual is allowed the freedom of direction to pursue individualized tracts of knowledge, can we progress to our human potentials.
Who We Are
As bad as all of these aspects are, none is so damaging as what school does to the very identity of each child. School teaches us that we are not an individual, that our volition is irreverent- worse that our own free will should be subverted at the behest of those who know better, simply because they are in a place of authority. People wonder why there is so much depression and conflict among our population? Look no further than the methodical stripping down of the individual, the dismantling of the very essence of person-hood.
Is it any wonder that there is a backlash from the youth that ranges from despondency to rebellion, perhaps even to violence? The murder of the mind of the individual, in order to create an automaton, results in a dysfunctional collection of conflicted individuals.
Everything about the structure of school is violent- from taxation to compulsory education and truancy laws, to the day-to-day force inflicted upon the children. School is a prison sentence, imposed for the crime of being an individual. Students are told when to wake, how to dress, what and when to eat. Most must ask permission to go to the bathroom. What to learn, when to learn, how to learn, when to speak… and punishment for making mistakes, are all the accepted norm for school. Being your self is sometimes treated as insubordination and punished with ostracism or worse (I was spanked with a wooden paddle for saying “Ya” instead of “Yes Ma’am”. As I was in a Texas school, and coming from the Pacific NW, I was not accustomed to the dialect of the South. It was taken as a display of disrespect and I was punished for it.)
It’s no wonder that our youth are speaking the language of violence through bullying. It is the culture that is taught to them through schooling.
A New Age: Breaking The Shackles
I’m happy to say, that despite all of the dark issues I have brought up, I do have optimism for the future of education. I am only in my mid-(ok, maybe late) thirties, and already the world is a dramatically different place from that of my youth. Un-imagined access to information is freely available at the tips of our fingers. Access to this world of knowledge is becoming more prolific all over the globe. And while governments scramble to censor, the market for ideas leaps ahead at remarkable speeds to provide access to an entire globe of individuals.
Like Leviathan itself, schools are dying. We are witnessing the death spasms of a monster that will soon shrivel and cease. As it continues to rot, let us hope that the violence that it taught us and the language it speaks dies with it.
Any justification for state school is now moot. Free and unfettered access to knowledge will provide the window that allows each person to feel the light of mastery over the subjects that they are best suited for. Discontent will die out, in favor of a life of passion, when every person is allowed to follow their path of volition.