In America there is, strictly speaking, no adolescence: at the close of boyhood the man appears, and begins to trace out his own path. — Alexis de Touqville, Democracy in America, Book 3, Chapter VIII, published 1840, before the rise of schools
Alexis de Touqville set out to discover what made America different than Europe. Why was there such as strong spirit of entrepreneurship and the urge to create? He found that what set America apart was short childhoods and the inclusion of youth in the world as active participants.
This all changed when schooling became compulsory in the decades after Democracy in America was published.
If you lived in the 1800s, sending your kids to school would be a new thing…
Many things that were invented in the 1800s continue to be extremely useful: battery, electric light, bicycle, safety pin, revolver, machine gun, dynamite, and the zipper, among many things. Others are outmoded and have been replaced: phonograph, typewriter, facsimile machine.
The school system that was institutionalized in 1837 remains unchanged.
Schooling Purposely Destroy Inner Guidance and Ambition
Schools purposely teach children to sit passively, quietly and consume their education in preparation for a life as a good worker and consumer.
Schooling is NOT Learning
School was invented in the 1800s to fill a need in society to create a literate workforce who could obey orders and be competent factory workers. It was also created for day care for children of these workers. The wealthy rarely sent their children to these schools.
In 1899, William T. Harris, the US Commissioner of Education, celebrated the fact that US schools had developed the “appearance of a machine,” one that teaches the student “to behave in an orderly manner, to stay in his own place, and not get in the way of others.”
For the past 170 years, we have taken children and required that they attend a “school” that is separated from the rest of the world in order to “educate” them.
John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, Peter Gray and many other erudite folks make a good case that schooling has always been about social engineering and control.
School Goes Against Nature
My mentor, Brent Cameron, founder of SelfDesign, frequently used to paraphrase Gregory Bateson from his essay “A Sacred Unity” (1991): We are free to choose and we can choose to work with nature or we can choose to work against it. When we choose to work against, we always get into trouble.
Children are natural learners until this inner longing to learn is trained and brainwashed out of them.
“Through their own efforts, children learn to walk, run, jump and climb. They learn from scratch their native language, and with that, they learn to assert their will, argue, amuse, annoy, befriend, charm and ask questions… This amazing drive and capacity to learn does not turn itself off when children turn 5 or 6. We turn it off with our coercive system of schooling. The biggest, most enduring lesson of our system of schooling is that learning is work, to be avoided when possible. — Peter Gray
Schools Purposely Violate what John Holt calls a child’s Right to Curiosity
Youth are never given the opportunity to discover their personal purpose or gifts. They are forced to pursue of course of study that has been determined without their input.
Youth leave 18+ years of school dazed and confused, many with no sense of inner calling or purpose. They wander around aimlessly for many years — going to college, getting a job, climbing the corporate ladder until they wake up in their 30s, 40s or 50s and wonder what the purpose of life really is.
If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious about, we destroy his freedom of thought. We say, in effect, you must think not about what interests and concerns you, but about what interests and concerns us. — John Holt
Schooling damages peoples and limits their potential
School creates within people a deep sense of insecurity and fear. Endless comparisons, competition, grades and testing are inhumane and teach people that their self-worth can be shown on a bell curve. The school system has nothing to do with real, lasting learning.
If you were schooled into thinking that your self-worth is attached to performance, achievement, grades, teacher approval, then it’s time to wake up and re-jigger your estimation of yourself. If you continue to believe that your self-worth is connected to your stuff (house, car, job title, clothes, etc.), your credit score, your performance review, or your number of FB friends, then it’s time to wake up and start living your own life.
If you were schooled to think that you are a passive participant in your own life, it is time for you to begin to create the life that you want to live. And stop schooling your kids. The “I suffered through it, they will too” argument doesn’t work for me.
Money will not Fix Schools
No amount of money will fix it because it is based upon false assumptions of human nature and how children learn. The current system, while employing many amazing well-intended educators, is deeply flawed. It is an obsolete design of a bygone era.
We force children to sit still in one room for most of the day with children of the exact same age and to absorb information as if they were empty books that need to be filled.
The Form of School is Dysfunctional:
- With the Internet, Google, and Wikipedia, rote memorization and regurgitation is not necessary.
- Less than 5% of youth learn in the auditory-sequential lecture and textbook mode of schools
- The school system pathologizes all learning differences and students are labeled, drugged, and remediated.
- Children need to move their bodies in order to learn and embody the new learning.
- A mixed-age environment benefits everyone — younger and older.
- Natural groupings around interests, developmental readiness, and learning styles makes more sense.
We created the classroom with the assumption that children are not naturally designed to learn.
Many people assume that, if given a choice of how to invest their time and energy, children would be naturally uninterested in the world around them, slothful and frivolous.
This is not so. A universal human motivation is to understand how the world works and to figure out what one’s place is in the world.
Discovery of the world, self, and purpose require the freedom to explore and the opportunity to discuss the learning journey in an environment of care and safety.
Yet, we never ask children and youth what they are interested in learning, what they enjoy doing, or what their calling or passion is.
Learning happens best when a person chooses an area of learning and is guided by interest and inner motivation.
Most high-school drop-outs state their reason for leaving school as boredom and that they didn’t see school as relevant to life.
We based assessments of learning on the assumption that learning is content.
Learning is not content. Learning is a neurological process. Each person has a unique way of learning — a unique process that fits with the individual neurobiology.
Parents have been distracted from the true process of learning by discussions and debates about content.
We falsely assumed that giving grades to children would be an authentic assessment of learning and the best way to motivate performance.
Authentic and useful assessments of learning require the elements of careful observation of the learning process and self-evaluation.
Learning is not a competition. Lifelong learning is the essential journey of a life well lived.
Testing and grading create a highly competitive environment in which only a few can “succeed”. Neither the “winners” or the “losers” of this false competition benefit. The “winners” are always looking to outside achievement and praise by others to have a sense that they are OK. The “losers” often give up and either settle for less in life or rebel.
Societies in which its members are the happiest and most content are cooperative and not competitive.
There is no correlation between success in school and success in life.
Let’s revolutionize the learning paradigm.
Let’s create real learning experiences for children, where they choose their projects and contribute their gifts and talents to the real world.
Let’s protect a child’s right of curiosity.