I wrote that piece because learning to question things - like whether school was the best path for my family and the words "have to" - was a critical turning point in my life. Learning that I really had CHOICES was empowering. And I wish more people could feel that way.
But it can also be very difficult for people to hear. I read a great blog post the other day called Why School?
Here is a passage from that post:
When I ponder these questions the main conclusions that stand out to me is that school as it is, is for the convenience of adults and the benefit of the factory like system of the workforce. And I for one don’t want that to determine my child’s childhood years.
5 years is about the youngest you can get a child to sit still and force to listen to information. Having weekdays taken up sure is convenient for adults and six hours is almost a work day.
Starting young guarantees children who are used to these expectations and being given the information they ‘need’. Without years of indoctrination it would seem bizarre, for example, to ask to use the toilet or wait to eat when hungry.
Worksheets make information easy to distribute to large groups of children. Homework is an easy way to bring that controlled learning into the home.
It sure is helpful for the workforce (and the elite who benefit from it) to have young impressionable minds molded by a system that treats them like one and the same. The workforce, media and consumerism in general works best with people who are used to having decisions made for them.
It would be a damn lot harder to convince an adult that they should spend their lifetime working 40 hour weeks if not for a childhood spent non-consensually learning arbitrary information. Our consumer-based society works much easier if we don’t challenge the norm.
Separating subjects and making education feel like something that must be done to people in a way that is separate to life creates a self-satisfying system. A system that creates people dependent on a system to give knowledge and provide answers and a system that depends on people accepting that.
It only took one generation for it to become an expectation and for normalcy to fall to this model.
Schooling is, in and of itself, a method of control that lasts well beyond childhood. It paves the way for a life that most of us feel deep down is unsatisfying. It’s not unexpected then to hear how people think that school is needed to ‘prepare children for the real world’.
I read the above post and I thought, "Good for her!" Because it's not easy to say these things when you know it will offend many people.
And speaking about offensive back to school reading - one of my favorite people to read is making waves. Peter Gray's piece, "The Danger of Back to School," was banned on Facebook because someone reported that it was abusive. In the piece Gray presents the argument that school is not good for many students' mental health. He even presents data showing the number of children who had emergency visits to a mental health facility in Hartford, CT. While it is only one set of data, there is a clear dip in the number of visits during the summer months -when children aren't in school.
These ideas are not easy for most of us. School is part of our culture. It's part of our communities and families. It's part of US. Some of us have fond memories of Back to School. But even people with less than fond memories of school will often adamantly defend it. Why is that? Why would someone be offended by him presenting a graph showing that there are fewer children's mental health visits in the summer? Grays piece was reported as ABUSIVE. Whoever (or the many whoevers) reported the piece felt ATTACKED. When school is attacked people feel like they are being attacked. Like their choices are being attacked. Like their families and children are being attacked. It doesn't feel good.
But I don't want to attack anyone. I just want people to know - there is another way. There are MANY other ways. I just saw a great quote today about their being many different ways to get an education. There is no ONE. RIGHT. WAY. School makes us believe that there is. And in the process it leaves many behind. It makes many feel like they are not "good enough". It grades and marks us when there is no need. Even those of us who conquered the system are affected, although most of us might not recognize how.
The truth is, there are some children who are "fine" in school. Some children seem to thrive there. Not all end up in a mental health center. But the problem is when some (many?) children struggle, instead of recognizing that the child isn't "The Problem" and that school just doesn't work for that child, most parents/adults in that child's life continue to try and make the child Fit. We continue to try to fix the child. Add more homework. Get tutors. More "remediation" and support. Punishments. Detentions. Suspensions. And on and on. We have to stop doing that.
I wish all families and children well, whether they are going back to school or not. Please Listen to your children. They know what is best for them.