Much of education today* is designed to make us into obedient adults, respectful of authority and willing to delay or even deny our own wants of the sake of the whole.
I know, because it has taken me until now to realize that my role is not to sit down and shut up, so my betters can speak before me. It is a mistake to run a classroom for the imposition of order on kids. It works well if the kids are going to be working in mills or fields, and need to learn to take direction faithfully for the sake of their lives, livelihoods and limbs. That was true when the school “system”** we have today was formed. Like the zoos of today, today’s schools reward children for good behavior, not learning, not creativity, not fitness, and certainly not loudness. If your interests happen to be channeled into the few programs the school does have, likes sports, music, or math, then you will do well. What you want is what they want, and you are valued from an early age.
My life would have been far easier if I knew that my wants and curiosity were valued. Some kids got to express these, but only within the structure of the classroom. Every kid I went to school with could have been great, but I suspect some of them are in jail by now. An only child, I was naturally a class clown without tact in elementary school. For much of elementary school, I was in trouble with the teacher or my classmates for acting out in some way. I just had too many thoughts I made into words. I spent most of elementary school morose, as I did not see anywhere for my thoughts to go. Those who know me form graduate school saw this acting out again, but by then I knew what I wanted to do. All people should be so privileged, much earlier in life if possible.
This is as much a short piece on parenting as on school, for most kid’s lives have been lived at home with their parents by the time they start pre-school. Most have already learned the lessons that they will have to unlearn if they want to succeed before they even sit in a classroom.
I was reading a bit (http://www.amazon.com/The-Essentials-Inborn-Resources-Fulfilling/dp/1594631220) today about safety in playground design.. The Monkeybars of my youth have all been sold for scrap, perhaps even as toxic waste. Kids no longer learn that they can do things truly risky and survive them if they overcome their fears. There fears are baked right in, structurally avoided, and kept intact. Surely, when they have kids whey will rebel against this level of liability and mollycoddling, and the toddlers will stream into the emergency rooms in 2025. For this generation, I am concerned that we are raising a nation of ninnies. Worse that that, broken kids. Kids and adults need to know that they can take a hit and get better from it. No hits, and nothing gets built but fear.
The key to raising kids that are healthy of body and mind and able to enter the new global knowledge economy intact and raring to go is that they have hope that their actions will make a difference, and that diligence on their part will be have an effect on the world. Feeling unable to affect the world creates hopeless nabobs, or terrorists. Arbitrary and capricious enforcement of rules by parents or teachers for the sake of order trains kids to never stick their neck out, never create. Mythologies and statistics of poverty, inequality, and immobility does not serve anybody but the arrivistes. If it bleeds, it leads, but if it is you that is bleeding your own gift and ambitions, you’d rather the news just shut up about it.
I am not advocating setting kids loose in a cornfield. Reading comprehension, science, and math are all complex bodies of knowledge that require a lot of study. Kids will learn those things a lot faster the more they see the point of learning them, however. Ask any pokemon collector.
Every kid and every adult has to identify and win their own struggle for relevance and power. That has damn little to do with the fetish of order that most schools enforce.
^ Rikachu, the evolution from Pikachu. Its amazing what you can find on the intertubes.
* At least back to when I was in school, and I don’t hear about many fundamental changes in better directions.
** Colophon: I always put things I have little respect for, but high hopes for, in quotes