Can you define education? Chances are you automatically think of the standard institutional model which claims to educate our children. All those classes and subjects, we are told, are basic to a well-rounded education. You would do well to ask who decided this and on what basis.
I hate to get bogged down in the negative, but sometimes the conversation can’t proceed until well-established assumptions are challenged and exposed for what they really are. If you think the government regulated system, public or private, is real education, why would you be willing to consider anything else? It’s like a person who only experiences indoor life, with the light of a man-made bulb that he thinks is the best light available. But we all know that the magnificent, brilliant light that comes from the sun is not only incomparably better, but also uncontainable in a light bulb.
The institutional system, based on compulsory government standards and uniformity, is more of a money laundering operation. Learning is confused with conformity of thought and politically manipulative perspectives. There may have been a day when the town school house was a low-budget, time efficient enterprise; or, that may be a scene perpetuated in stories by authors trained in government schools. Either way, it is now commonly known how many schools and districts are corrupt or grossly mismanaged. News about the latest debacle might make people mad, but it doesn’t surprise anyone. Calls for reform are like flies demanding that a behemoth watch where it walks.
It is debatable whether the storybook schoolhouse was anywhere near as useful as we are led to believe. People have a tendency to look back at the good-old-days and see things that don’t represent reality. Why was it ever considered good for children to have to go spend all day in a sterile classroom instead of experiencing the world around them? Why were hard-working, skilled tradesmen made to feel uneducated because they didn’t know where a certain river in Africa was? It seems these things haven’t really changed.
Maybe they should change. Is it possible we could take back the word education? If we would examine what we really want for our children, both when they are young and when they are grown, it might reshape our concept of childhood education.
The most important thing we can teach our children, in an educational sense, is to think. If we teach them to think, they will observe. They will desire to explore, which will necessitate learning foundational skills. Reading and basic math don’t take that long to learn and would be reinforced as interests are pursued.
Teaching children to think requires a much more relational model of education. This is nearly impossible to reproduce in the classroom. It is much more likely to happen with a person who is consistently trustworthy in a child’s life, with someone who has demonstrated a long term concern for the child’s well-being.
This sounds a lot like what a parent can offer, but it could also include long term relationships with tutors or mentors overseen by parents. In schools, as hard as teachers may try to make it otherwise, children are units of cashflow to be documented and counted. New teachers every year are one way the continuity of learning is broken up. Then there are changes to curriculum constantly being made. Young children are separated from their families and young adults are treated like children by a system that pretends to be personal, but is inherently impersonal.
Thinking that the modern schools are a reliable system of learning is like thinking that slavery is a reliable system of employment. Instead of forcing children to fit this impersonal government-mandated mold, children should be guided to discover life-long habits of learning. They should be allowed to explore knowledge and skills without the ever-looming stress of tests. They should be encouraged to work and make money as young as the mood strikes them.
What most children are subjected to should be called educational trafficking. It is a form of buying and selling children to fulfill the needs of adults, whether it be control of money or control of minds.
Clever advertising has convinced many parents that the system is the best option for children, or a convenient option for parents. Parents have been shamed into thinking they don’t have the wisdom or resourcefulness to provide their own children’s education. When parents do try to take responsibility, the government handicaps them with onerous regulations and interference.
Meanwhile, the government system robs children of their childhood, weakens family bonds, and creates perverse age-segregated social dynamics. It wastes hours every day on bureaucracy, both inside and outside the classroom. But since the bureaucrats are being well paid, not to mention having access to all kinds of funds, it is in their best interest to act shocked when anyone questions their motives or methods.
It may be legal and lawfully required, but there is something wrong with a system that can forcefully take children from their homes according to the social engineering preferences of self-proclaimed experts. Contrary to what they would have you believe, there were no dark ages of learning before the government took over. They just didn’t have the control over it that they wanted.
There has never been an overriding need for everyone to learn all the esoteric academics that usually only give a misleading appearance of being educated. Besides, much of the curriculum taught is thoroughly tainted with government propaganda intended to make people feel dependent on the system.
I’m not suggesting we only teach children something they initiate interest in. There are ways to introduce ideas and motivate, and I plan on discussing this in other articles. I’m also not suggesting that we give children a false view of life being all about them and their own desires. With the right relationship, proper perspective can be taught along the way according to their maturity. However, I am definitely saying that the current system of schooling has much in common with chain-gangs and little of value in terms of time well spent learning.
I am not just going to complain. I (and many other people) have some positive ideas about what a truly nurturing educational environment should look like. But before you can really accept those ideas, you have to be willing to admit the masquerade of education that too many people are nostalgically clinging to.