A three-fer. First, from Sippican Cottage:
You see, there are no public schools in America that I know of. They’re reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school. A public school is a really expensive, but shabby and ineffectual, private school that collects their tuition with the threat of eviction from your house.
I grew up in the same town as Horace Mann. I know all about public schools. The concept is as dead as a Pharaoh. The idea that universal literacy and a coherent public attitude toward citizenship would result in a better life for the country as a whole was a sweet one, and it worked for a while, until they “fixed” it. They’ve been fixing the hell out of it for over half a century now. They fixed it the way a veterinarian fixes dogs, to my eye.
Second, from Salon.com:
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.
And third, from John Taylor Gatto, a repeat:
The secret of American schooling is that it doesn’t teach the way children learn, and it isn’t supposed to; school was engineered to serve a concealed command economy and a deliberately re-stratified social order. It wasn’t made for the benefit of kids and families as those individuals and institutions would define their own needs. School is the first impression children get of organized society; like most first impressions, it is the lasting one. Life according to school is dull and stupid, only consumption promises relief: Coke, Big Macs, fashion jeans, that’s where real meaning is found, that is the classroom’s lesson, however indirectly delivered.
The decisive dynamics which make forced schooling poisonous to healthy human development aren’t hard to spot. Work in classrooms isn’t significant work; it fails to satisfy real needs pressing on the individual; it doesn’t answer real questions experience raises in the young mind; it doesn’t contribute to solving any problem encountered in actual life. The net effect of making all schoolwork external to individual longings, experiences, questions, and problems is to render the victim listless. This phenomenon has been well-understood at least since the time of the British enclosure movement which forced small farmers off their land into factory work. Growth and mastery come only to those who vigorously self-direct. Initiating, creating, doing, reflecting, freely associating, enjoying privacy—these are precisely what the structures of schooling are set up to prevent, on one pretext or another.
As I watched it happen, it took about three years to break most kids, three years confined to environments of emotional neediness with nothing real to do.