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Do We Want School or Education? Op-Ed

Posted by on Aug. 18, 2013 at 9:38 AM
  • 61 Replies
2 moms liked this

As our world continues to unravel in response to the impact of our uneconomic activities on ecological systems, it is obviously worth asking searching questions about the nature of modern society. By doing this we can make intelligent decisions about the direction in which we should move as we thoughtfully respond to the interrelated crises we face.

Robert J. Burrowes

For many people, the central question is this: Will tinkering with human society be enough to get us out of this mess? Many people think not and I am one of them. For the moment, however, rather than focus on the nature of the economy, political systems or other aspects of modern societies, I would like to discuss the issue of education.

For a long time, people in different parts of the world have struggled to expand access, including access for girls, to school. This struggle still takes place in many countries. But I want to add my name to the list of people who question whether school is the best way to get an education. And there are many reasons why I believe it is not.

In essence, schools are designed to teach a disintegrated set of 'knowledge' and skills that are useful to those businesses and corporations which provide employment, however menial, in the mainstream economy. This schooling is taking place even now when there is little evidence to suggest that the mainstream economy is capable of providing full employment and, more importantly, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that this economy will need to be utterly transformed if we are to survive the interrelated ecological threats to our survival.

Let me briefly state some problems with school: it is highly damaging physically, sensorily, intellectually and emotionally. Schooling requires the child to spend six hours each day sitting in a school classroom, for up to 13 years. Physically, the classroom utterly destroys posture and movement patterns because the human body is designed to move regularly. If you have ever witnessed the grace of movement of a village African who has never been to school, then you know this too.

Sensorily, the best classroom is devoid of stimulus compared to nature and this exacts a heavy cost by dramatically curtailing the child's learning opportunities as well as stifling the development of its sensory capacities themselves. Have you ever been awestruck by what an indigenous person raised in a natural environment can learn from a smell, a touch or a breath of wind, or how they can track an animal?

Intellectually, the school classroom offers a mind-numbingly boring and incredibly limited range of topics all taught in lock-step as if each child was identical and had the same interests and learning rates.

Most importantly of all, however, the school classroom helps to destroy children emotionally because it requires the child to be submissively obedient to its teachers. This means it must consciously and unconsciously, all day, every day, fearfully suppress its awareness of the feelings that evolution intended would guide its behaviour at that time, including those that would guide its self-directed learning.

Do you remember being stuck in a classroom, feeling utterly bored while staring out of the window wishing you were running around free outside? The problem is that as we grew older our fear made us learn to suppress our awareness of our feeling of boredom, which was telling us an important truth about how we were spending our time. But this feeling of boredom (as well as the fear that suppressed it and the anger that it 'acceptably' represented) still lives deep in our unconscious playing an unconscious part in shaping our behaviour even today (including by making us able to 'tolerate' a host of other boring activities, including those at work). Many other suppressed feelings are similarly stored. If you had the power, what do you wish had been your childhood now? What do you want for our children?

I wonder, therefore, if we might not usefully take some time to reconceive our concept of education and how it might be delivered in the world that must now rapidly emerge, so that education might play a useful role in shaping that emergence.

So here is my idea. First, I am going to assume that each child has the potential to achieve self-realisation and to define this, simply, as the capacity to reach its full potential. To do this, it will need to develop a powerfully integrated mind in which mental functions such as sensing, thoughts, feelings, memory and conscience work together seamlessly so that the child can act with initiative, conviction and courage. And, of course, this can only happen in an environment in which the child is nurtured as a whole person. This child will be able to engage in a deep critique of society and to then courageously participate in the nonviolent struggle to renew human civilisation in accord with our highest ideals however these manifest in each society, given its unique history, ecological foundation and set of cultural relations.

'This is ambitious', you are thinking pessimistically. Of course it is, if you are still trapped in that childhood classroom. But let's get out of it!

Each child is genetically programmed to be highly functional: able to sense an enormous amount from its surroundings, to feel, to think, to use memory and conscience as necessary. And to learn at an incredibly rapid rate; for example, children in many parts of the world learn several languages simultaneously at a very young age (without going to school to do so). But, mostly, we get in the way of children learning, without meaning to do so. How? Simply by not listening when a child tells us what it needs and wants. Given a choice, I believe that no self-aware child would go to school for more than a day (unless it was doing so to escape a more dysfunctional environment at home).

If we lived in communities, rather than nuclear families, that nurtured each child by listening to it, provided it with opportunities to learn knowledge and skills that enhanced individual and community self-reliance relevant to its future (such as permaculture, participation in group decision-making and conflict resolution processes), and which gave it the chance to learn contextually (whether reading, writing, relevant mathematics, geography, agricultural practices, political economy, tool-making, healthcare or anything else) as it participated in community activities, then each child would be spared the boredom we suffered and have the opportunity to realise its 'true self'. Moreover, by living in a wider community, our own shortcomings as parents and teachers (including any tendencies to be violent) would be diluted by the immediate presence of other adults/teachers. And we would dilute any shortcomings of theirs.

Do you think your street and neighbourhood could be a community? If you would like to consider one model for this type of future, which takes into account ecological imperatives, you are welcome to consider participating in 'The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth' - http://tinyurl.com/flametree.

The tragic reality of human life is that few people value the awesome power of the individual Self with an integrated mind (that is, a mind in which memory, thoughts, feelings, sensing, conscience and other functions work together in an integrated way) because this individual will be decisive in choosing life-enhancing behavioural options (including those at variance with social laws and norms) and will fearlessly resist all efforts to control it or coerce it with violence.


Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'Why Violence?' His website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com


What are your thoughts on this?


by on Aug. 18, 2013 at 9:38 AM
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Replies (1-10):
romalove
by Roma on Aug. 18, 2013 at 9:50 AM
6 moms liked this

Given a choice, children would also likely eat cupcakes and ice cream as a main meal.

Given a choice, children would stay up late every night.

Given a choice, children would decide math is unnecessary in the real world so we'll just do more tag.

Children need guidance from parents.  This article is ridiculous lol.  He advocates for children to not only not be schooled (beyond unschooling) but also to be free of authority.

Ummm....no.

stormcris
by Christy on Aug. 18, 2013 at 10:47 AM
5 moms liked this

I took this an entirely different way. I think it is more about involving them in the adult environment and multiple perspectives with unlimited resources and support than just simply sending them to school and saying this is all you need. I think he was trying to get back to the idea you can learn amazing things from other people and the mostly lost availability of apprenticeship.

Quoting romalove:

Given a choice, children would also likely eat cupcakes and ice cream as a main meal.

Given a choice, children would stay up late every night.

Given a choice, children would decide math is unnecessary in the real world so we'll just do more tag.

Children need guidance from parents.  This article is ridiculous lol.  He advocates for children to not only not be schooled (beyond unschooling) but also to be free of authority.

Ummm....no.


romalove
by Roma on Aug. 18, 2013 at 10:53 AM
2 moms liked this


Quoting stormcris:

I took this an entirely different way. I think it is more about involving them in the adult environment and multiple perspectives with unlimited resources and support than just simply sending them to school and saying this is all you need. I think he was trying to get back to the idea you can learn amazing things from other people and the mostly lost availability of apprenticeship.

Quoting romalove:

Given a choice, children would also likely eat cupcakes and ice cream as a main meal.

Given a choice, children would stay up late every night.

Given a choice, children would decide math is unnecessary in the real world so we'll just do more tag.

Children need guidance from parents.  This article is ridiculous lol.  He advocates for children to not only not be schooled (beyond unschooling) but also to be free of authority.

Ummm....no.


I think there is room for adding to curriculum, giving kids some freedom to do things they like, and to get them out in the world interacting with their environment.

But I think if you read the piece, especially this:

Most importantly of all, however, the school classroom helps to destroy children emotionally because it requires the child to be submissively obedient to its teachers. This means it must consciously and unconsciously, all day, every day, fearfully suppress its awareness of the feelings that evolution intended would guide its behaviour at that time, including those that would guide its self-directed learning.

^^^from the article

it is hard to avoid seeing that the author wants a complete deconstruction of school, because he thinks children will want to self-educate.

Some will and some won't.  Some will become experts in one thing and know nothing about everything else.  Some will know a smattering of lots of things.  Some will want to sit in the corner and color.

There are things we need to impart to our kids when they are young so they have a good foundation on which to learn the specialty things they will require as they move into the world, and also to give them the tools to make those decisions as they grow.

I had my daughter in a Montessori preschool for three years.  I saw the gamut of what kids do when left to their own devices.

I can't imagine doing it "forever".

rfurlongg
by on Aug. 18, 2013 at 11:07 AM

 He is taking about a full international societal restructuring. Is that realistic?

While most children do hold an innate ability to learn and internal drive to seek knowledge, they do not all do so in the same manner. Montessori is brilliant for certain learning styles, it is highly detrimental for overs. Home schooling is absolutely the best and only option for some children, it is terrible for others. While some individuals thrive in public school (yes, it happens). Our current social structures allows for many, many, educational learning environments.

Education is MUCH more than simply seeking knowledge. A large portion of education is social learning. The op/ed proposal means changing societal structures. While idealistic it is unrealistic in our global "community."

stormcris
by Christy on Aug. 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM
1 mom liked this

I am not sure it is realistic without some great catastrophe causing it.

I am not sure though the idea of the global "community" is out of sync with some forms of this entirely.

Quoting rfurlongg:

 He is taking about a full international societal restructuring. Is that realistic?

While most children do hold an innate ability to learn and internal drive to seek knowledge, they do not all do so in the same manner. Montessori is brilliant for certain learning styles, it is highly detrimental for overs. Home schooling is absolutely the best and only option for some children, it is terrible for others. While some individuals thrive in public school (yes, it happens). Our current social structures allows for many, many, educational learning environments.

Education is MUCH more than simply seeking knowledge. A large portion of education is social learning. The op/ed proposal means changing societal structures. While idealistic it is unrealistic in our global "community."


rfurlongg
by on Aug. 18, 2013 at 3:03 PM
2 moms liked this
I guess that depends what he meant by "community." I tend to view community as more local with a lot of personal real life contact.
Quoting stormcris:

I am not sure it is realistic without some great catastrophe causing it.

I am not sure though the idea of the global "community" is out of sync with some forms of this entirely.

Quoting rfurlongg:

 He is taking about a full international societal restructuring. Is that realistic?

While most children do hold an innate ability to learn and internal drive to seek knowledge, they do not all do so in the same manner. Montessori is brilliant for certain learning styles, it is highly detrimental for overs. Home schooling is absolutely the best and only option for some children, it is terrible for others. While some individuals thrive in public school (yes, it happens). Our current social structures allows for many, many, educational learning environments.

Education is MUCH more than simply seeking knowledge. A large portion of education is social learning. The op/ed proposal means changing societal structures. While idealistic it is unrealistic in our global "community."


TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Aug. 18, 2013 at 3:29 PM
4 moms liked this

 As usual, you entirely misunderstand the point here.  The point is the difference between the warehousing of children that we call "school" today, and actual education that takes place with books or experiences anywhere, which as a homeschooler (for the early years)is completely understandable. 

My kids learned while engaging in the community, memorized all of the countries (not just continents) while singing songs and jumping up and down, as little children should be able to do, took care of their aging grandma in her final years, and many other valuable things because they were not warehoused.  Oh, and they are straight A, top of the class students today, in college and high school classes (while in early to mid teens).   Learning outside the box of the school building WORKS. 

Here is the point, and it is accurate, though a bit New-agey in its presentation, to the author's detriment:

Let me briefly state some problems with school: it is highly damaging physically, sensorily, intellectually and emotionally. Schooling requires the child to spend six hours each day sitting in a school classroom, for up to 13 years. Physically, the classroom utterly destroys posture and movement patterns because the human body is designed to move regularly. If you have ever witnessed the grace of movement of a village African who has never been to school, then you know this too.

 

AQuoting romalove:

Given a choice, children would also likely eat cupcakes and ice cream as a main meal.

Given a choice, children would stay up late every night.

Given a choice, children would decide math is unnecessary in the real world so we'll just do more tag.

Children need guidance from parents.  This article is ridiculous lol.  He advocates for children to not only not be schooled (beyond unschooling) but also to be free of authority.

Ummm....no.

 

FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Aug. 18, 2013 at 3:43 PM
2 moms liked this

Schools are far too more of the social setting for our children rather than the structured, hard core learning atmosphere.

If all the children are doing, at any level, is sitting in the chair, listening to the teacher go on and on, or sitting reading, working on a work sheet, no interaction of any kind, no stimulation, that can indeed cause more issues than the 'learning' of any thing.

The structure and out of the box learning many home schooling parents feel is necessary, and that some are able to provide, should be brought in to the classrooms more.

No schools is not plausible.  Not every one has that perfect structure, that perfect setting, or even a remotely available situation, in which to 'teach' the children properly, if at all.  Home schooling, or non schooling, for every one is not possible.  It would never work.  The thought of the children produced from such is far more concerning than those in the public schools.

Expectations in school are low.  Teachers and staff have very little to no set expectations.  What is expressed to the students as mandatory and such, in order to graduate, are done so in way as if to tell them how to  get through the school years and get out. The teachers may pick out of a few kids they feel will make them look good, but overall, the only expectations to be met are those of the standardized tests.  Again, those tests do not benefit the students.

Society benefits, or not, from what is produced in the schools.  We do not need to be thinking of 'producing' our children but rather, beginning at home, help them grow, learn, develop, discover, fail and achieve.  

romalove
by Roma on Aug. 18, 2013 at 3:58 PM
3 moms liked this


Quoting TranquilMind:

 As usual, you entirely misunderstand the point here.  The point is the difference between the warehousing of children that we call "school" today, and actual education that takes place with books or experiences anywhere, which as a homeschooler (for the early years)is completely understandable. 

My kids learned while engaging in the community, memorized all of the countries (not just continents) while singing songs and jumping up and down, as little children should be able to do, took care of their aging grandma in her final years, and many other valuable things because they were not warehoused.  Oh, and they are straight A, top of the class students today, in college and high school classes (while in early to mid teens).   Learning outside the box of the school building WORKS. 

Here is the point, and it is accurate, though a bit New-agey in its presentation, to the author's detriment:

Let me briefly state some problems with school: it is highly damaging physically, sensorily, intellectually and emotionally. Schooling requires the child to spend six hours each day sitting in a school classroom, for up to 13 years. Physically, the classroom utterly destroys posture and movement patterns because the human body is designed to move regularly. If you have ever witnessed the grace of movement of a village African who has never been to school, then you know this too.

 

AQuoting romalove:

Given a choice, children would also likely eat cupcakes and ice cream as a main meal.

Given a choice, children would stay up late every night.

Given a choice, children would decide math is unnecessary in the real world so we'll just do more tag.

Children need guidance from parents.  This article is ridiculous lol.  He advocates for children to not only not be schooled (beyond unschooling) but also to be free of authority.

Ummm....no.

 

My children are well educated and not "warehoused".

Telling me how faaabulous your children did is meaningless, as is all anecdotal evidence.  Mine are faaabulous as well.  Oh woe, we went different routes and appear to have come up with similar outcome.  Whatever will we do?

I find your response to me here rude.  

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Aug. 18, 2013 at 4:07 PM
1 mom liked this

 I wasn't intending to be rude.  You didn't address my comments at all, instead opting to go straight to the logical fallacies, both here and in the previous comments (which can be considered rude, interestingly).

I'm not seeing where he said children should be a law unto themselves and without authority.  He is only saying that school as we know it, with the 6 hour daily lockdown and crowd control is not the best way. 

 

 

So yours are not locked  in a school building most of the day, since they are not warehoused?  Gotcha.  Good.

Ok.  Then I'm surprised that the author's point was so unclear to you that you went straight to the logical fallacies, suggesting that children MUST be in a building all day, because not to require that is the same as allowing them cupcakes all day or not expecting them to learn.

Quoting romalove:


Quoting TranquilMind:

 As usual, you entirely misunderstand the point here.  The point is the difference between the warehousing of children that we call "school" today, and actual education that takes place with books or experiences anywhere, which as a homeschooler (for the early years)is completely understandable. 

My kids learned while engaging in the community, memorized all of the countries (not just continents) while singing songs and jumping up and down, as little children should be able to do, took care of their aging grandma in her final years, and many other valuable things because they were not warehoused.  Oh, and they are straight A, top of the class students today, in college and high school classes (while in early to mid teens).   Learning outside the box of the school building WORKS. 

Here is the point, and it is accurate, though a bit New-agey in its presentation, to the author's detriment:

Let me briefly state some problems with school: it is highly damaging physically, sensorily, intellectually and emotionally. Schooling requires the child to spend six hours each day sitting in a school classroom, for up to 13 years. Physically, the classroom utterly destroys posture and movement patterns because the human body is designed to move regularly. If you have ever witnessed the grace of movement of a village African who has never been to school, then you know this too.

 

AQuoting romalove:

Given a choice, children would also likely eat cupcakes and ice cream as a main meal.

Given a choice, children would stay up late every night.

Given a choice, children would decide math is unnecessary in the real world so we'll just do more tag.

Children need guidance from parents.  This article is ridiculous lol.  He advocates for children to not only not be schooled (beyond unschooling) but also to be free of authority.

Ummm....no.

 

My children are well educated and not "warehoused".

Telling me how faaabulous your children did is meaningless, as is all anecdotal evidence.  Mine are faaabulous as well.  Oh woe, we went different routes and appear to have come up with similar outcome.  Whatever will we do?

I find your response to me here rude.  

 

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