Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Public school rant

Public schools are by far among the most obnoxious and pretentious institutions around. Imagine the hubris: some school bureaucrat forces you at gunpoint to pay him for compiling a curriculum according to his own preferences and value judgements, then he forces you to hand over your children so he can spoonfeed them with his ideology. Should you refuse to comply, the bureaucrat's armed friends will pull over and lock you up after they've kidnapped your children. If you're lucky though, you'll only have to pay the bureaucrat and give a good excuse for why you want to keep your children out of his reach.

I've spent 13 years in public school myself. Indeed, I did learn quite a lot. I consider these lessons to be especially important:

1) Government personnel tends to care far less about your wishes and needs than people who must rely on your voluntary cooperation to stay in business. In fact, an astonishing number of government henchmen consider it to be a benevolent action on their part to actually work for their money.

2) Education must be boring. Teaching must happen in a specifically designated building under the supervision of government employees. Learning outside of government territory requires previous training in a state-approved institution.

3) To be a good citizen, I will learn a lot, study hard, get a good job and pay my taxes. And cast a ballot for the right guy every four years or so.

It's a big relief for naysayers like me to get in contact with homeschoolers and see children getting the opportunity to discover the wonders of life outside of an uncomforting prison atmosphere. And if you think about it, "prison atmosphere" hit the nail right on the head. People get raped in prisons by inmates and sometimes guards, students get (psychologically) raped in schools by classmates and sometimes teachers. Prisons give rise to a culture of group segregation and fear, so do schools. Prisons are likely to create broken and dull minds, so are schools.

Of course, humans tend to romanticize the past, increasingly so if it's been a few decades. Everybody remembers that funny fella in sixth grade who would always crack a dirty joke. Oh, and prom night for sure. Few question the logic behind public schooling since a) nearly everyone's been there and b) many have been habitualized to believe that public schooling is the pillar of wealth and civilization. Reality's a tough act to follow sometimes.

Now, after I've been bitching around for half a page, I owe my readers some thoughtful refutation of common arguments in favor of public schooling. I'm really sorry, but I don't know where to begin. The idea that children must spend more than a decade in a bureaucrat boot camp completely detached from reality to learn "general knowledge" and "social skills" seems to me like a yellow turtle with five legs.

One thing, however, should be recommended: please read "The Underground History of American Education" by John Taylor Gatto. You can find the whole book online here. If you've ever found public schooling to be somewhat smelly, you'll be told the reasons in this great and exciting opus on public education.

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