There can be no greater stretch of arbitrary power than is required to seize children from their parents, teach them whatever the authorities decree they shall be taught, and expropriate from the parents the funds to pay for the procedure. … “Free education” [is] the most absolute contradiction of facts by terminology of which the language is capable. Everything about such schools is compulsory, not free; … . A tax- supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.
- Isabel Paterson
Yes, I think public education needs to be abolished as well as the entire framework of how we educate our children. The vast majority of private schools are not substantially different from public schools in how they teach or what they teach, so they are not exempt either (however I do support privatized schooling, in the sense that I think the choice of what school to attend should be up to the child and parents.)
This article by Peter Gray approaches the issue from a viewpoint of freedom, and how the most basic freedom of all humans should be the “freedom to quit.” This applies to both children and adults, and requires that the institutions hoping to invite participation need to cater to the happiness and well-being of the people, rather than forcing them conform to their institution through discipline, indoctrination, and medication.
In general, children are the most brutalized of people, not because they are small and weak, but because they don’t have the same freedoms to quit that adults have.
When schooling is compulsory, schools are, by definition, prisons. A prison is a place where one is forced to be and within which people are not free to choose their own activities, spaces, or associates. Children cannot walk away from school, and within the school children cannot walk away from mean teachers, oppressive and pointless assignments, or cruel classmates. For some children, the only out—the only real way to quit—is suicide.
When children are truly free to walk away from school, then schools will have to become child-friendly places in order to survive.
I think the way we raise our children and what we subject them to is reflective of the maturity and values of our society as a whole. Human life is supposed to be exploratory and social; and I think we should be raised in the presence of the means of production and the environment that provides for us. Our children should feel enabled and self-sufficient.
In contrast, we place our children in enclosed rooms and force them to sit through lectures and take standardized testing for 7 hours a day. The vast majority of what they learn is watered down, censored, repetitive, and has almost no relevance to the world they will face when turned out to survive as adults.
We’ve also created a production line for the “continued education” of our children through the social stigma of needing to attend college along with an economy so stifled and downtrodden that the only opportunities outside of a degree (if you are one of the lucky degree holders, that is) is a service job with unsustainable wages. Yet the cost of college has tripled in the last three decades (another hint: more big business and government.) We are forcing our children down paths that promise no security, require two decades of commitment, and saddle them with debt and a lack of real life skills.
The number of children at increasingly young ages being “diagnosed” and prescribed medications has skyrocketed since the 1980s. (Hint: it’s big business.) Impoverished children and those in foster care or on medicaid are even more likely to be prescribed medications. Not only do I think this is a result of the incestuous relationships between doctors, psychiatrists, and big pharmaceutical companies, but it is also a result of an increasingly unnatural environment that demands us to drug up our children in order for them to conform to it. Our children are not being born sicker, but we are raising them in sicker environments that require us to alter their childlike nature. (It’s worthwhile to consider Levine’s work on how societies with less coercion have less mental illness.)
I should also mention briefly the “school to prison pipeline” for children in public education, in particular targeting minorities and impoverished children. (Hint: also big business.) The strict and coercive nature of public education removes undesirable children and essentially sends them down a path of inevitable crime and imprisonment for potentially the rest of their lives. The discriminatory nature of public education funding and quality also criminalized low-income parents and subsequently limits their own children’s future potential.
I also consider public education to be a key tactic in the government keeping their population subservient and docile. From an increasingly young age we are forced to spend a huge portion of our lives in an institutionalized and authoritarian environment that shapes our world view and predisposition to being part of a collective rather than our own individual selves. We are taught as if we are all generic clones of one another and given medication or punishment if we cross over the lines of conformity.
Furthermore, I think that the stifling and oppressive nature of our education prepares us for the stifling and oppressive nature of the workforce we will subsequently be forced to enter. Despite a disturbingly high percentage of people not liking and even hating their jobs (70%!) we all continue to go through motions and do as we are told, without recognizing we can demand a better existence. The “way of life” in Western culture has become increasingly destructive to human happiness, but limiting our ability to imagine anything other than the structure we’ve operated within since childhood and restricting us by fear of our survival keep most people at bay. Public education plays a role in preparing us to continue going to work as disengaged but docile employees in the same manner many children attend school. The bird who has never existed outside of a cage falsely believes he is free.
Ultimately the solutions for raising our children in a better way are going to be vastly different and unique for all children and different demographics. But the ability to create diverse learning environments is what we need to allow ourselves in order to begin improving our way of life. No coercive or institutionalized structure, however good its initial intentions, is what is needed to change education. We have to leave this mode of life behind and seek out voluntary and adaptive means of educating our children, through family and local organization. I strongly support homeschooling (in community settings with other children and families) as an immediate alternative to public education. Some people also like the un-schooling movement. Down the road I would like to see more and more alternative “schools” formed by adults and children that can include children with parents who have to work during the days or cannot educate their children to the full extent they want.