As someone who writes and shares about parenting, I’m in many parenting groups. Time and time again there are people asking essentially the same question:
How can I help my child adjust to school?
Their child is upset with starting school or has grown resentful of school. They’re crying or angry or making excuses not to go.
Does this sound normal? Does this sound healthy? When you remove how common this situation is… when you imagine something else invoking this response… Is it uncomfortable? I know for me it sure is.
Maybe instead of dismissing their behaviour as ‘normal’, we should listen. The message they are sending is loud and clear and in any other situation it would be taken seriously. But because it’s related to school it’s seen as necessary and expected and therefore not a big deal. Maybe children should be educated in ways that better meet their biological needs. Maybe we should demand that that happens. And if it doesn’t? Maybe we should opt-out altogether. – Sara from Happiness is here.
Children are adaptable
Do children adjust to school? Of course many children adjust! Just because children are adaptable doesn’t make it okay.
Children adjust to the oppression, lack of freedoms, autonomy, and respect in schools in a similar way to how many babies adjust to being left to cry it out and ‘self soothe‘. Schooled children become complacent. Their cries and concerns are belittled and hushed.
They grow to feel unheard and to expect that their concern isn’t valued. Then they often (on different time lines) standardise. All while they watch as all the kids around them do it too. ‘Normalise’.
Children are not resilient; they are adaptive. In other words, they don’t simply ‘bounce-back’: they re-shape themselves. — Robin Grille
This quote really affects me because I feel it deeply for my inner child. Schooling and all it entailed re-shaped me and almost entirely in ways I wish it didn’t.
But it’s school so it’s okay?
Compulsory schooling can be a robbery of childhood, but an accepted one.
The question isn’t whether children can adjust, but whether they should have to. Should children have to adjust to an existence with less respect and autonomy? Should children have to adjust to an authoritarian environment?
For those who are used to a respectful environment at home, the contrast is even more jarring. A child protesting school is sometimes simply reacting to this clear change in treatment.
A child who has lived in a respectful environment? Yeah, it’s going to be hard to reconcile the reality they live at home where they are autonomous and trusted with the one that they are required to endure at school. It doesn’t feel right or fair or okay; one might even say a child resisting schooled control is showing signs of healthy self worth. – Jitterberry.
Some even begin to not hate it. Why? How? Well because it is their normal – they don’t know what it’s like to be truly valued, heard, respected and free. This is the best they know and they’re surrounded by others who are controlled and obedient.
I’ve shared previously how I loved school. I question whether this is a healthy response. Would you think it was a positive thing if your child enjoyed something else that was founded on force, expectations, grading, testing, indoctrination, control, punishment/rewards and standardisation?
Because this is the norm for most, this cycle feeds itself. It doesn’t take much to make this adaptation to school feel normal and consequently okay.
So continues the mentality that this institutionalisation and lack of freedom is normal and expected. Many will go on to school their own children. That’s how a society is able to force, manipulate, take away freedoms and autonomy – make it the norm. Outcast those who are individual and challenge this. Make it much easier and simpler to follow the crowd.
Make children be seen as inferior, make it normal to institutionalise and school (condition) them from a young age before they know freedoms, before they know themselves. Make parenting synonymous with punishment. Enforce vague ideas of education and socialisation. A recipe for widely accepted indoctrination in childhood
“One of the weirdest characteristics of education in our (western) society… is that our approach to education is extraordinarily authoritarian. It is obsessed with compulsion and control. So the child in the modern classroom may not move, speak, sing, laugh, eat, drink, read, write, think their own thoughts, look out the window, or even use the toilet without explicit permission from an authority figure.
…In WEIRD (western educated industrialised rich democratic) societies we are so habituated to this appalling lack of personal freedom that it has become functionally invisible to us and in a truly Orwellian twist, many people now consider it a ‘fundamental human right’ to be legally compelled to learn what somebody in authority says they have to learn.” – Carol Black.
So do children adapt to school? Often, yes. But should they have to? What are they giving up in order to? Is that something you feel comfortable with?
Thank you for reading!