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Almost every time I write or share something anti-school, I get comments and messages in defense of teachers. I want you to know that it’s not about you, I promise.
I get that teachers are hard working. I get that many teachers care – about their students, about learning, about respecting our children, and helping them be the best they can be. The issue is the system that you’re working so damn hard in is broken and robbing children of freedom.
Even in alternative education – where some of the negative values of schooling are taken away or minimised – so much of the system is ineffective and potentially damaging. Reforming the system isn’t the answer… and the real answer (for those who cannot or don’t want to home educate) isn’t profitable or simple.
To use an analogy, for me it’s like a religious worker of an opposing belief (I’m a non-believer, not that it matters) – I can see and appreciate that they’re doing great work and incredible things… but in a system (and for a cause) that I don’t agree with.
I don’t agree that children need to be in institutionalised education for hours a day every weekday for their whole childhood and youth. I don’t agree that they need to know all the same things or that they learn the same way. I don’t believe that their learning needs to happen separate to the rest of their life. I don’t believe that they should be made to obey and conform (academically, socially, behaviourally, etc). I don’t believe learning needs to be ‘made fun’. I don’t believe that education is something done TO children.
Many educators say “schools are different now” and “as teachers we now study xyz in higher education” as though we don’t know other kids in our current education system and hear what it is like… or that schools don’t have older teachers… or that school still doesn’t adhere to a curriculum.
I also understand that some of the negative aspects of school are pretty unavoidable within the system. I get that worksheets make it easy to distribute information to kids. I get that you have to tick boxes that are out of your control. I get that you have 20-30 kids in your care. I get that some kids don’t have parents that raise them well. I get that kids have to have permission to talk, or use the toilet and wait to eat because it could be chaotic otherwise or potentially unsafe. I understand… I just don’t think it’s right or ideal.
I get that many teachers do all they can to minimise the negative effects of the system of schooling. Some don’t teach to the test, or set homework, or punish kids, or put too much emphasis on competition, or expect children to learn the same thing in the same way at the same time, and so on.
But many do.
And it’s a luck-of-the-draw lottery every new year and/or subject as to whether a child will get a teacher that genuinely understands learning outside of this context of schooling. That’s not a gamble I’m willing to make for my kids.
I hope you understand. It’s not about you. It’s about them. It’s about children.
- Free to Learn by Peter Gray (I read this one after making the decision to unschool and spent the entire book enthusiastically nodding along!)
- Learning All The Time by John Holt (and indeed ALL of John Holt’s works)
- Home Grown by Ben Hewitt.
Thank you for reading!