A Critique of Compulsory Schooling

A Critique of Compulsory Schooling

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“The knowledge of the world is to only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Thus said Lord Chesterfield, who understood the fact that locking children away is not the best way to teach them. It is a painful reality that students are not being educated, but rather simply being schooled, and most people who understand street slang know that “to be schooled” is to be beaten down. This terminology is not a coincidence. Compulsory schooling is eliminating society of its most vibrant sources of variety, and teaching children that no work is worth finishing, and that they must depend on someone else’s word in order to survive.
John Taylor Gatto, NY State Teacher of the Year in 1991, describes how society is slowly becoming sterile due to a lack of variety – when children are locked away in their classroom prison cells, and senior citizens are locked away in retirement homes, there is no one from which to find an alternating viewpoint. Schools tear children away from their families when they could be using the time to learn something from their parents, or their grandparents.
There is a reason why mythological wise characters are always aged, and children are tragically missing prime opportunities to spend time with these experienced individuals. God forbid they should actually learn something that might be applicable to them later in life, as opposed to the standardized material that will be forgotten as soon as the next test is turned in.
Schools tear at the very source of variety – the family. If all children are herded up into a single institution, they are less likely to think critically enough to recognize oppression or hypocrisy from the higher-ups (the ones making money).
For example, drivers constantly relay stories about how traffic cops have tried to take advantage of them by making up laws and assuming that the offender is not critical enough to question his authority. Tickets are given and fines are paid over false premises, and no one wonders why. People like traffic cops feed off of the ignorance that is pumped out of these schools – indeed, it is often their best source of monetary gain.
The victims in these situations always feel absolutely betrayed. However, schools often play out similar scenes, and yet it is rare to find a student who understands this betrayal. They are placed under the supervision of strange adults – many of whom simply go through the motions in order to earn their paychecks – and are expected to place unbending faith in the words that these adults utter.

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Gatto, a certified English teacher himself, conveys the notion that teachers are “pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess”.
“We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for 10 or 15 years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means of education.” This critique was uttered by transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose appreciation for nature would have caused him to agree wholeheartedly with the opening quote by Chesterfield.
Students defy their own personal understanding of order and sequence by recalibrating themselves to think in terms of a bell schedule. When the bell rings, they know they have to think about a certain subject – until the bell rings again to end the session, at which point all contemplation of said subject ceases. Very little can get done in a 50-minute class (the length of normal public school classes), and consequently, since lessons often fail to come to a conclusive close, students learn that no work is worth finishing.
“Self-reliance,” Gatto writes, “is the antidote to institutional stupidity.

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