I read somewhere once that on average a person needs to hear something three times before it sinks in. So even though I’m sure I’ve touched on this in the past, it is worth revisiting if it means someone finally “gets it”.
The “this” to which I am referring is the true purpose of schools as opposed to the lies we are told (and that most of us believe) regarding the purpose of schools, and how to make both the truth and the lies irrelevant.
The true purpose of schools is to turn out a uniform workforce of minimally educated people who are good at following orders and can read.
That’s it. That has been the purpose of compulsory education since its’ inception, and that is why the structure of our schools has not significantly changed in over 100 years. They were factory based then and they are factory (or one might say “cubicle”) based now.
They are 100% successful in doing what they were designed to do.
I repeat. Schools are NOT failing. They are doing exactly the job they are supposed to do. (And if you don’t believe me I refer you to any of John Taylor Gatto’s books.)
The only reason many people disagree with that statement is that they believe the lies they’ve been told about the purpose of schools. These lies are so pervasive that the people who run the schools buy in to them. Read the mission statement of any school and you will see what I mean. They often contain words like, “productive and caring citizen”, “reaching one’s potential”, “academic excellence”, “innovation” or “successful members of society”.
What this boils down to? Come to our school, get our degree, follow our curriculum and you too can be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel or President of the United States.
What you WON’T be if you graduate from our stellar institution is a checkout clerk at Wal-Mart or a Nook specialist at Barnes and Noble.
But somebody needs to do those jobs. Who is going to do them if every single kid who gives up his childhood in pursuit of the best diploma and/or degree goes on to found the next Microsoft? Someone (or many ‘ones’) needs to sit in the cubicles, enter the data, push the papers, get the coffee and answer the phones. Someone has to sweep the floor and clean the bathroom. Restaurants can’t function without servers and people to clear the plates and wash the dishes. Dunkin’ Donuts needs night managers.
This lie that every single kid who gets a “good education” is going to change the world does us a HUGE disservice. It sets so many people up for a life of disappointment and failed expectations. And those few who do go out and change the world? Well, chances are they are going to do that no matter how much or how little education they have.
Yes, your kid may be one of those world-changers, those outliers. And that is of course fantastic. But what if they aren’t? Should they feel themselves a failure if they don’t land the big money job or invent the newest must have item or start a company that goes public and nets billions?
Of course they shouldn’t. There is honor in any honest work, and any job taken on is worth doing well. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Sadly, we now live in a world that looks down on what is considered “menial” labor even though all of us are in some way dependent upon the people who perform it. How many of you have heard someone say a version of, “You don’t want to wind up flipping burgers, do you?” I’d guess all of you. Our compulsory education system carries a large portion of the blame in creating such an attitude.
How to make all of this irrelevant?
Easy. Drop out.
A growing number of parents are pulling the curtain back and taking a good look at the Big Lie of Compulsory Schooling- our own Great and Powerful Oz. And they are doing the only thing possible to be free of it. They are refusing to send their kids to school, or taking them out once they realize what is going on. School reform is as big a myth as the idea that a diploma or degree will make you rich. Why? Because schools don’t need reforming. They are, as I pointed out earlier, doing exactly what they are supposed to do. All the talk and ranting about change will amount to nothing in the end except perhaps more testing, more school days and more misery.
When you drop out – when you become life learners, you come to realize (and this does not always happen immediately) that the important thing in life is fulfillment, which takes many, many forms. In fact, I would say it is different for each and every person, and it is not only to do with what work you choose. It has to do with your relationships, your connection to your community and the world and yes, what you do for a living.
There are many successful unschoolers but they are not all wildly wealthy. What they are (at least those I know) is happier and more fulfilled than their schooled counterparts. And that, as they say, is worth its’ weight in gold.