Has School Ever Gotten in the Way of Your Learning?

Do you remember what you learned in school? Was it useful in your life? Did it help you understand who you are and where you fit in this world? For me the answer to all of those questions is a resounding no. Sometimes I whip out my protractor and draw a perfect angle … just kidding. Now, I’m not saying the ability to use a protractor is useless for everyone. Surveyors, drafters, engineers, architects protractor on. However, I am saying that the overwhelming majority of children’s primary and secondary experiences are focused on developing a shallow base of knowledge that society deems meaningful. A wonderfully hilarious example of this is the article “If You Only Knew The Amazing Things Your Child Does In School All Day” written by Merete Kropp.[1] At least I thought the article was going to be hilarious until I realized it was not satire. The opening paragraph begins:

“As she prepares to enter the school building every morning, she knows exactly where to line up and what she needs to carry with her. Perhaps she even knows her precise position in line: in front of number 16 and behind number 14. She stops playing, turns off her voice and is swallowed up behind   the doors before you turn away …”

Is this your definition of amazing? Amazing means exchanging your name for a number, turning off your voice and becoming a robot? Interesting. I thought amazing would be finding her voice. I thought amazing would be figuring out how she can contribute to her society.

“She makes choices on how to spend her free time both in the classroom and            outside during the limited free time the class may have or earn through positive behavioral choices.”

Does this make anyone else want to vomit? In school, free time is not a right. One has to earn it by way of “positive behavioral choices,” meaning sit down, shut up and listen. In school, children are not free. Their every move is scheduled, watched, and judged. But America is the land of the free! They say, “Oh but it’s for the best. Think about their future!” My response: I am.

When did learning become rote memorization of facts? When did it become more about controlling children than learning? In school, every minute of the day is planned: what they learn, how they learn, what time they learn, when they eat, when they play, when they go to the bathroom. Students have no time to think for themselves, they are too busy memorizing mindless drills and procedures. They are too busy being obedient. Schools are producing robots that follow orders, not critical, independent thinkers with a developed sense of self. Schools are teaching young people that they are incompetent (e.g., “we know what is best, sit down sweetie”). Schools are teaching young people not to question, to act only for rewards or to avoid punishment, to be cookie cutter. Schools are teaching young people that life is a series of judgments. How boring. How will these young people be able to make decisions for themselves if they are being trained to be dependent?

At Abrome, we recognize that our young people are capable of controlling their own lives. We are here to create a psychologically safe space where they can take control of their learning, and their lives. That requires us to get out of their way.


1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/if-you-only-knew-the-amazing-things-your-child-does_us_5829da7fe4b057e23e314793