Sunday, May 06, 2012


I was surfing around YouTube not long ago and stumbled across a video of Glenn Beck and Penn Jillette having a little discussion, that kind of became an affable libertarian pissing contest about how far they'd scale back the government, and Jillette said he was sure he'd go the furthest, as he'd eliminate public schools.

Funny thing to me, since I'm damn near a socialist. I'd certainly build the government up from where it is on a lot of things, certainly things such as medical expenses and whatnot. I would argue job creation, and any of a number of other things that the so-called "job creators" in private industry have ignored completely for a good, long time.

I'm not here today to discuss any of that, though. My point is that I'm not on their end of the spectrum on those issues at all, however, I'd gut public education in a heartbeat.

Oh, don't get me wrong. As a borderline socialist, I'd replace it with all subsidies and incentives that I'm sure Messrs Beck and Jillette would vigorously disapprove of.

But wouldn't pause before burning public education as we know it to the ground.

It's amazing to me, the more I read, how many of the questions and concerns that critics - most often just knee-jerk bolsterers of the Industrial Age education factory system - raise when discussing alternatives such as homeschooling and unschooling are not only easily addressed, but easily dismissed.

Socialization, the most common - strangely nebulous - argument that even those who would otherwise seem most open to alternative education methods seem convinced is the linchpin of the pro-school argument. Everything else can, with the right person, be argued and, if nothing else, held as a draw or something that could be considered on a case by case basis.

Everyone is convinced that "socialization" is something that school does and does well.

In School and socialization, I questioned, possibly even attacked, this conclusion. I openly hoped to get some information on how it is schools aid in socialization.

Yes, almost all of us were "socialized", as it were, in school.

To me, it seems a lot like if we all lived in a tribe in which everyone was taken to the river bank and put in the water to "learn" to swim. Yeah, most people would probably pick up some kind of ability, from the naturally gifted to the half-assed dog paddlers. I'm not sure it would be acceptable to credit the river with any of their successes, though.

Of course, I don't think it would be reasonable to blame the river for the inevitable drownings either, which I think much of the current anti-bullying propaganda going around does some of.

Rivers and schools largely just sit there. Whether schools could or should do more could be debated, but it's not my experience that they actually do much more, and the way the wind is blowing, I expect more "zero tolerance" type rules which allow them to do even less in terms of teaching.

So, it made perfect sense to me when I read Socialization: A Great Reason Not to Go to School by Karl M. Bunday, and I agree with the logic of the study and find its conclusions to be equally sensible.

The fact is that the 19th Century Industrial Age model that we cling to is increasingly failing us. Right now the government and schools and traditionalists are taking a sharply backward view of how to do things, and making schools more and more entrenched in systems that have increasingly little relationship to or value in the modern word and no relationship at all to the world of the future.

The only reason people, and society, continues to believe in the existing system is because it has tradition on its side. Humans are naturally inclined toward finding patterns, it's the key to the thing we call "intelligence". When something has existed and functioned, to whatever extent, for generations, it's assumed to be "right". The pattern holds that it is "right", as it has previously worked upon repeated attempts within the view of the observer.

In this case, we're all observing the increasing inability of this model to work properly. As I said, this has largely resulted in a step backward, due to a stubborn belief that the pattern of education factories working should work well.

The greatest sacred cow is teachers.

Even Kimberly Rae, who has been an involved and forward partner in considering alternative education paths, still has dreams of To Sir With Love and Stand and Deliver along with candy-coated memories of teachers gone by.

I have those, too. I remember Ron Cohen, who was Ron at one of my hippie schools, and Fran Sanford, who was Mrs. Sanford at regular old public school. They were terrific.

On the other hand, I remember Mr. Boehm and Mr. Harrison, too, and I'd trade out the good teachers to get rid of the bad ones any day.

Remember, a year to a five-year-old is a fifth of their life. A fifth of my life is eight years. If you told me I had to go see Mr. Boehm or Mr. Harrison every day for the next eight years, and nothing - no complaint process, no consideration of my needs - absolutely nothing could change that, I would murder you. Sure, that'd mean I'd likely go to prison, which would involve its own Boehms and Harrisons, so it wouldn't per se be a wise move on my part, but my feelings on it are that real, that visceral and true, over half my life later.

How in the fuck is that acceptable as a way to treat a child? How can they be put in a class with a person in authority over them and have no way to have that reconsidered?

In the adult world a job would have another manager or a human resources department. At the worst, an adult has the right to resign from a position under an abusive boss. Children are offered none of those things, and, in my experience, even parents, regardless of whether it's a private or public school, have very little leverage in raising concerns about the way teachers treat their children.

I find that mind-boggling and completely unacceptable.

In the end, though, the core system is built around values and priorities that were only a blink in the history of mankind.

Factory style classrooms in which children are gathered in groups, separated specifically by age rather than by ability or interest, either of which would work more effectively. This would either, because of established traditions, risk the egos of students and their parents or risk breaking tradition altogether for one that requires more effort and consideration from educators.

Unfortunately, all of the traditions we're tied to are antiquated already and only becoming less workable. The Industrial Age came and went, and exists, in almost all ways, as an anomaly within human history. There is no reason to expect that a system built within and around the needs of the early Industrial Age - and arguably late Agricultural Age - has any relationship at all with our modern needs or our future needs.

I think the assumption that one can succeed in life through a path of education is crumbling beneath us. The overwhelming cry of more and more college graduates about having a mountain of debt and few, if any, greater prospects than their peers without degrees is increasing, and I expect permanent.

Outside of specific professional jobs such as sciences or the law, things of that nature, what perennial or future jobs will continue to be best served by people who came out of that model? Are they now?

I think being able to adapt, the ability to learn and, especially, an enthusiasm for learning are what is most valuable, and I think that will only increase. Unfortunately, our current education system doesn't foster any of those very well, and I think actively impedes enjoyment and enthusiasm for learning. I know if did everything it could to quash mine.

One way or the other, important questions are going largely unasked and certainly unresolved in the days ahead. I think sending my son into a system that's unprepared to even consider them is foolish and grossly irresponsible.

At least for me. I'm a curmudgeon.

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