Undoing School

Following the world wars and independence victory parades, the intoxicating sense that nothing is forbidden in our free land, including the alteration of human nature, prevailed. Big changes were being made to the ideas of parenting, family and community. Children were being passed on from localities into the custody of schooling experts.

The dreams of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton would become reality through the agency of public schooling, designed top-down like every other post-war institution to check the proliferation of the unfit. The dough for the bread called “trickle-down economics.” The scientific method of population control.

child_left_outThe reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold:

  • To make good people.
  • To make good citizens.
  • To make each person his or her personal best.

These goals are still trotted out on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public educations mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them.

Many students, especially the poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They teach them to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. The imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value and to confuse the process with the substance. Once the meaning became blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success.

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