The final segment of my series of posts on the school system is now up at Revolutionary Act.
It seems to me that the foundational assumptions of traditional school are: that children, left to their own devices, cannot and will not learn; that children are basically helpless and stupid and deficient in curiosity; that children must therefore be taught, by a competent authority, or they will fail to grasp concepts and gain skills.
I think anyone who has ever spent any time with a child can attest that all of these ideas are patently false. Anyone who was ever spent time around a child who is learning to talk can attest as much with even greater confidence — tiny babies, unable even to feed themselves, crack the code of language with a speed and an enthusiasm most adults could envy. The reality, as far as I can tell, could not be farther from those assumptions.
And I do believe those are the underlying ideas. We would have to believe that children must be forced to learn in order to ask ourselves, “Is our children learning?”
That is an insane question. I know it’s also a much-mocked one, but no one would have laughed at it if our Ivy Leagued-educated* soon-to-be-former President had managed to formulate it correctly. And that’s absurd. There is no such thing as a child who isn’t learning. The only questions is, “Are our children learning things in the arbitrary order and at the arbitrary pace the school system requires?” If that’s more important to us than whether children are happy, healthy, curious, and engaged — and it certainly seems to be — we have our priorities precisely backward.
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