This blog is not about Aware Parenting and is not the Aware Parenting perspective. It is my personal opinion about school and the impact schooling has on societies all around the world. I fully respect everyone’s right to choose for themselves what is right for their children and their family. If you or your children love school and see a lot of advantages in formal schooling, that's great. I also respect and admire those teachers who are trying hard to make a positive difference in the lives of their students. However, I think that we have been sold a dangerous scam that school is the best place for our kids and that teachers are the best people to support our children’s learning.
The vast majority of the world’s population of children are now sent to school, 5 days a week to learn. It is widely accepted now in most cultures that the best people to support our children to learn are teachers and the best place for our children to learn is in school. It is an applauded Millennium Development Goal to have every child in the world in school. But why? How did we get to this place? Why is this so unquestioningly accepted? Why is the cultural conditioning on this so powerful?
The answer is because of schools and what they do to us. I firmly believe that going to school is not in our children’s best interests at all, and, instead, this only serves the interests of a small minority of people on the planet.
I understand that there are situations when children are well cared for in school and may need to attend. I also accept that there are some schools that do a great job and many teachers who genuinely want to support children to shine. But I believe that there are so many reasons why schools are bad for our children, bad for our families and bad for our culture.
Sitting in a classroom for hours at a time, in an institution is not how our children evolved to be spending their time. Wearing uncomfortable and restrictive uniforms made of industrialised materials, denies our children the opportunity to express any individuality or creativity. There is a reason that people in prison wear uniforms! Denying our children time in nature, instead sitting them under fluorescent lights with no fresh air, is so bad for their health. Forcing our children to sit still and not be able to move or run around or talk without permission, to do what they are told and only mix with children the same age as them is a terrible way to spend 14 years of childhood.
It is so restrictive and limiting that our children all have to learn what some “experts” have decided is necessary to be included in the curriculum, and for every child to learn at the same time, at the same stage, in the same way, regardless of whether the child is interested or not and regardless of the child’s unique, individual learning style. Most children will only remember what they are taught at school for a test and will then forget it – how many of us don’t remember anything we learnt at school? This teaching and testing our children is completely unnecessary and will result in our kids comparing themselves to others, thinking that their value can be quantified and that making a mistake or getting something wrong is stressful and to be avoided at all costs!
I think it is profoundly damaging to test our children, to score them and compare them and for that score to determine so much. How can we put our children, day in day out in an environment of so much pressure, where they feel that they have failed if they don’t score well in all their exams and assignments, where they feel so stressed so often?
Our children are forced to suffer all this from 8am to 3pm, for 5 days a week, and now they have the added stress of having to do it wearing a mask. They are often being shamed or bullied and mistreated by teachers and/or other children. They are often frightened, traumatised, bored and have to experience daily the power-over of teachers. They are being forced to comply with often meaningless arbitrary rules. And then the lucky kids who aren’t at boarding schools go home but, instead of resting, relaxing and enjoying reconnecting with the family, they have to do homework.
But, in spite of the focus on testing and developing curriculums, Schools around the world are failing so many children. Significant numbers of children fail at school, child and adolescent mental health problems are rising each year and recent research in Australia concludes that literacy levels are “a disgrace”.
Schools disconnect us from our own innate wisdom because we are told what to learn and what to think. They disconnect us from our families because we are separated for 5 days a week for the majority of the year. They disconnect us from our needs because our important needs for choice and agency, for connection, for engaging in meaningful and stimulating activities, for compassion, for safety etc. are denied in school. They disconnect us from our feelings because we are not allowed to express how we feel without fear of shaming and bullying, in spite of the fact that being in school is often a vast source of stress and trauma and results in the damaging accumulation of painful feelings for children.
Schools also disconnect us from the knowledge and wisdom of our culture to learn what we really need to know in order to live a free, meaningful and satisfying life, as well as being able to learn what we are interested in and passionate about and to not learn the things we find boring and irrelevant.
The endless rules and coercion at school, disconnect us from our autonomy and power. We are taught at school that we are not to be trusted, that we can’t think for ourselves, that we don’t know what we really need or what is best for us. This means that many people grow up to be adults who are inclined to blindly follow along, without questioning, without thinking that we might know best what we really need. This leads us to thinking that we have to accept being subjected to the tyranny, corruption and domination of our current political systems. We grow up thinking that we have to accept the profit-hungry vast multinational corporations dominating and controlling us and destroying our lives and our planet. So the outcome of being at school is that what Marion Rose calls the Disconnection Domination Culture can continue to enslave us and our children? No thanks!
I see homeschooling (and Aware Parenting) as radical and courageous acts that have the potential to change the world. It is a difficult choice to make, to go against the tide of public opinion that school is great, and to raise our children in this way in our nuclear families, without adequate community or support. But it is life-changing and world-changing to do so. Our children see learning not as a means to an end to pass a test, but an on-going organic exploration of the things that fascinate them. They understand that they are each on a unique journey, with unique hopes and dreams and interests. They have the freedom to be themselves, to make their own decisions, to follow their own path. They can connect with their bodies, with their innate wisdom, their needs and their feelings. They learn how to learn and how to think critically, questioning everything and coming to their own conclusions. They have time to relax and rest when they need to, they follow the rhythms and seasons, and they are therefore happier and so much less stressed. And our family relationships are so strong and beautiful because we have so much time together. Sounds pretty good to me!