School is a prison that’s damaging our kids, argues Peter Gray on Salon. A psychology professor at Boston College, Gray is the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self Reliant, and Better Prepared for Life.
“Children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school,” Gray writes.
The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else.
Most students “lose their zest for learning” — especially in math and science — by middle or high school, he writes.
. . . people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful.
Children’s “amazing drive and capacity to learn” is turned off by coercive schooling, Gray argues. Our schools teach children “that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.”
When children direct their own learning, their “natural curiosity and zest for learning persist all the way through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood,” he writes.
More homeschooling families are encouraging self-directed learning, he writes. Others are turning to “democratic” schools where children educate themselves, while having opportunities to socialize. For example, the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass. lets students, who range in age from 4 to about 18, do what they wish all day, as long as they don’t break school rules designed to keep peace and order.
Sippican Cottage agrees: Public schools are “reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school.”
When a California principal told students to drop to one knee before being dismissed, parents protested and the policy was abandoned. What some called “taking a knee,” others saw as kneeling before the principal.