Are Public Schools REALLY that bad?

I’m on the third of a continuing series answering a list of questions from a reader. You can also read my first and second posts.

3) Are public schools that damaging, horrific and why?

Oh boy. Are you trying to get me in trouble? First, the politically correct, not as offensive answer: traditional schooling does work for some people. It is set up for kids who enjoy pats on the back, pleasing others, external rewards, etc. I was actually one of those kids. I so liked to make people proud of me that I threw myself into schoolwork. Also, I loved the recognition and status that came along with a high GPA.  So, I was motivated to do the work. In such, I did not think that school was that terrible while I was there. Of course, I also remember very adamantly stating that I would not repeat high school if you paid me. Think about it: how many people actually enjoy school? No one expects you to enjoy it. It’s supposed to be boring and difficult, and you’re supposed to dislike it.

This brings me to my real answer: yes, it is horrific. Even the kids who “succeed” at doing school, are really being done such a disservice.  Have you seen the YouTube video of the high school valedictorian speaking out against school during her graduation speech?  She has done everything “right,” and has been a model student – a poster child for traditional schooling – and yet she has very few real skills and knows very little about her own passions and interests.

At this point, our school system has become all about standardization and assessment. There really is no room for actual learning.  So, what the system really teaches is how to “do school”: how to pass a test (memorize, regurgitate, forget), how to plagiarize without getting caught, how to “get through” a class.  A majority of information taught in school is completely forgotten by the time of graduation.

What’s more, it’s compulsory, i.e. forced, upon our children. Think about this: at what other time in life is it okay to force a person to be in a particular place for a lengthy period every day against their will? I know only of one other time that is okay – if you are in prison. In fact, this school/jail analogy has been used numerous times, and by people much smarter than me. Many students feel as though they are trapped. But, it’s not just a feeling. They really are trapped. They hate what they do all day. This is their childhood, the only one they get, and we are putting them in a situation where they don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Many kids develop anxiety and physical illness because of how much they hate school. But, because they are kids, we feel as though we can force them do it. They don’t have the right to determine what to do with their own time, merely because of their age.

As adults, we have a particular standard for our own careers. We want to love our job. We want to enjoy going to work, and to feel as though we are doing something worthwhile. If my husband told me (as he has in the past) that he hates his career and wants to look into another career path that he would find more inspiring, we would make that a goal and work toward making it happen. Why do we not have the same standard for our children? They should enjoy their days even more. They’re children, for goodness sake. They should be playing, doing things they find interesting, and generally loving life. Instead, because of the basic assumption that kids must go to school, and that school must include a particular set of things they must learn, our children are hating their days much more than their parents are. At least their parents have some choice in their job, even if it’s not really something they love. And, the adults have the ability to make a change in what they do day-to-day, unlike their kids.

So, though I may be stepping on toes and I might offend some of my public school colleagues, I must argue that school really is that horrific. And that even the students who don’t feel like prisoners actually are, and they are losing a significant portion of their lives without gaining much from it. Because in the end, a degree from a traditional high school only signifies that you do what you are told. It has little to do with actual learning or thinking.

Up next: Can’t you encourage your child to follow his passions while he is in traditional school?

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2 Comments on "Are Public Schools REALLY that bad?"

  1. Camie
    29/04/2012 at 11:46 pm Permalink

    I stumbled across your blog today and am loving your posts! I took my son out of public school in the middle of his first year because he was miserable there. He even ran away from the school yard one day, heading in the direction of home. I remember thinking that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. Learning is supposed to be fun! I love unschooling because I can see how much more my son learns naturally just by pursuing his interests and passions, and the experience is enjoyable to him, which is just as it should be.

  2. Chris
    30/01/2013 at 10:26 am Permalink

    Great great post. Completely agree, I want to unschool my younger 2 who are 3&5 . School has changed for the worse and was Bad when I went. But your points are valid and true.

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