Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"We just cannot understand why a normal person would want to go to school"
Dmitry Orlov translates a Russian news article about a St. Petersburg woman who homeschooled her children, with predictably good results:
When my eldest was in secondary school, I started noticing that all too often he would recall situations of the following type: “I started reading a really interesting book during math class today;” or “I started composing a new symphony during history class;” or “It turns that Peter plays chess quite well – we played a few games during geography today.”
And I started thinking: why is he going to school? Is it to study? But then he does completely unrelated things during classes. Is it to socialize? But then it’s possible to do that outside of school.
And then a sudden shift occurred in my consciousness. And I thought: “Maybe he shouldn’t go to school at all?” For a few days we discussed this idea. Then I went to see the school principal and told her that my son will no longer be attending school. (Afterwards many of my friends told me: “You were lucky to have such a principal! What if she didn’t agree?”) But it had nothing to do with the principal. If she didn’t agree, this would not have changed our plans at all. It's just that in that case our further steps would have been slightly different.
Within the year she observed quite a difference in her eldest son's all around competency and morale:
My son was absorbed in all the things for which he had never had enough time. He spent entire days composing music and performing it on “live” instruments. He spent nights in front of the computer, building his own BBS (those of you who were fans of Fidonet know what that means). He also managed to find time to read anything he wanted, to study Chinese (just because he found it interesting at the time) and to help me with my work in translating and typing documents in various languages, installing email (still a difficult task at the time that involved consulting an expert), entertaining the younger children… In all, he was incredibly happy with his new freedom from school, and did not feel that he was missing anything.
The larger context of Orlov's post is that public school, which excels in boring children while it trains them in rigid conformity, fails utterly to impart the practical skills people will need to survive the bad times ahead.
A small but already by no means negligible number of Americans is starting to realize what their future looks like: no retirement, no job, no savings, plus they are getting old. Their only possible means of support in old age is their children.
And so, in the meantime, let's continue to mindlessly send our children off to "learning" institutions, where they will be properly supervised at all times, bored half to death, medicated into submission should they rebel, even by simply refusing to pay attention, not taught anything worth knowing by demoralized, underpaid public servants, and then spat out into the world with their spirits crushed.
On second, thought, let's stop doing that. When thinking about making big changes, sometimes it's healthy to hear of places halfway across the world, which may have their own issues to deal with, but they are not the same ones we have here, allowing us to see past them. But the problem of institutionalization of children and emphasis on mindless discipline and rote learning is the same in all "developed" nations, being part of the worldwide legacy of industrialization and militarism, which we all have to deal with somehow. And a good first step is to starve this mindless suicide machine of fresh cannon fodder - by denying it access to our children.