In the 100 years since we really got serious about education as a universally good idea, we’ve managed to take the 15 years of children’s lives that should be the most carefree, inquisitive, and memorable and fill them with a motley collection of stress and a neurotic fear of failure. Education is a dress-up box of good intentions, swivel-eyed utopianism, cruel competition, guilt, snobbery, wish fulfillment, special pleading, government intervention, bureaucracy, and social engineering. And no one is smart enough now to understand how we can stop it. Parents have no rational defense against the byzantine demands of the education-industrial complex. But this multi-national business says that they’re acting in the children’s best interests. And we can only react emotionally to the next Big Idea or the Cure or the Shortcut to Happiness.
No, scrap happiness—we’ll settle for success. We gave up on happiness at about the age of six. Childhood is a war of attrition, like some grisly TV game show where the weak and the kind and the quixotic and the dreamers and the gentle get dumped at the end of each year. Only the gimlet-eyed and the obsessively competitive and the driven make it to the finish line.
I gave a talk at an educational festival in England this year. They asked me in the way that Methodists glean godliness by exhibiting hopeless recidivist drunks in tents—I am a chronic and inspiring example of academic failure. I asked a roomful of teachers if they’d enjoyed their own school days. About half put up their hands and said they had. Not actually a great average. And then I asked that half if the things that made school fun had happened inside or outside a classroom. And only two said they’d enjoyed being taught. The rest liked school despite schooling. They remembered their friends and getting drunk and feeling each other up and laughing till they were hunched over with hilarity. There is of course the old chestnut of the one teacher, the magic one, the one who let in the light. Introduced us to Keats or Darwin. But that’s not much for 15 years, is it? A couple of odes and some finches.
If you want to see the absolute proof that we’ve got it all wrong—that education is really about the fear and guilt of parents projected onto their children, then go to your own school reunion. Obviously most normal people would rather attend a naked consciousness-raising workshop. But do it once and you’ll see what the Adonises and the Venuses of your halcyon days actually did with all that promise. The boy who was captain of everything, who strode the halls like a young Alexander; the girl with the glistening hair who memorized poetry and whose golden limbs danced across a stage as a Juliet no one would ever forget. Well, they’re both sorry, seedy never-was-es now. Their finest moments are behind them. Everything after that brilliant year at school or college was mediocrity. Nothing good ever came from peaking too early.
Read the whole thing, listen to the ten minute interview with him, and think about the education reform movement, the KIPPsters, Mistress Eva, Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, Duncan and Obama and the rest of the education reform criminals and ask yourself what's the point of all of this schooling and education they promote.
It's simple really - control.
They want to socially engineer obedient workers and compliant consumers who will spend all week working extra hard and spend all that hard-earned (and ever diminishing) money on Black Friday sales and Christmas shopping.
They want children to grow up in fear that they will be "failures" if they do not tow the line and obey the rules.
They want parents to reinforce that fear on a daily basis, teachers to enforce that fear with grades and tests.
Obey, follow the rules, be who we want you to be!
I would love to come back 200 hundred years from now and see what people say about America in the 21st century.
We think we're so smart and advanced, so technological, so evolved.
The reality is, our "technology" is poisoning us, our ideas and philosophies (like democracy cannot exist without free markets and capitalism is the best of all possible systems) are killing us, our education system is stifling our humanity and our creativity.
Just take a look at the people in charge of education and ask yourself, do I want my kid to grow up and be like that?
Many of them are diminished human beings, lacking in humanity, lacking in decency, lacking in perspective.
All that matters are the test scores.
All that matters is "achievement".
They never answer why higher test scores are the highest measurement of "achievement".
They never answer why we should care about that or why higher test scores will make for better children, better people, a better world.
The truth is, focusing on scores as the sole measurement of achievement, promoting school and education as the most important institutions for children, transferring fear to children that if they don't do well in school they are "failures" - these are some of the most harmful lessons we can impart.
It's not a mistake in a capitalist society with dwindling resources and an ever-greedy ruling elite that wants more and more for itself and less for everybody else, that these are the lessons we teach to children and grow up with ourselves.