"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. All we need to do is bring as much of the world as we can into their lives; give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."
-- John Holt, How Children Learn
For many children, the Unnatural Life begins early. Most of today's children are raised by "experts" in institutional settings and have little contact with their parents and little care that can be called "natural." The result is a generation with a frightening combination of insecurity, ignorance, self-indulgence, and the arrogance of an entitlement mentality.
Not long ago, all parents were expected to teach their children to read, write and calculate--not difficult skills. Many schools did not accept children unless they had learned those basics. Today, the schools claim to be teaching those skills, but their results are atrocious. What’s worse, school employees often tell parents that we are not capable of it. Imagine! - our own schools want us to believe that we are not educated enough even to teach our own kids elementary universal knowledge. What’s amazing is that many of us believe such rubbish!
The employees claim to have studied "child development" and "curriculum" and other esoteric nonsense. They play on our normal insecurities as parents in order to convince us that they are better suited to raising our kids than we are ourselves. It is nothing but lies. Parents are always (with few exceptions) the best able to raise and nurture, including educate, their own children. When parents do not know something a child wants to learn, most have the sense to find someone who can help. It does not take a village to educate a child; it takes a conscientious parent.
Nowadays, children are given to institutions -- nurseries, pre-schools, schools -- that are paid to partly raise children for the parents. “Child-care” centers are often stressful, even frightening places full of noise and commotion. How can that be a safe or nurturing place for a child? These are places born of the necessity or desire of parents to get relief from their real job of raising the children they brought into the world. They have grown "tired" of being Mommy or Daddy, and want someone else to do it. Conveniently, the centers have employees who claim to be specialists with children, and yet that job title often means little.
Next, the child hits four and, against all common sense, it's time for pre-school to begin. And what goes on there? Well, it is preparation for school -- a mixture of "sit down, be still, be quiet, and listen" as the children learn the primary lesson of public school: obedience. Never mind that the children want, and need, to play among themselves and learn to get along. Never mind that they have no need for, nor interest in academics. Never mind their need for occasional solitude or to relate to just one other child instead of whole groups. Never mind that their parents are absent from such places in times of real need.
At six years old (sometimes earlier) something called "Education" begins, with the arrogant assumption that learning has not been going on up until this time. Never mind that children are born learning, and do a major part of their learning - including the language - before age five without anyone's "teaching."
Schools are unnatural places. They separate children from their parents; they are segregated from the rest of society; thus they offer an artificial environment. While children's natural needs are for parental nurturing, care, trust, and love, schools conduct programs that are mostly alien to children's natural needs. They create synthetic groupings in ugly stark rooms with strangers telling unwanted information. Dangerous bus rides, bullying, and coercion contribute to the children's sense of stress and threat. They are told to obey and not to make trouble. Naturally, they want to please their parents, so that is how it works – against a child’s natural interests.
Homework (a further insult) often has the purpose of controlling family life. It is mere busywork that can intimidate and confuse parents who come to see themselves as "incompetent to raise their own children," just as the schools want them to believe.
Ned Vare is a designer, author, former private school teacher, rancher, businessman, elected official.
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