So, here's that post I tried to make earlier. Fortunately, it's mostly quotes, so it'll be pretty much word-for-word.
So, last night I finally picked up a copy of a book that has been recommended to me many times by many people.
Wow. Even though it's written with teenagers in mind, I highly recommend it to anyone to whom it looks even remotely interesting or who is at all interested in learning/education whether your own or someone else's or whatever!
In any case, I feel like sharing a bunch of quotes from it, so I will! I will probably continue to do so periodically over the next few days/weeks as I continue to read it. Many are quotes from people other than the author - some famous people, some 'ordinary' people, some taken from other books, etc. I'll also include two passages direct from the text at the end.
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.
~ Albert Einstein
What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult
~ Sigmund Freud
We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself
~ George Bernard Shaw
Schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders.
~ John Taylor Gatto
Giving grades puts the wrong focus on learning. It points a student toward competition and learning for the wrong reasons: to make grades rather than to become educated.
~ Patrick Meehan (14 yr old unschooler)
I've been out of school for over thirty years, yet no matter how I manage to arrange my life, I still keep learning. In fact, I seem to learn faster the further in time I get from my school experience...
~ Robert Rodale
Almost all education has a political motive: it aims at strengthening some group, national or religious or even social, in the competition with other groups. It is this motive, in the main, which determines the subjects taught, the knowledge offered and the knowledge withheld, and also decides what mental habits the pupils are expected to acquire. Hardly anything is done to foster the inward growth of mind and spirit; in fact, those who have had the most education are very often atrophied in their mental and spiritual life.
~ Bertrand Russell
I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught
~ Winston Churchill
[Factories] required a shift from agricultural time to the much more precise categories of industrial time, with its sharply delineated and periodized work day. Moreover, along with this shift in timing and rhythm, the factory demanded concomitant shifts in habits of attention and behavior, under which workers could no longer act according to whim or preference but were required instead to adjust to the needs of the productive process and the other workers involved in it... The schools taught [factory behavior], not only through textbook preachments, but also through the very character of their organization - the grouping, periodizing, and objective impersonality were not unlike those of the factory.
- Lawrence A Cremin in American Education: the National Experience 1783-1876, pp 350-1
In the post-industrial society there is essentially no place for human beings who are not able to function independently. There is no room for people trained to be cogs in a machine. Such people have been displaced permanently from the economic system. The economic demands of post-industrial America are something that you hear from personnel directors in every industry and company today, small or large. The demands are for creative people with initiative, self-starters, people who know how to take responsibility, exercise judgement, make decisions for themselves
- Dan Greenberg in "School for a Post-Industrial Society" in Friends of Summerhill Trust Journal, Issue 11
Direct from the book ->
Contrast school's use of time with the way people study for the GED. The GED (General Equivalency Diploma) actually tests a higher level of knowledge than what school teaches; supposedly one third of high school graduates would fail it. Nevertheless, when high school dropouts want to take it, they are typically coached for 16 to 24 hours over a period of four to six weeks. Books that prepare people to take the GED suggest around thirty home study sessions, each about one to three hours. That's all they need, not four years sitting at a desk with someone else's bubblegum stuck underneath.
I am reminded of a conversation my colleagues and I had with a parent when I was teaching. We had suggested that this man's son skip the eighth grade and go directly into the ninth, since he was extremely bright, competent, socially adept, and "responsible" in doing his schoolwork. At first, the father had some qualms. He was worried that his son would miss some of the "building blocks" of courses such as math, science, and foreign language. No, said the teachers, Jasper (fake name) would miss nothing important by skipping a grade.
That information was good for Jasper, since he was allowed to skip eighth grade and save himself a year of "nothing important." But the implications of that conversation are horrendous. Year after year, you attend school for many reasons. You may think the most important reason is learning, but in reality you are receiving "nothing important" in exchange for your twelve years of drudgery. Sure, schools teach some potentially helpful skills and information. But the amount of good stuff is insignificant next to the piles of inanity, and furthermore, the meat of most year-long courses could be covered in a good two or three day session.
I like this vision even if I disagree with the proposed funding set-up ;) ->
In other words, the ideals that led to American public education were idealistic and revolutionary ones. How wonderful if the people who held them could have been democratic enough to trust others to make the most of an opportunity.
If so, we might have had one bonanza extravaganza of an educational system, one in which children were legally guaranteed their basic material needs - shelter and food - until a certain age - sixteen, eighteen, twenty-two, whatever - and allowed to freely explore the physical and cultural worlds. Libraries and books could have been accessible to all. Tutors and academic specialists could have been paid by the government to answer people's questions, to teach them more intensely when a student wanted that. Apprenticeships could have been available, as well as open laboratories staffed by scientists ready to let young people assist in their research. Children and teenagers could have roamed around sticking their hands into frog ponds, bread dough, and art supplies. They could have invented gadgets, cataloged fossils, and written poetry at will.
Instead, the people who thought up American education believed in no one but themselves. They did not trust children to learn, and they did not trust the "lower classes" to want their children to learn. I doubt any kind of intellectual freedom even occurred to them. They believed that in order to have education, it would have to be forced. Thus came compulsory schooling. They modeled the American system on the German one, which never pretended and was not intended to create a democracy.