Lately I've been reading a book called "Learning All the Time," by John Holt. At the same time, I've been loving watching my children blossom. Their curiosity, their enthusiasm, their pure joy in learning and doing is remarkable. Yesterday Sam, 5 ½ years old, started reading "Brighty of the Grand Canyon" aloud to his grandmother and me. Outside of correcting his pronunciation from time to time, he did fine. ("An- jel, not an-gul") It's just challenging enough to be interesting, as he reads slowly but steadily, only stopping to sound out a word every third or fourth line or so. Trin isn't interested in reading yet, and he doesn't do it very well; but he and Sam have worked out a symbiotic reading relationship, and you can often see them sitting together, with Sam reading aloud. Every time he gets stuck on a word, having trouble sounding it out the right way, Trin jumps in and helps him with the correct pronunciation. It's beautiful, it's teamwork it's each learning from the other.
With this background, juxtaposing Kristin's recent blogs on Unschooling and School leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, wonder and joy at the freedom and self-paced progress of my own children; on the other, a deep sadness that so many children experience school in a way that is painful, oppressive, and dreadfully boring and confusing. I know that was my experience of school.
On a macro scale, the universal "big picture," this oppressive and ineffective schooling is unnecessary.
On a micro scale, within the context of the economy, culture, and society we have created, I'm not so sure. Many people I know really don't have that choice – they're two-earner families, and school, as affordable child care, is an economic necessity. Others are single parents. Others are overwhelmed and unable to relax into the role of unschooling family without more help and appreciation from society. Still others are sincerely convinced that children would not learn what they need to learn without school, and send their children off with conviction that they are doing what is best for the child.
It's clear to me that schools are not doing the job they're "supposed to do" very effectively. It seems to me that what schools do best is to indoctrinate children with values of obedience to authority and suppression of their own and others' needs, and prepare them for a life of mediocrity. Not that I came to this conclusion by myself. It is simply my own experience and observation, coupled with reading the works of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and Alfie Kohn.
As usual this election cycle, there are school bonds on the ballot. I'll probably vote for them. If a kid's going to be schooled, she should get the best schooling available. But I have real doubts that the current system can be reformed. I think maybe we should just scrap it and start over.
And the first place to start is to make school a choice.