FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Are you seriously suggesting that the laws that require children to attend school should be eliminated and that they can be within the next century?
ANSWER: Yes & yes. Innumerable highly credible research studies have conclusively determined that the hierarchical and authoritarian organization of schools resulting directly and immutably from the laws are inimical to the teacher-student relationship; to student attitudes and performance; to parental engagement and participation in school matters; to teacher satisfaction and capability; to the quality of instruction (due to inappropriate curriculum requirements imposed by authorities), and to accountability as a function of the need to measure progress and academic learning which are typically immesurable and primarily subjective in nature and accessible only through intimate connection and knowledge.
Dr. Peter Gray, a prominent psychologist and author who writes an educational blog for Psychology Today Magazine entitled one article, "School is Prison". Many other professors, researchers, authors, educators and others have recognized that coercion is antithetical to learning and education starting with Plato (see quotations on Home Page and elsewhere on this website). If we know that the elements of force, coercion, authoritarianism, paternalism, and external interference in the educational process and experience are harmful, negative, and in many respects wrong for children, then why would we shy away from insisting that efforts be undertaken to remove the one thing that is most responsible for the chronic problems? The laws were passed when much less was known about brains, neuroscience, menatl health and cognitive processes, language development, etc., etc. Isn't it time to right the wrong that was codified into law generations ago before any more damage is done to our youth?
QUESTION 2: If school attendance laws were ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, wouldn't millions of children be deprived of an education and millions of young people be suddenly running wild in the streets?
Given how most people and especially most parents in the US feel about schools and education, not to mention existing laws relative to neglect, including educational or supervisory negligence on the part of parents, could anyone believe that children would not still be going to school with regularity and with parental involvement?
Kids want to learn and parents almost universally want training and educational opportunities for their kids, and given current economic and social conditions, it is a rare parent that wouldn’t do their utmost to enroll their children in schools – if those schools were not inhospitable hierarchical authoritarian bureaucracies. There are huge numbers of students who are not attending now. Many drop out and many find other ways of escaping, not the least of which is by getting expelled or suspended. More significantly however, millions are there in body but not in mind or spirit. Removing the attendance requirement would not magically change all that in a flash, but it would change the scenario radically in very short order.
The world is a very difficult and complex place, especially in the 21st century and the new global perspective. How will children learn adequate work skills and attitudes and how will they manage to survive in a highly competitive dog-eat-dog world in adulthood if they are not exposed to rigorous demands and expectations when they are younger?
The old canards have been around forever that kids need to be taught how to act and fit in and that the world is a really tough place that requires a load of preparation. Yet, things such as moral development, courtesy, respect, proper social behavior, a decent work ethic, and all of those things are NOT things that are amenable to teaching and school lessons. I could spend hours discussing how we defeat our purposes by operating under the delusion that we can impart and impose these things in programs and through paternalistic materials and instruction, but the short answer is that it’s all silly as hell.
Learning and education do not belong in a competitive environment. Schools should not be in the business of creating winners and losers. One extremely relevant point needs to be made here which has been made by Dewey and many others since much more eloquently than it can be stated here. If children are made to be too concerned or neurotically preoccupied with some distant future, instead of being allowed to be and think and learn in a more organic manner, we are doing more harm to them than good. Life is to be lived ESPECIALLY IN CHILDHOOD. Preparing for the future is not something to be neglected or ignored and children will ordinarily be oriented toward their own future if we don't terrify them and browbeat them with our adult apprehensions, but a life that is all about preparing for the future is a life that leaves a person with the strong sensation of being by-passed and lacking any meaningfulness.
Kids need good models, good experiences, good feelings, and good attitudes. They don’t get much of any of that in schools and what they do get is contrived or fleeting. They need to feel that they have agency and autonomy. They need practice and feedback from people they care about and who care about them. They need continuity and relevance. They need one hundred times more physical movement and stimulation than they get in classrooms and hallways or twenty minutes of P.E. They need to feel respected as individuals and self-confidence and self-love. Authoritarian environments destroy all that daily and despite all efforts to overcome the negativity and obsessive control. Decision-making is a skill that requires – you guessed it – decision-making. Real decisions, not deciding what color of paper to draw on.
Educators are busy coming up with plans to extend the time kids spend at a desk, in a classroom, doing homework, and using electronic devices (but only as directed by them and only in “educational” or academic activities). Educators will find a way to give preference to sedentary and purely cerebral academic activities over those that involve movement and exercise every time, because they think of education as intellectual competition or as a race to knowledge, or as the transmission of knowledge, instead of its synthesis and manufacture. Three hundred years of erroneous thinking must be put behind us for once and for all. We make experience
The following quotes provide great insights with respect to these questions:
"Some day, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child's spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust, without which every human act, may it feel ever so good and seem ever so right, is prone to perversion by destructive forms of conscientiousness,"
"The elements of instruction...should be presented to the mind in childhood, but not with any compulsion; for a freeman should be a freeman too in the acquisition of knowledge. ...Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore, do not use compulsion, but let early education be rather a sort of amusement; this will better enable you to find out the natural bent of the child."
Plato - The Republic
"Whether in childhood or adulthood if one finds it impossible, first to influence one's social and physical environment, and later to make decisions on how and when to modify it, this is harmful if not devastating to the human personality..."
“We make experience, it is not given to us. In this sense, each of us creates the world from which we learn and we learn how to construct the world before we learn anything else.”
This profound realization comes from Martin Simons in an article entitled, Learning to Experience, published in Educational Philosophy and Theory. He says further on in the same passage,
“Synthesis precedes analysis. Nothing, no thing, is there waiting for us to attack it, until we have made it. This places more emphasis, in an educational context, on activities which are positively constructive in the first instance, rather than dissective.” (Simons, 1985)
Does anyone get this? This is not some flaky new-age free school hippie rebel writing for the underground. Simons was describing profound discoveries nearly thirty years ago made while doing rigorous research. He was echoing earlier insights from numerous others with equal genius. “We make experience…” We make our basics as we experience each new hour and day as well. There is not some essential set of "basics" that expert educators can ferret out and distill down for children of specific ages or in particular grades or phases. Does this not invalidate fully three-fourths of the school experience of a majority of pupils, even including those attending private schools?
Note: This website will be evolving and expanding for an indeterminate period, depending on time, resources, and the amount of assistance available. Currently, it is the product primarily of just one principal author and one or two technical assistants. Some pages will clearly not be completed or have a conclusion or satisfactory summary until time allows. It has been decided however, that the message as it exists so far is important enough and well-enough organized to date to merit publication in order to inform and involve others who may find it inspiring and motivational.