If your kids have been in school for years, they start to seem naturally dense and unproductive. The more kids conform to what school demands, the more dense and unproductive – stupid – the kids look. So when you consider taking them out of school, you worry that your kids are dense and unproductive and that you need special teaching skills to overcome that.
But you don’t. Kids are bright, curious, and dying to learn new things. It’s just that school rigidity obscures those tendencies. Here are eight ways school does that:
1. School squashes critical thinking skills
Educator Aaron Akune explains that school teaches kids to stop coming up with answers. He says, “Rather than asking learners to work towards one ‘right’ answer, we must grow comfortable with there being many answers to students’ questions. And, our practices must support the idea that learning is a process, often one that is messy, non-linear, and will likely include unlearning and relearning.”
2. School rewards intellectual sloth
The Harvard Business Review points out that most grades do not reflect effort, which means that the brightest kids are those most frequently rewarded for doing a minimal amount of work. Also, tools that have been proven to have little educational value, like highlighters, flashcards and cramming, allow kids to pretty much check out intellectually and still do well on tests.
3. School discourages collaborative instincts
The work world is collaborative, and people who are most adept at seeking help and finding answers are the ones who succeed. But in school, teachers encourage the exact opposite. Reddit is a community that is so highly esteemed that President Obabma popped on for an hour to answer random questions. Yet teachers are telling students to stay away. Here is a “please refrain from contributing to homework help” thread. And here is the Reddit community making fun of the idea that seeking help online is forbidden.
In fact, the whole idea of cheating is completely foreign in the work world. What constitutes cheating in school is called efficiency at work. Why would you do something yourself when someone else has already done it? It’s intuitive to work together, and to kids, who learn primarily from copying others for the first years of their lives, it’s jarring when a teacher tells you that collaboration is rule breaking.
4. School dulls our ability to retain what we learn
Homework teaches kids that they don’t need to learn it to love learning. They need to learn it because someone else wants them to learn it. Here’s a fun video from College Humor showing how we remember almost nothing in the context of forced curriculum.
5. School teaches boys they are stupid.
Glen Harlan Reynolds, writing in USA Today, compiles data to show the extreme disadvantage boys have in school. “If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male, and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry.”
6. School teaches girls they are inadequate.
Psychologists who study personality types know that the majority of women make decisions based on feelings, and the majority of men make decisions based on logic. There are exceptions both ways, for sure. But what this means is that most women will want to stay home with kids, or work part-time to accommodate kids. However school teaches everyone that they are gunning for a big job and that’s why they need good grades. This thinking marginalizes for girls who are likely to be uninterested in the end game that teachers supply for school children.
7. School rewards behaviors that lead to unemployment
Teachers depend on students to act as one, single unit. Kids need to think and learn together so that the teacher can teach the group. Renegade thinking is what investors look for in the startup community, and indomitable drive to lead is what big companies look for in key employees. Neither of these traits are encouraged in school. And in fact, the sense that you will always succeed by showing up and doing what you’re told, is the very attitude that puts you first on the chopping block during layoffs, but that’s also the attitude that school teachers love in a student.
8. Obsession with school-based tasks undermines innovation.
God help the next company that sends me their stupid iPhone app to review. Because all the apps assume my kid is being told by someone else what to learn. The iPhone and iPad are great tools for self-discovery. It’s absurd that developers are trying to use these tools for curricula. For an example of the preposterous industry of brain-deadening curricula-based apps, take a look at KnoMe, which encourages kids to compare how long they spend studying to the amount of time their friends spend.
See that picture up there? It’s a writing exercise from about 75 years ago that I saw for sale on One Kings Lane. (I love shopping there!) The writing exercise reminds me that it’s so easy to see that teaching kids to write by repeating words over and over again actually makes them hate writing. But it’s harder to see the same types of terrible teaching tactics that are still in place today. It’s hard to challenge the status quo.
So I was going to buy that and hang it up in my house, but it was about $200. So instead, I was thinking I’d hang up some of the completely stupid worksheets my kids did in school. And then I thought, no, I want pictures of fun. Because real learning is fun. It’s why I took my kids out of school.