I don’t know why I’m even writing this post because it would never occur to me that democratic schools are even worth talking about. Like, we don’t talk about sending our kids to schools in war zones. We know it’s a dumb idea. And this is how I feel about democratic schools.
But people talk about them all the time, like it’s a viable alternative to regular school. So here are four reasons why democratic school is too stupid for me to even be talking about and why I won’t be talking about it again because I’ll just link to this post.
1. Democracy means tyranny of the majority.
This is Political Science 101, but I am a huge supporter of the idea that no one should have to suffer through core curriculum, so instead of bitching to you that you don’t know the Federalist Papers, I’ll just summarize them for you.
The Founding Fathers did not want a democracy because that type of governing body has no ability to protect the interests of the minority. This is why we have the electoral college: because a democracy is too unstable and dangerous to the wellbeing of its constituents.
2. Democracy places insane weight on the importance of self-interest.
John Rawls came up with such a cool way of governing people. He said you should make decisions not knowing who you are. He called it a veil of ignorance which was a theoretical inability to know what type of person you would be in the new community. So you would have to vote for what is most fair instead of what is most beneficial to you.
This idea ends up serving as proof that humans are unable to run an effective democracy because we always know where we’ll end up after the laws are drafted.
3. Self-directed learning needs no vote.
Why would you let someone else vote about how you learn? This is not how the real world works. Outside of school you get to learn what you want to learn because you are a thinking, curious person with a drive to have a fulfilling life. In the real world, if someone wants to tell you what to learn, they have to pay you.
So why would you sign up to let someone else direct your child’s learning without your child getting paid for it? Democratic schools are like unpaid internships, except you can’t even put it on your resume.
4. Alternative schools are not better than mainstream schools.
Look, I understand why parents send their kids to democratic schools. Parents recognize that public school is terrible, because you have to be living under a rock not to see that. And most parents don’t have the money to send their kids to really expensive private schools that operate like unschooling households. So parents do a compromise and send their kids to alternative schools. But the most insidious thing about democratic school is that it’s just a different way to waste kids’ time. It’s not self-directed learning, it’s not project-based learning—it’s whatever the majority wants the learning to be. It’s forced learning.
So parents need to stop deluding themselves that alternative schools are better for their kids. The choice of an alternative school isn't about the kids. It’s about the parents. Parents want to feel like they are doing something to keep their kids out of a failing public school system. But it’s not the public school system that’s failing. It’s the idea of sending kids away all day to have someone else raise them that is failing. Democratic or not.