BY SOFO ARCHON
This is a transcript of a spontaneous talk.
A lot of parents, and people in general, believe that school helps children to become smarter; that it helps them to become more intelligent, more knowledgeable, and better problem solvers.
But in my view, that’s not the case at all. Quite the contrary, I think that school is dumbing down kids. And there are many ways it does so.
The primary way is by giving them a certain kind of information, and telling them that this is true, and that they have to accept it. And they have to learn it by memorizing it, so that they can later on spit out that information during an exam in order to get a good grade.
So, what school does is telling children what is true — it doesn’t allow children to question that information that they offer them. It doesn’t allow them to evaluate it or to criticize it. So, how can children develop their understanding and intelligence?
Children, when they are very small, are scientists in a way, because they are all the time asking questions. They’re philosophers. They want to find out the truth. They want to understand reality. They’re like, “What is this? What is that? Why does this happen? What is the reason behind that?” They want to make sense of the world.
But then you send them to school, where they have to accept and not question the information that they’re given. And by the time they finish school, they don’t like to ask questions anymore. And they’re not good at assessing information. They’re not good at solving logical problems.
And they also hate learning. Because at school, they have been conditioned to associate learning with something painful, something that you don’t do for the sake of it, but you do it for an external reward — for a grade — but itself is a painful experience. It is a drudgery.
I remember, in my very early teenage years, I did not like to read books, because I had associated them with school. And no one of my peers liked to read books, either. They hated books. They made fun of those who read books. And then when I was 15 or so, I started reading books. I remember, I had read some great books in psychology with amazing information that really helped open my eyes. And I would not tell my peers, my friends, my classmates, that I was reading those books, out of fear that they would make fun of me.
So yeah, by the time children finish school, they don’t like learning. They’re tired of school so much, they’re so sick of it that they don’t want to have anything to do with “learning” anymore. So, how does school help children to become more intelligent?
The only thing that it helps is that it produces people who are more easily manipulated, more easily controlled. Because you have an adult population that cannot think for itself. That’s why you see people are so easily deceived by the media. That’s why they’re so easily persuaded by politicians. That’s why they are so obedient to their bosses. That’s why they accept and maintain an insane economic and political system, and so many other institutions, that if you think about it, are so harmful in so many ways.
Now, when I’m talking about school and its negative effects on people and society, and by extension, the planet, I’m talking about conventional school. I’m talking about school as it exists in most places around the world. There are exceptions, there are some countries where the school system is so much better. Scandinavian countries, for example. And there are also alternative schools, like Montessori schools, which from what I hear, are doing a fantastic job.
But conventional school is damaging, and has to be radically transformed. If we really care about the new generations, if we really care about children, and if we really care about society and the world, if we want to see people capable of solving problems, of dealing with the crises that our civilization is faced with, then we need to seriously reconsider our educational system.
And to do that, we need to ask: “What is the true purpose of education?” Is it to produce mindless automatons who are ready to believe anything and do as they’re told, or to allow people to cultivate their critical thinking, so that they can come better problems solvers, and hence be better at dealing with any problems that they encounter on their life’s journey?