Friday, March 13, 2009

Education as a Socializing Agency

This is a response to my friend Liz. She was looking for a pre-school for Teagan and she got me to thinking about my children's educational experiences and the way they are now.

"I have very little knowledge of Montessori Schools except for a vague belief that they are very 'free form'. My son Charlie was in a multi-age classroom for grades 1, 2, and 4, which was (in my eyes) an amazingly creative place, with terrifically motivated kids who seemed to be interested in everything and do a million different things at once in the classroom. However, when Charlie went to 5th grade, he had a VERY difficult time adjusting to the structure the regular classroom. I don't regret him being in those classes--those teachers are still the best he had. I see them once in awhile when I sub at his old elementary school and we always laugh and talk, but...I think one of the goals of school is to socialize our children so they can function as part of society on the job and in the community--and I always felt that the freeform nature of the multi-age classes made his life harder in the long run. Because life isn't really like that. You have to learn to play by very stringent rules in school, college, and on the job site. I sense this comment is very unlike me, but... I just remember how awesome Charlie's experiences were and how they paid attention to every aspect of his development (creativity included)--but I also see what a sad, out-of-place child he seems to be now... As if...he was in this wonderful unrealistically nurturing environment, then taken out of it and he never could adapt to...the mediocrity of most of the rest of the world.

This almost makes me cry rereading it, because who would want to put their child into an environment out of which his or her child would reach their maximum creative potential--particularly creative parents like me and like Liz?

I know that I think Charlie is different, special, but all parents do. I think that he's extremely unhappy in his public school setting. He long ago lost interest in doing anything but the absolute minimum to get by and is in the process of making choices that are...well, he'll be limited by them. But something about school, the social structure, or SOMETHING, killed something in him. And it's sad to see.

My final comment on this is a video sent to me by my high school assistant which is extremely thought-provoking:

Good luck with your choice, Liz, and keep a better eye on things than I did.




  1. Oh, Chris, take a peek outside the box once in awhile! People unschool -- one of my favorite blogs on that particular method is Nurtured by Love ( People do school, but in different ways -- somewhere between structured public school and unschooling. People decide to choose a life that doesn't include mediocrity, ever.

    I infer from what you've written that you think you should've put your child in a more restrictive environment from the start -- should've snuffed out the creative flame earlier, perhaps, for the sake of fitting in later. Oh, please -- where's the logic in that? Real life doesn't have to be regimented and grey and dismal -- unless you've been so entrained to that lifestyle by your upbringing that you can't picture any other possibilities.

    Read some John Holt, for goodness sakes. Isn't he the one who said that our schools were conceived as a place to train factory workers who would trudge through their days unthinkingly, willingly giving up any project they're working on whenever the whistle blows or bell rings? Shoot, I can't recall now if he's the one who talked about that -- get some of his books, read them, then let me know if he said that. Hmm, maybe I need to go re-read them myself....

    I suspect the video your linking is one that's been passed around the homeschool community tons upon tons of times.

    I could go on and on indefinitely on this subject, but I have to take a kid somewhere.

  2. Aha, a quick google reveals that it probably wasn't John Holt -- it was that other teacher named John, John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down. Another good read.