Adventures in Unschooling

Perpetuated behaviour and play clothes.

Posted on: January 31, 2009

I am just learning about how schools are structured and the result that these pillars have on childhood and adult behavious. So I am not an expert of the topic but I can share some of the pitfalls of schooling and how they have affected my husband and I differently.

I loved school and loved to please. I remember that in elementary school I loved my teachers and worked hard to be the “recognized” student.

I derived a great sense of self-worth from my test scores and thought myself above the rest when I obtained scholarships and recognition. Then I hit the real world.

I grew up in a small town with tumbleweeds blowing in the streets. Well, when I was in college I saw a pedestrian light at an intersection and I was puzzled for a moment. My parents had never given me any real life experience…I mean, aside from livestock related issues.

Those issues I was not shielded from. I have even delivered baby animals myself and have had to help my dad dump dead stock on the other side of the field.

When I got into the real world I was stuuuupid! A magazine editor had to reducate me. He taught me how to draw conclusions from bits of information. How to question what I was told and how to think for myself. I am greatly indebted to this one person. I think I am a bright person now. I think I am because I know I am, not because other people tell me or because I have the test scores to prove it.

I heard a story of another person from my school. He was in my extended circle of friends. He was valedictorian and the top student in all of his classes. When he went to University he found himself starting to struggle. This devastated him. He dropped out of school and pursued something completely different.

I feel that school had damaged me by encouraging the notion that my self-worth and chance at a future was based on my grades.

My husband’s issue was somewhat the same. He didn’t care for school and scored poorly. He will always remember the time that a teacher sneered at him and asked him why he was in his class.

Luckily, I was strong enough to seek to re-educate myself and I continued to love reading and learning on my own throughout my schooling and after it. My husband did not. He is now just learning about the pleasure you can derive from reading. He reads daily but it too him 25 years to get there.

He, like many boys, was bored by the irrelevant content material. He skipped class and flunked courses. He came out of school with the notion that he was dumb. His teachers, peers and siblings treated him that way. He became part of the working class. What else is a dumb boy to do?

Now he has rediscovered his self worth and is seeking a career that truly interests him. It’s hard work but he’ll get there. I know he will.

In other words: The school system is set up in a way that views the way that children learn to be the same. Be it girls, boys, intellectual, hands-on, active, sedentary, cooperative and non-cooperative. The school operates one way and the students are expected to follow suit. If they don’t, like my husband, then they fail their courses and are doomed to become part of the working class and die poor.

In essence, they are teaching children to fall into line. Those who obey are rewarded with good grades and a future. Those who disobey are punished with bad grades and a less profitable future. They are teaching children to be drones, to be passive and to obey their governments and uphold their authority. That is dangerous in a democracy.

For example, in school, there is no reward for abstract thought. If you do not regurgitate the answers given to you by your teacher you will not pass. There is no room for honest discussion. The attitude is, “you may be right, but if you don’t answer the right way, your grades will suffer.” This is where standardized tests are so wrong.

The system maintains that there is a right way to interpret historical events and a right way to interpret Shakespeare. Where in the curriculum is there space for individual thought?

For example, I remember discussions on WWII. How it started etc. When I was doing my own research into that recently, I discovered that Hitler’s armament was funded for by American bankers. Doesn’t that rewrite our history a bit? Doesn’t that make the Americans look a bit less like heroes? Doesn’t that change our perspective on why wars start and who benefits from them?

Do you think that that was accidentally left out of the social studies curriculum?

Or in biology they still use these Darwinian drawings of different species in the early embryo stage. I read that those are widely discredited (as being fakes) even in the evolutionary circles. Yet these drawings are still in our textbooks.

Or in science.  How satisfying can it be to see a yellow liquid turn blue if you know that that’s what it is supposed to do?

I remember one assignment that I did find fulfilling. The assignment was to build a bridge (based on a real one) using only glue and drinking straws. The bridge that held the most weight would win top grade. This self directed building taught me a lot about strengthening support beams and building structures. There is so little of this in school.

This system is very much totalitarian. Sigh…


Some fun stuff now.

I made some bean bags and play clothes for my kids with felt.

I have been wanting to make them a pirate hat and maybe a knight’s hat. We’ll see how much is left over after the pirate hat.

This is fun for them and for me!


1 Response to "Perpetuated behaviour and play clothes."

Wow. I am hearing a lot of tangible evidence of a failing system. This was written in a way that was so easy for me to understand and well-supported with facts and your personal experience. This is the approach I love to read (on any issue). It’s not blind prejudice or fear-mongering. These are real issues. Thanks for sharing this with the world!

I had felt slight regret on my comment yesterday as it came across to me reading it later as totally blind judgment – bias talk. I was on the receiving end of a blind bias recently and it sucked. I realize now I kind of did the same thing.

I don’t want to say that everyone who does go to public school turns out the way I described in my comment, but that I *fear* the possibility that many people do.

I wanted to add that, had I been provided with the nurturing and the bonding of a secure, healthy family, I may very well have come out of the system a little less jaded and hurt. I do believe that our health and wholeness as people comes down to our family environment more than any school choices we make. I want to give all of those who do choose public school the benefit of the doubt that, if they do the work, if they stay tuned in to the ‘real’ needs of their children and keep communication and learning free and open, that yes, they can come out the other side all right.

But in saying that, I imagine it would take an incredible amount of work not to fall into the system’s pitfalls. As it stands, I am not sure that I am willing to ever test that theory with my kids!

Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

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  • withoutloveweallperish: 50 books for $10!! As a book lover, that sounds like Christmas come early! Lovely library set up, need to set up one of those for myself!
  • theworldismysoyster: Sure. Just none of my kids. :)
  • goobrobinson: Hi! I'd like to seek your permission if I can reuse one of your pictures for my next post? Specifically the second picture.


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