Mainstream Media Wrongly Presents Back-To-School As Inevitable, Part I

23 August 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

It wasn’t even August yet when I saw the first signs of Back To School advertising exploiting most children’s dreaded end to summer freedom and joy. Ads, businesses and magazines begin brandishing photos of smiling children rocking trendy clothing, notebooks and textbooks, as if pretending that children entering a hostage situation for the next nine months where their minds, bodies and lives will be under rigid control is something they should smile about. The August 2011 issue of Parenting New Hampshire stood out as a perfect example of mainstream media presenting forced schooling as inevitable for children in September. The magazine was so stereotypical in presenting school as where children belong in September that I decided to use the issue as my inspiration for this blog post.

Overriding Parental Instincts

The first article, “The First Day of School Made Easier… For Parents” by Michael Brindley encourages parents to override their natural protective instincts to keep their young children close to them. The article almost makes a parody out of parents who struggle to separate from their young children on their first day of public school. Quotes such as, “While parents may want to be there as long as possible on that first day of school, some believe they may be doing more harm than good by sticking around” intimidate parents into believing that their instinct to hold on to their children is harmful! An elementary school principal explains in the article that to prevent parents from lingering in the classroom, they have a “farewell” drop off in the gym where parents “wave goodbye and they make the break there” as teachers take the children away. The article states that the principal, Phil Schappler, “said its imperative for young students to be able to start the first day of school independently.” They quote him as saying, “If the parents were all in the classroom watching, its harder for the teacher to get started with the day and the routine of the classroom… At some point, you need to make that break.”

Does any parent ever ask themselves why “you need to make that break”? Do parents ask themselves, what is the life long cost of  children getting into “the routine of the classroom”?

Nature’s intent is for children to be in the primary care of their parents and other loved ones for their entire childhood. Nature’s intent is for children’s physical and emotional needs to be met as soon as possible.  The parenting instinct of passionately desiring to remain with one’s children is a primal instinct which ensures that children’s needs will be met and that the parent-child attachment relationship remains strong. When parents and children become distressed at separating on the first day of preschool, kindergarten or 1st grade, that is a natural, healthy alarm signal warning that something unnatural is about to happen and it needs to be avoided in order to prevent harm to the child. This is mammal parenting; it is the root of humanity. When parents succumb to the advice of “experts” that warn that trusting parental instinct is “harmful” to children, parents actually do real harm to their children. The fact that youth in Western societies increasingly break away from their parents as they move further up the grade levels is testimony to the damage that school does to the parent-child attachment relationship. It is Western cultural, not natural for humans, when children and parents pull away from one another.

Valuing Conditioning Rather Than True Learning

The same article mentioned above quotes another school principal, Pat Snow, as saying “We’re going from the parents raising that child to building a relationship with the school. For the children, that first day is their chance to explore and get into the classroom and begin learning.”


This quote again begs the question, why? Why should “we go from” parents raising their children to turning them over to the school? What is nature’s intent? From whom do all other mammals learn from if not their families? I find it chilling that principal Snow believes that being confined to a classroom for the first time is when learning “begins”. Does she believe that everything that occurred prior to the first day of school was NOT learning? Does anything outside of school count as “learning”? Are parents so incompetent that nothing they had done up until the first day of school counted as “learning”? Didn’t most of those parents graduate from public school, certified as “educated”?

Interestingly, nature’s intent is for children to learn through play, exploration, joy, freedom and hands-on experience relevant to their interests- These are literally the conditions a developing brain needs in order to learn. Traditional school is the antithesis to this! Snow’s mention of the word “explore” is not something that is allowed in schools outside of  a one-size-fits-all, homogenized curriculum. Do they allow children to roam the woods? Pull out all of the art supplies and create what they want with them? PLAY actively all day alone and with mixed age peers? Ride the physical therapy or gym equipment all around the building? If not, then there is no exploration, no true learning in school. It is simply operant conditioning disguised as “education”… with the goal to serve the aims of the global economy.

Please stay tuned for Part II of this three-part blog post to continue the discussion of the detriments to children of the mainstream media presenting traditional “Back-To-School” as inevitable for children…


3 Responses to “Mainstream Media Wrongly Presents Back-To-School As Inevitable, Part I”

  1. Christina Pilkington 26 August 2011 at 10:14 am (PERMALINK)

    I kept nodding my head thoughout your entire post. On Wednesday, my kids and I went to a Pioneer Village. For over an hour and a half, they waded barefoot in a stream, floating different things they found in the water. On their own they came up with so many different conclusions why some things floated faster than others, and how to build the perfect boat with natural materials. They are five years old. It makes me feel sick to think they could have be sitting inside one building the entire day. Instead, that day the rode the caurosel, pet sheep and goats, climbed trees and learned how a wagon wheel is made. Yesterday, they helped me make dinner and cleaned the bathroom. Everything they do is real and means something to them. I look forward to reading your next posts.

  2. Kelleigh 27 August 2011 at 3:39 pm (PERMALINK)

    Right on Laurie! It makes me so mad when those in traditional education imply that learning only takes places in the school. Yikes! And that people buy into this, literally and figuratively. Literally, they feed the economy because they have to make sure their kids have brand new everything before going back to school. Figuratively, parents feel they are inadequate to guide their children and must relinquish that power to the school system. It just continues to perpetuate a damaging part of our society, as you highlight so well here. And look at all of the true authentic learning that took place in one day of Christina’s kids’ lives. Thanks so much! Oh, I ranted not too long ago on back-to-school here: Back To School! (Not!)

  3. Katie 22 August 2014 at 7:33 am (PERMALINK)

    This post helps me put into words what I feel about that ‘back to school’ time of year. This will be our first year homeschooling our son. He attended preschool last year but will be learning at home from here on out. One thing I find very frustrating is the way other parents talk about sending their kids to school. Every single person I talk to who sends their kids to school talk about how their children are ‘so ready’. Really? Your 3 year old is ready to be away from you for 2 hours a day at (a sounds amazing on paper) preschool? Do people really believe this? Perhaps my family is weird, but I’ve never once had the sense that my son is ready to go to school. In fact, I’m pretty sure he would be miserable in school. He does goes through phases where he more intensely wants to play with other kids. So, we go to the park or invite people over. He goes through phases where he’s intensely interested in something and we need to get out of his way so he can create or help him find more information. Neither of these phases means we should ship him off to school for the majority of his waking hours!


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