I’m Generalizing Teachers? Teachers Generalize Most of the Children in the Country

01 October 2011 Categories: public school, unschooling

Photo by photl

I have received a blizzard of positive and negative feedback from my two controversial blog posts, What Teachers Really Need to Hear From Parents and What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers: What You Do Hurts Our Children. Both of my posts were in response to the exasperatingly child and parent-disparaging CNN post, What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents by Ron Clark.  The most common complaints from people were:

1. “You are over-generalizing all teachers in your post- Not all teachers believe/act the way you and Ron Clark presented that they believe/act”,

2. “Teachers hands are tied- they can’t be blamed for what the system forces them to do”,

3. “You should encourage people to try to fix the system rather than blame teachers”,

4. “Parents are the ones who are the problem because they aren’t involved”,

5. “Democratic schooling/Unschooling is only possible for a privileged few families and isn’t realistic for society as a whole”.

Sadly, the actual impact of the school system on the human beings who are the most damaged by it was glaringly left out of these types of arguments.

I will respond to these common complaints about my aforementioned posts:

1. “You are over-generalizing all teachers in your post- Not all teachers believe/act the way you and Ron Clark presented that they believe/act”

The public school system is the biggest offender of “over-generalizing”! The system generalizes the majority of the human population under the age of 19 into mechanical categories, numerical statistics and machine-like expectations. Every child’s body is expected to function in the exact same, inhumane manner, every child’s emotional and behavioral state is expected to present in the exact same, manageable way and every child’s brain is expected to produce in the exact same, assembly-line fashion- all based on age!

Not only are children collected, sorted and processed like objects into arbitrary age, “grading”  and “performance” categories, nature- children’s humanity- is kicked to the curb! There is a total disregard for the laws of nature concerning children, the needs of their bodies, the needs of their hearts, the needs of their minds and the needs of their unique, individual time tables for emotional and intellectual development.

That each individual human child develops, grows, learns, explores, understands and creates on a different time table is inconvenient for factory schools. They hide the fact that the time frame for literacy and math spans twenty years or more, that it is unnatural to expect all children to be producing reading and writing by age five or eight. Schools, in their drive for conformity and numerical results, label any child who is not developmentally ready to read, write or calculate as “learning disabled”! Have you ever heard of any other “learning disabled” species? Is our species really so defectively “learning disabled” or is the system learning ignorant?

I met Ron Clark’s article by trying to condense the most common school human rights violations into one post, based on my years of work with over 1,000 youth and families, my own son’s experiences prior to me adopting (and unschooling) him, as well as my own concerning experiences in public schools as a child. (If you want to learn more about my credentials, please read my Bio). I find it curious that defensive teachers insinuate my post is “over-generalized”, when what I wrote is standard public school and classroom practice. When a single teacher tells me their classroom “doesn’t look like that”, it doesn’t negate the fact that most classrooms do look as I described.  Laurette Lynn, host of The Unplugged Mom Podcast, commented that if individual teachers work as part of the mass system that commits these violations, then they need to expect that they will be “generalized” with the practices of the majority.

2. “Teachers hands are tied- they can’t be blamed for what the system forces them to do.”

Many terrible crimes against humanity have been committed under the excuse of , “I was just following orders.” Children are hostages of the system, teachers are not. No teacher has to work in that system or do inhumane things to children in the name of “policy”. I wonder if Stanley Milgrim’s study on obedience to authority is taught to prospective teachers? Milgrim’s study showed the dangers of the “I was just following orders” mentality and the lengths people will go in hurting helpless people under their power in order to “follow orders” from their own higher authorities.

Every teacher has the choice to leave the system rather than perpetuate it. They have no right to hurt children whether they are following policy or not. If they don’t like what they are forced to do then they should all stop doing it. If every teacher subverted the system (do teachers still assign Civil Disobedience by Thoreau anymore? Maybe they should re-read it) then the system could no longer enforce inhumane policies against children. Now that would be a REAL education that teachers could give their students- fit for a democracy!

Desiree Alonso, producer of The Unplugged Mom Podcast, wrote on a thread, “Teacher, YOU are what keeps the system alive. YOU are the problem. YOU have a choice. Stop making excuses and if you really want to inspire, motivate and support children’s learning… then DO THAT. Teachers prove over and over again that they are NOT any agents of change, they are pawns of the system, the very system they support and endorse every day.”

Lisa Nielsen, author of The Innovative Educator, is an example of an educator that subverts the system!

3. “You should encourage people to try to fix the system rather than blame teachers”

How many epic fails at education reform does it take before people are willing to wake up and realize that the system cannot be refromed? The school system was DESIGNED to be oppressive to the child! The system was designed not to help children learn, but to crate a docile, obedient citizenry who would mindlessly conform to the demands of consumerism, the factories, mills, mines and the military of the mid-1800’s Industrial Revolution.

Consider the quotes of William Torrey Harris, the U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889-1906:

“The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places…. It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.”

“Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening. The average American [should be] content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.”

Read John Taylor Gatto’s massive compilation of research, The Underground History of American Education for more enlightenment!

I unschool my son because he and his life are too precious to me to put at risk by sending him to a system that guarantees to harm, confine and take him off course from his passions and his own natural learning process. Other Moms wrote,

“The partnering that teachers are asking for here is nothing less than submission to the system. Laurie is simply throwing the chess board over. We will not play this game with our children at stake.” -Christeil Figueroa Gota

“It is my personal opinion that the VERY BEST schools are abusive. I will not work with that, I will not try to understand that. I will (and have) remove my child and pity those left behind. Don’t agree? Great… Good luck changing things…” -Marie Benesch Scott

4. “Parents are the ones who are the problem because they aren’t involved”,

Interestingly, the parents these teachers point at are probably a product of the public school system. What does that tell you about the apathy the school system produces in people? The school system works perfectly, as it was intended! Many of the parents I work with stay away from their children’s schools because they say that it literally makes them ill to walk in. They report that they still feel coerced, bullied or steam-rolled by the school “authorities”.

5. “Democratic schooling/Unschooling is only possible for a privileged few families and isn’t realistic for society as a whole.”

Unschooling was how human beings learned, like other mammals do, for millennia- Compulsory schooling in the US has only been around since 1852- How did people learn prior to 1852? Why were there so many geniuses in history who were minimally or not schooled? How can it not be “realistic” for a democratic society to learn democratically?

I am a single Mom on a very tight, dollar-to-dollar income and I unschool my son. When I first adopted him when he turned 11, I put him in a child-centered private school on a partial scholarship while I worked out child care for the hours I needed to work outside the home while my son unschooled. I was willing to do anything and everything to make it work, and we did it- Through creativity and networking.

Parents must be willing to make a plan to make it work. If you understand that the public school system is too dangerous a risk to take, then you will do whatever it takes to protect your child. Laurette Lynn once said on one of her podcasts, “What would you do if public school wasn’t an option?”


The overwhelming defensiveness of teachers and their supporters to challenges to their way of operating their classrooms should be enough to raise concern- Why would parents want to put their children under the near constant control of people who so fervently defend their harmful practices? Parents, protect your children and stop trying to be a polite parent to the school system.

Teachers, if you do love and care about children at the holistic, personal level, then work for change OUTSIDE the system by joining with others (especially children) who are already creating child-centered learning communities all over the globe.  If you don’t wish to be “over-generalized”, then stop over-generalizing children; stop seeing them as one collective, cartoonish unit lesser than yourself. View children as equals, deserving of the same human rights that you enjoy. See children as individuals and respect their needs, their development, their interests, their ways of learning and their unique callings in life.

8 Responses to “I’m Generalizing Teachers? Teachers Generalize Most of the Children in the Country”

  1. amanda chance (@godsprincess31) 1 October 2011 at 10:31 pm (PERMALINK)

    Thankyou for sharing this , every word said here is how I feel !

  2. Laurette Lynn 4 October 2011 at 9:32 am (PERMALINK)

    The negative feedback means you are touching a sensitive nerve… GOOD JOB! :) People get violently defensive to protect a vulnerability!

  3. tres edu 4 October 2011 at 11:59 pm (PERMALINK)

    Oh so much to say so I’ll just say a little lol.
    I humbly ashamed-ly admit I’ve been a control freak over food and bathroom in the classroom. Sigh. So sorry. But not a total freak about it like my 4th gr teacher who would not allow bathroom use. I’d either do a “when i’m done speaking” philosophy in the classroom, or “tickets” allowing 5 visits per semester (but allowance for emergencied). But thats still bad lol….but then I couldn’t eat or potty from 8am-12:30 pm either! I did have occasional pizza parties, fresh fruit. etc…against school rules. How evil of me haha.
    I am currently unemployed due to budget cuts and tired of bowing down to the status quo and having my hands tied. Against my own mother’s wishes (she is a retired teacher) I am speaking my mind against LIFO, standardized tests, Federal control…. basically everything. I am going to carry the torch, sacrificing my future and many job opportunities, to say ENOUGH!!! Because someone has to, And sadly many teachers are brainwashed to be what it seems you and I are not too keen on. But I want to “save” students, teachers, parents from a status quo beaureacracy that treats us like automaton.

    • Laurie A. Couture 8 October 2011 at 10:49 am (PERMALINK)

      Tres edu,

      I guess I’m not understanding what you find so comical (ie; “lol”) about forcing children to retain poisons in their bodies, cause them bladder and bowel pain and putting them at risk for serious medical problems. http://www.nospank.net/frbw.htm It is abhorrent to me and a human rights violation to issue “tickets” to use the toilet- FIVE toilet visits a SEMESTER?? I’m not lol-ing, I’m thanking my higher power yet again that my son is unschooled. You chose the career, you choose to be a teacher and you can leave at any time. OSHA laws protect you, so please do not try to justify your abuse of children by claiming that you “can’t” eat or use the toilet during those hours because that is legally not true. Even it it was true, as I said, you chose the career. Children do not choose to be there and are held against their wills like hostages. I don’t see what kind of torch you are carrying- You aren’t saving anyone with abusive, typical teacher policies like you outlined here- with laughs. Again, I do not find the abuse of children’s bodies to be funny. I have a teenage son whose body is healthy because he is an unschooler, and I would never allow him to be around you with such disrespect that you demonstrated in your response. It sounds like you did not even read my blog posts because had you, you would have seen that I am not allowing teachers any excuses to justify their abusive behavior towards children by claiming that their “hands are tied” or that the system treats them like “automatons”. TEACHERS CHOOSE to become automatons and then mold malleable children to become automatons. You say you are unemployed and want to “save” students- then do that, don’t return to the system, and speak out about these abuses and not “lol” at them!


  4. Jenny K 8 October 2011 at 9:48 am (PERMALINK)

    @ Laurette–boy, they do!
    Great article/response, Laurie.

  5. Lisa Velmer Nielsen 8 October 2011 at 6:04 pm (PERMALINK)

    @Tres Edu,

    It is sad that educators are trained the way we are. I very quickly figured we should all eat and use the bathroom freely. I wonder, Tres Edu, why you couldn’t eat or use the bathroom. People (adults/kids) should be allowed to eat when they’re hungry and use the bathroom when they need to. If necessary, I used the bathroom between classes and I ate/drank when I wanted.

    I fought (with help from an organization called “Everybody Wins!”) to get the food/drink ban lifted from my room and I won! It can happen. I hate when teachers say things like we have ants so kids can only eat at obscure times. I had fricken rats, but they’re there regardless. Not because a kid has a snack. We talked about cleaning up after ourselves. Eating wasn’t the issue. Rats, unfortunately, were.

    As far as bathroom, I had a policy in place where two boys and two girls could go to the bathroom at a time by taking the bathroom pass. They did not have to tell me. They just took it and wrote their name so I could ensure they were okay and accounted for.

    I am glad that you are tired of bowing down to the status quo and hope you will push all teachers to honor what our student’s bodies, minds, and feelings, want us to know. I also hope you will encourage parents to know that this is their child’s right.

  6. saffron 22 June 2012 at 6:42 pm (PERMALINK)

    hi laurie,
    big fan of yours. I recently dropped out of high school and started intergrating unschooling into my distance education. I will agree with your statements for the most part. I loved learning but hated school. a lot of techers do fall under the categories that are described here, and it is time for them to stop. I would also like to point out that among these teachers are some genuinely amazing educators and amazing people fighting from the inside. my mother among them. these are the teachers that make people want to learn, let us eat and drink in class, contribute our opinions and let us take a break if we need to. unfortunately these teachers are so incredibly few and far between and often reserved for the “smart” classes. as for my mother, she is in constant communication with parents about any difficulty they may be having and will talk over any problems with a student. she helps me with my unschooling and has even been called “the closest thing I have to a mother” by a student who was kicked out of home. these teachers are amazzing, but what you outlined is a real problem . I just wish that mor teachers were like my mum. (also I live in Australia, so sorry if the problem is worse in america then it is here.)

  7. Tina 17 September 2012 at 5:01 pm (PERMALINK)

    Laurie….You are just so awesome! Well said! Everything! It just hit me, through reading your blog, that I have felt that bullying behavior while trying to advocate for my son when he was, very unfortunately, part of the school system. WOW! They used to make me feel so uncomfortable. It was disgusting! But now I realize it was old scars from my own experience in public school, where I always felt “stupid” and less than normal because my grades weren’t perfect. I actually had a teacher once tell me that she expected more form me because my brother was so smart! Like I’m the same damn person as my brother! Give me a break! I never felt smart in high school or college for that matter. I know differently now. What does “smart” mean anyway? We have this conversation a lot in my house. Just because you get straight A’s it means your smart? So ridiculous! I take a deep breath everyday and put a BIG smile on my face when I realize I am giving my sons the best and fairest education of all! Letting them be home and learn naturally and at their own pace!

    Thank you, Laurie!


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