The August 2011 issue of Parenting New Hampshire stood out as a perfect example of mainstream media presenting traditional schooling as inevitable for children in September. This is Part III of my blog post discussing the way the media presents Back-To-School fervor and traditional schooling issues and the detriments to children.
Failing to Bring Attention to How Dangerous Public Schooling is For Children's Health
Towards the end of the August 2011 issue of Parenting New Hampshire is an article that, without intending to, underscored the irony of how schools fail to meet children's basic biological, physical, psychological and developmental needs, often contrary to health care advice. Traditional schools are regimented in a manner that forces children to deny their bodily functions and emotional needs and contort these needs to the system rather than schools conforming to children's needs.
"Potty Training Made Easier" by Bridget A. Logan, APRN, PhD recommends under a heading, Teach "Listen to your body", "Our goal is to teach children to listen to body cues about hunger, thirst, sadness, anger, fatigue, and the needs to pee and poop. When you see your child squirming, crossing legs and squatting to suppress bowel and bladder urges, remind him/her to listen to his/her body".
Pediatric urologists recommend that children of all ages, including adolescents, should urinate about every two to three hours, or sooner if needed. Pediatric urologists and gastroenterologists recommend that children should respond to the urge to eliminate and not delay. Delaying elimination is dangerous to the body! Children who are forced by teachers to habitually delay their need to eliminate are at risk for poor bladder and bowel habits and elimination health problems. Delaying elimination puts children at risk for infections, dysfunction and damage to the bladder, kidneys, bowels and epididymis (in boys).
How can children be taught to "listen to their bodies" and follow the natural, healthy needs of the body when school teachers routinely regiment, punish ration, delay or deny toilet use or even reward children who don't use the toilet? Some middle and high schools actually lock school toilets! I have received pages and pages of email over the years from parents reporting that their children, from preschoolers to 18 year old 12th graders, were forced to urinate in their pants, in seats, trash cans, bottles, stairwells and outdoors due to teachers refusing to allow them to meet this basic survival need.
In addition to being denied the right to eliminate bodily waste when needed, children are also routinely denied hydration, food, physical activity, rest and fresh air in public school. Denial of these needs causes distress and pain in children. Sometimes the chronic distress leads to emotional, learning and behavioral challenges which are likely to be wrongly diagnosed as "ADHD", mental illness or learning disabilities and subsequently drugged with psychotropic chemicals.
Failing to Bring Attention to How Dangerous Public Schooling is For Children's Emotional and Psychological Well Being
Likewise, children of all ages have a basic psychological need for connection, attachment, affection and closeness with their families. Touch-starved schools that advocate for children "making that break" fracture the parent-child attachment relationship and leave children longing for connection, affection and comfort. They turn to peers and pop culture as a way to fill this void as the rift between parent and child becomes a deeper and deeper gulf. Traditional schooling is one of the most pervasive and devastating blows to the parent-child attachment relationship , but one that is totally avoidable.
If we can't trust that teachers and schools will meet our children's survival needs- their most basic physical and emotional needs- how can we trust these people and institutions with our children's learning and education? Why don't mainstream resources encourage parents to ask this question and demand answers of schools?
What if Public School Was Not An Option?
As long as mainstream media resources and greedy advertisers continue to ring the "Back-To-School" bell as if it is an unavoidable fact of childhood, parents will not know that there are alternatives to traditional and public schooling. Media resources must step up to the plate, stop serving the interests of public schools and stop accepting articles that seem oblivious to all of the issues raised in this three-part blog post.
To the credit of Parenting New Hampshire magazine, they did include a short article in this same August 2011 issue, "The Purpose of the Place: There's a Difference Between Learning and Teaching" by Jeff Woodburn. However, this article was anti-climactic and it was unclear what type of school they were discussing.
I challenge media resources such as Parenting New Hampshire and other mainstream parenting magazines and websites to align with children and families instead of with the school culture as if it was undisputed fact. Why not solicit articles that ask parents revolutionary questions such as, what if public or traditional private schooling was NOT an option? What would you and the children do?
Why not do a "Back-To-School" issue which focuses on alternatives to traditional schooling, featuring child centered schools, developmentally appropriate Waldorf or Montessori schools, online virtual schools, arts-based charter schools, early college options or homeschooling? Why not do a September issue on democratic schools such as The Sudbury Valley Free School? Why not do a controversial issue featuring research on why homework is harmful to children, why denying children their basic survival needs is dangerous and why youth of all ages need parent-child connection, affection, play, physical activity and hands-on exploration as the foundation of their day? Better yet, why not do a "NOT-Back-To-School" September issue splashing the pages with the joys and the freedoms of relaxed homeschooling or radical unschooling? I'll be the first family to volunteer our story!
That deflated "Back-To-School" depression, the attachment-disrupting "first day of school" and homework are NOT inevitable. There are millions of families all around the world for whom "summer vacation" lasts all year, where learning is authentic, playful and part of day-to-day living, not something that occurs in the confines of a factory-like classroom. The mainstream media should do more than cater to advertisers and recycle stale yearly themes- The media has a responsibility to present information that is fresh, new, challenging and of value to society.