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.