The Gift of School
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The Gift of School • Posted: Sep 04, 2008 13:01:24Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

The developing human brain naturally craves a richly complex and varied physical and social environment to explore, challenge, play in, and potentially master. Most children jump at the chance to go to school. Learning represents power, fun, freedom to competently engage in all the myriad activities they see older children and adults engage in. By contrast, children forced to endure an intellectually impoverished growth environment display aberrant brain, competency, and social development and even with remediation experience extreme difficulty finding satisfaction within adult society. We know this, but does anybody care?

A great many teachers do and some parents do, but if you listen to what most politicians, religious, and business leaders are saying you get the idea school isn't about growing healthy productive adaptive brains and personalities, it's about replacing the workforce manning our factories and institutions. It's about maintaining the hierarchical orthodoxy. And that's sad.

It's sad because if you've ever spent time with intellectually curious children you know there is very little chance of accurately predicting what will happen next. And yet, assuming the simple rule "don't hurt yourself and don't hurt others" is forcefully advocated, the prevailing behavior is invariably fun and challenging, just what is needed to further healthy social and intellectual brain development. It's a more or less self-feeding self-propagating process. What screws it up is a total lock down on curiosity, coercion of attention to fulfill a corporate and institutional agenda of workforce replacement. We've known that for more than 50 years, ever since the Montessori method of schooling was invented and put into service. Yet still the prevailing practice in both public and private schools is that of coercion in service of orthodox workforce replacement.

Even as economists and social scientists point to declining test scores and warn of America losing its innovative edge, we squelch the very processes by which innovation is born. Sad for our blossoming children and sad for our increasingly oppressive and intellectually sterile future.

Friday, September 9th, 1988