Our school system has changed little since the 19th century. Yet, the society we live in is worlds apart from the one children were being prepared for a hundred years ago. So, why has the school system not caught up? Here are some thoughts on education that might surprise you.
1. Our education system wasn’t really set up to teach
The school system was developed in order to provide an obedient workforce for factories during the industrial revolution. While children were taught to read and write, which were helpful skills to have in that society, the real agenda was to get children into the habit of turning up on time and doing as they were told.
Our education systems aren’t designed to foster learning, curiosity or creativity. Instead, they weed out potential troublemakers and create a servile workforce.
Noam Chomsky has some wise thoughts on education:
“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”
2. Our education system inhibits creativity
Our education system was set up in a world where things didn’t change all that much. A child went out into the world with a basic grasp of maths and English and that was enough to prepare them for a job that would often last a lifetime.
However, in today’s fast-changing world, we need to prepare children for a different kind of work. They need to be able to adapt and change, to be creative and come up with new ideas and ways of working.
But our current education system does the very opposite of this. Children are taught from a rigid curriculum in an orderly fashion. They are not allowed to work with creativity and curiosity or follow their own interests. They are not encouraged to think outside the box or criticise the status quo.
In teaching them in this way, we are doing little to prepare them for the real world in the 21st century.
As Pablo Picasso put it:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
3. Our way of teaching puts children off learning
Unfortunately, the rigidity of the education system often puts children off learning. Small children are naturally curious. But a few years of school and learning things by rote, practising music scales or learning the rules of grammar, and that enthusiasm to learn start to wane.
Instead of firing our children’s enthusiasm and curiosity, we make them think that subjects like maths, music, languages and even art are boring and dull.
Leonardo da Vinci had some wise thoughts on education, and one of those is:
“Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.”
4. Our schooling system fosters anxiety and lack of confidence
It can almost seem like our education system is designed to create anxious and underperforming adults. Constant testing creates huge stress which is hardly conducive to learning. And even if children do well, often all they have really learned is how to pass that particular test.
When children discover things for themselves and master new skills because they want to, it builds confidence and self-esteem. But perhaps the leaders of our world don’t want confident, resilient children with their own ideas.
John Holt explained it like this:
“The anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember.”
5. Our education system is unnatural
Our current schooling system is very unnatural. Never before history have children been herded together with other children the same age and taught en masse.
In the past, children would have learned within their families or a work environment with lots of different people of different ages, including many with the wisdom of many years behind them. Perhaps this is why there are so many issues with teasing and bullying in school.
In addition, children would have learned by seeing, and experiencing, not by listening, remembering and sitting still. These conditions are not conducive to real learning for most people.
6. Our education system does not prepare children for life
Lastly, our schooling system fails to teach children what they really need to know to survive and thrive in this world. Most schools do not teach the basics of living such as cooking, applying for a mortgage, or how to solve relationship problems.
William Upski Wimsatt puts it perfectly when he says:
“There were no sex classes. No friendship classes. No classes on how to navigate a bureaucracy, build an organization, raise money, create a database, buy a house, love a child, spot a scam, talk someone out of suicide, or figure out what was important to me. Not knowing how to do these things is what messes people up in life, not whether they know algebra or can analyze literature.”
I hope these thoughts on education have opened your eyes to our current way of teaching children. Perhaps we can all learn to encourage the children in our lives to be more confident, curious and creative.