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 about our education system:

“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

Pawel Kuczynski
Art by Pawel Kuczynski

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.”

What are your thoughts on our current education system?

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. What do you think? Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Undin

    And how would you build bridges, cure diseases, or create new technology if you don’t first learn multiplication tables and the periodic table? How will we know when engineers and doctors are ready to make life and death decisions if we don’t test them along the way? Artists are nice to have, but they do not perform essential functions which are done by folks who have learned much and THEN turn it into inventions and progress.

    1. Vladimir

      Artists instead of engineers.. in fact.. No industry – we’re POSTindustial..

    2. Gal Elad

      Do you really think the tests brought to children are actually able to determine their value.
      Do school tests able to determine their ability to come up with new ideas?
      Scientists especially need to research for new things that no one knew about before
      Have you ever heard of a school test or project that makes the children search for new things beyond what’s written in their books?
      I definitely didn’t.

  2. Jim Pickens

    Get the unions out of our schools so the schools can weed out the incompetent and the bad apples more easily and get in some good qualified teachers. Encourage free thought and creativity as well as expression when I was in school you got in trouble for wearing a shirt with profanity, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sexual content nowadays a kid can wear a shirt with pot on it nothing is said but eat a pop tart in the shape of a gun and out you go. Stop treating kids like convicts and non humans this nonsense of them being school property until they graduate has got to stop once a kid is off school grounds the teachers authority stops. And finally either go back the voluntary schools or only make those whose kids are in the public school system pay for their education why should those of us who (a) don’t have kids or (b) no longer have school age kids be forced to pay for something they don’t use plus this gives parents more motivation to get involved with their childrens education.

  3. Gary Hynous

    Well, here we have yet another controversial, emotional topic. Love these discussions! Perhaps home schooling is the answer but then the children will pick up the biases, intellectual limitations and prejudices of the parents. Teachers can only take a student so far in teaching them to read, write and do simple math. After that the student is on his or her own. The ability of any person to learn is limited by their native intelligence as well as the quality of the teachers and their interest in the subject matter. If a student does not progress adequately in the traditional education system, then the teacher, who is already overburdened and underpaid, should be able to spot this and counsel the child one on one. Practically speaking this is not really possible so once again the parents should be made aware of this and step up.There are always trade schools as an alternative as well as online learning. Then again the military is always an option. As a person matures they will eventually find their way.

  4. Vladimir

    “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.”

    Uh-huh.. Jan Amos Komenski had started the class-lesson system some 400 years ago..
    And I’m not sure that in ancient Greece it looked substantially different..

  5. Julian O'Neill

    The so-called ‘education’ system is an abysmal failure! No one has mentioned John Taylor Gatto yet. He says how this system is enforced. IF children do not want to go to these places, for whatever reason, their parents can be fined, and even thrown in jail! LOOK at this world people. it is a bloody mess. Millions of people are exploited, never mind other species being made extinct, and even BEES are threatened. Is any of that educated in the schools? How to live intelligently with the natural world? I don’t think so! And yet is is THE most important education.
    Like it says at beginning of the above article, the modern enforced ‘education’ system was to train robots for the industrial revolution and along with it came the mechanistic philosophy that claims–and still does–that we are machines whose brains produce consciousness. Do any of the schools QUESTION this unproven philosophy? No! hence it is systematic indoctrination OF it, though now the philosophy has morphed into computationalism, meaning we are to think of ourselves as computers, and a lot of people behave like them, and you see so many now walking about etc totally transfixed by their little computers.
    I came to find this article because I am interested in the new scientific research being down regarding what psychedelics do to human brains. Ordinarily apparently our brains are quite rigid, but psychedelics liberate them. I am looking at how the education system play a big role in making sure peoples brains become VERY rigid. Sht you only have to look and listen to the politicians, many of whom have had a ‘privileged education’ and yet have as much feeling as a machine, and are certainly not intelligent. Sorry machines I don’t mean to insult you!

  6. Ed

    I believe that our educational system is broken, because how can new talents grow in different spheres of life, if they all do the same homework, and it’s all take almost all free time. Children’s mind is arranged so that only in conditions of comfort it normally perceives information. The fact that our educational system makes children spend all their free time preparing homework is just awful. Because of this, children can not develop in the areas in which they would like to. Therefore, we must make every effort to save children from boring and useless homework. We need to urgently make a strategy for individual homework assignments, which will be given to students depending on their interests! Thank you for this article!

  7. QandA

    I know that self-education is the best way! because our educational system is broken! Because of lazy students that waste their talents and don’t want to learn anything! I am trying to make a new generation of students who are self-motivated! Because nowadays kids don’t like to make an effort

  8. Martha S. Lyon

    PLEASE KNOW THIS ABOUT OUR K-12 EDUCATION SYSTEM ABOVE ALL ELSE: The notion that the system has not changed since its inception is so so wrong, and not believing that is the one thing that will prevent adequate improvement of the system we currently.

    After around 1966-1970, reformers changed the K-6 curriculum by eliminating what worked — phonics, sentence diagramming, recess 2X/day, play in kindergarten, normal arithmetic, and NO HOMEWORK — and replacing all of it with reforms that have failed miserably. This is why the test scores prior to that time are higher than they’ve been since.

    This does not mean the system doesn’t need improving, but, if reformers don’t first re-implement in K-6 what worked so well, nothing else they do will make a lick of difference. It’s K-6 that matters. That’s where children develop the foundation of skills that will carry them through the rest of their education and their lives. About 11 studies prove phonics is best, yet they keep insisting on other methods that don’t work very well. Studies prove that very young children learn best through play, so to push academics onto pre-K and K kids just damages their ability to learn. Studies also prove that children’s ability to learn improves the most through play, i.e. recess. Any new math being used is just absurd.

    AND, given the superior education children had, sans homework, prior to 1966 proves that homework in K-6 is a disaster that scores prove has NOT WORKED.

    Tweak the system all you want, but, if what worked so well prior to about 1966 isn’t re-implemented, I am 99.99% certain that, based on my experiences, research and the superior education I had, we will not see much quality improvement in communication skills, mastery of language, and, most important of all, cognitive skills.

    Pay attention to today’s young employees, and you’ll begin to understand what it means to have (almost) entire generations who cannot think and cannot incorporate new information into prior knowledge to continue learning. It’s downright terrifying, in part, because having given kids trophies and awards for showing up has led to graduating millions of students who believe they’re entitled (to whatever), know all there is to know, are better at everything than their elders, and don’t need to learn more than the bare minimum to do their jobs.

    And their temperament? As nice as they are . . . and they are nice . . . push them sometime and see what happens. Walk in with a tough problem or a really ridiculous problem or complicated issue. If things don’t go the way they expect them to (and quickly), they can become very angry and will then put the burden and blame on you.

    In 2014, a manager of a big grocery store’s bakery of about age 35, while discussing the possible source of the black specs on the whipped cream topping of their lemon cream pie, he suddenly says, “Obviously, we can’t satisfy you here, so you need to shop elsewhere.” Gee, that’s an intelligent, mature way of resolving an issue. Those that pack my paper bags think it’s a matching game from kindergarten . . . all the cans in one bag, all bottles in another, 4 2-liter bottles in one (gee, not too heavy), and all the lightweight chips and crackers in yet another bag. Since I’d been shopping with my father as a little girl many, many decades ago, these employees were always able to pack the bags in a balanced manner which results in easy-to-lift weight of all bags. But, because these young graduates of our K-12 system can’t figure that out, the store now has them asking “light, medium or heavy?” Seriously? All I could do is laugh!

    At a Sally Hansen store last year, I returned an eyelash curler that couldn’t be used because it was all black, the color of most lashes, so one couldn’t see where it was being placed in relation to the lashes. I don’t know why but this young woman handling the return tried to indicate that my reason is irrelevant because women don’t use a curler with a mirror anyway. Hiuh? I asked her to show me, but, of course, she declined. This kind of response is typical of people under the age of 50-56 . . . the youngest half of the baby boom generation and all three subsequent generations.

    I’ve been encountering ridiculous responses like this for about the last 30 yrs., and it’s only getting worse. In 1993, I was paying for the gas I bought with a $20 bill. The cash register was broken, so the female employee was in a panic trying to find a calculator. I explained to her how to determine the amount of my change by counting from the amount I owed up to $20. She paused to listen, gave me a blank stare and a slight shrug of a shoulder then jumped back into her frantic search for the calculator. When I was young and having to make change as a summer employee at Cedar Point, I played out “what-if” scenarios in my head ’cause I’ve never been quick with numbers. Space limitations preclude describing every experience, but they are plentiful. The big question is: Why are today’s younger employees so poor at thinking?

    It’s not the K-6 education of 1955. It’s the K-6 education of 1975 . . . post-1966 education using reforms that failed miserably. But, don’t trust only me. Think about it. Research it. What’s weak about their writing and comprehension that’s improved greatly with sentence diagramming? What’s weak about their cognition that’s also partially improved through mastery of language and improved comprehension? Why do we need to learn basics, like multiplication tables and cursive writing, before moving on to more sophisticated methods and knowledge. Watch the movie “Independence Day.” What did Americans have to do when the enemy infiltrated all our technology? What happens when anything more sophisticated breaks down or needed ingredients aren’t available?

    Parents and grandparents —- only you can give kids the education they need. The quality education some of you never got. But, you have to first understand what’s missing and which step has to be first.

  9. james

    The Cost of school fees matter a lot for many instead of the quality of education learner should bring home after schooling thats why many private schools now a days are failing to the point of closing. Sometimes school leadership also become a factor why schools are failing.

  10. Andreas

    Solution would be that we in early age (kindergarden) will start finding out which child has which abilitys/powers to develop more and more skills he/she posesses in this life, so society will get very good specialist later and specialist will be also more happier in life by having job where he/she is very good/enjoy it.

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