I have never in my adult life been treated as cruelly as I was for the 7 years of elementary school. If that was supposed to prepare me for "real life," I guess I haven't yet entered "real life."
My objection to the social life of almost all schools is that it is for the most part mean-spirited, competitive, ruthless, snobbish, conformist, consumerist (you are judged by what you can buy, or your parents buy for you), fickle, heartless, and often cruel. Most children come out of school with far less self-esteem, less sense of their own identity, dignity, and worth, than they had when they went in. I know this was true of me. Most children in school feel like losers and outsiders, and most will do almost anything that will, if only for a short time, give them the feeling of being insiders, truly "One Of The Gang."
One of the lessons I seem to be learning in homeschooling is to look at the world from a broader perspective, to move beyond the cookie cutter ideas of education to the essence of learning. I've seen it work with math, reading and writing. I also see it working in social skills. Just like learning to read doesn't mean basal readers and worksheets, so, too, learning social skills doesn't mean lots of contact with large groups of one's age-mates. Social skills can be learned in large and small groups, formal and informal settings, among people of all ages, at the park, at the grocery store, in places of business, in places of entertainment, in private homes, with friends, relatives and strangers. Learning to take a proper telephone message is a social skill. Manners are a social skill. Communication is a social skill. Taking a chosen item to the checkout stand and paying for it is a social skill. Ordering a meal in a restaurant is a social skill. Writing a thank you letter is a social skill. Comforting a hurt sibling is a social skill. Once learned, these skills are easily transferred to other situations with other individuals. It is the quality, rather than the quantity, of social interactions that will teach our children how to successfully relate to other people.
I think a child's need to be with his mother in the early years is as basic as his need for food. There is nothing overprotective about you wanting your son close, at 5 years old he's not supposed to be on his own! I think our society pushes independence on children far too early.
Nothing enrages me more than when people criticize my criticism of school by telling me that schools are not just places to learn maths and spelling, they are places where children learn a vaguely defined thing called socialization. I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities.
My students' parents have often expressed, in our conferences together, dismay at how school has shaped their children, and this dismay needs close examining. It is part of the growing alienation they feel from their children, who gradually become estranged from them as they become ever more deeply immersed in the universe of their school peers an alienation parents erroneously conclude is a "natural" part of their children's growing up, a necessary prerequisite to their independent adulthood. This distance, though, is far from natural, and the dismay parents feel about it ought not to be repressed. There is nothing natural about children obsessed with their peers and acutely attuned to a pre-adult commercial culture. This is a sea that will not be turned back and that has behind it the force of years. It begins at least as early as kindergarten, when the child is introduced into an institutional life among peers and uprooted from family and community.
I find this idea of "socializing" as the justification for sending kids to school quite absurd. I have seen the results of this so called socialization recently and so have my two oldest boys who have never been "socialized" by the education system. My oldest boys are taking Karate lessons 5 days a week. The lessons are in the evenings of course, since this is the only time they are offered all the other kids go to school during the day to be "socialized." So it is quite interesting (actually distressing) to see the behaviour of "socialized" kids. The "socialized" kids are:
- rude to the instructors and fellow students
- always interrupt instructors with stupid questions
- act up and act foolish
- always complain about how "hard" everything is
- seldom pay attention and need things explained over and over again
- cheat all the time (whenever the instructor isn't looking they put in the least amount of effort)
- always interested in achieving higher rank without putting in the necessary effort
- status seems very important to them
- play dangerously with the equipment and need to be constantly yelled at to "put things back"
- cannot stand still for more then a few seconds
I have had to explain to my children how this is typical behaviour of kids that go to school, where they are herded like prisoners and made to do things that they do not enjoy. Actually most kids do describe school as prison (if only parents would listen).
Is school the kind of "socialization" that children need?
I pulled my 13 year old (grade 8) out of school due to bullies. I did give the public school a chance (obviously it took me nine years!) before I pulled her! The system's response was that my child was "too sensitive" and I was "too overprotective." This is after knifing incidents, horrible rumours, being spit on in class, being slammed into lockers on a daily basis. The SCHOOL determined that the only way to deal with this would be to have bully and victim face to face and "discuss the problems." Makes you wonder how they got their degrees. What amazes me is that my daughter continued to show dignity and make the best of what I can only imagine was horrendous.
I think the single biggest factor in home ed is the genuine and demonstrative enthusiasm of the parents for learning. Books around the home, grown ups often seen reading, in depth and critical discussions, a general culture in the home of love of learning, all these things do far more than any national curriculum or new theory of learning or financial investment put together.
The type of socialization that children learn at school is not limited to their in-school years, but for many carries on throughout their entire lives. It is somewhat camouflaged, and most adults claim that they are not affected by it, but they are. The "socializing" baggage that many carry throughout most of their lives and never outgrow is "peer pressure." Most main stream media see peer pressure as a teenage problem with drugs, behaviour, etc. But how about adults? Are they immune from it? Adults, though, do not call it "peer pressure" sometimes they call it keeping up with the Jones's, but most times they pretend they are doing what they "want" to be doing, not daring to admit that they are succumbing to peer pressure. But that is what most "socialized" adults do. Isn't school "socialization" wonderful? How else would all the useless products be sold, and perfectly good products replaced with the latest "fashionable" ones? How else would we pollute our world and fill our dumps? The craziness of our materialistic society is not the result of advertising but a result of "socialization" in our schools. Advertisers just know which strings to pull!
Homeschoolers are the ONLY ones who get true socialization. What the public schools have to offer is segregation.
I have never, all though my life, suffered from the tedium of "nothing to do" & I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas at holiday time.
Imagine the social environment of school translated to any office.
Imagine the lawsuits.