Why our coercive system of schooling should topple

posted by
December 21, 2016
Everything Voluntary
by Peter Gray  
Posted in Commentary

"Decades ago, schools were tolerable primarily because they didn't take too much of young people's time. Children and teens had much time after school, on weekends, and all summer long for self-directed pursuits. But over the years, the school system has intruded increasingly, and ever more disruptively, into children's and families' lives. The length of the school year has increased (it now averages 5 weeks longer than in the 1950s). The number of years of required attendance has increased. The amount of homework has increased immensely, especially in elementary schools. Recesses have been reduced, or even been eliminated. ... Children now often spend more time at school and at homework than their parents spend at their full-time jobs, and the work of schooling is often more burdensome and stress-inducing than that of a typical adult job. A century ago we came to the conclusion that full-time child labor was child abuse, so we outlawed it; but now school is the equivalent of full-time child labor." (12/20/16)



  • dL

    Hmmm, I spent the least amount of time(–>0) one could possibly get away get doing homework during my elementary and secondary educational career. I paid the price w/ two summers school of english class, which was more or less like a stoner’s retreat. The busy bees were the ones looking to get into Ivy League schools, and I suppose if that was your objective, you couldn’t half-ass that. Then or today. But my experience precludes a conclusion that public secondary education has been on a steady slope of authoritarianism from the 1950s.

    To me, the biggest difference would be zero-tolerance. I’m sure today I would have been arrested for what I did back then. The only consequence then was expulsion and finishing out credits at summer school and junior college. Of course, i was already going to summer school anyway because I wrote my end of term english paper(on the poetry of Randall Jarrell) completely fucked up on psychedelics. Today, the contents of that paper probably would have resulted in me having to submit to psychological state supervision****. Then I just got a short lecture and a “F.”

    The second big difference is the school calendar. In my day, the only “charter schools” for the most part were private military schools. There was only the traditional calendar. Now you have the traditional calendar, the year-around calendar and the mixed calendar. The author’s contention of high school now being a full time job is probably a statement on (1) the year around calendar and (2) High School is more college-prep oriented than it used to be. Much more test-oriented. But (1) and (2) are almost certainly attributes of charter schools. A privatization of public schools introduces a product efficiency that almost certainly results in the thing that people are now complaining about.

    In my day, my Jeff Spicoli approach to secondary school academics engendered the occasional “military school” threat. Now, I might proffer that charter schools serve the more accessible alternative version of the old disciplinarian threat. You are paying out of pocket for the thing. You want results. The result is the college placement. It’s an industry. And you are getting the industry sans the military costume dress-up.

    **** Ironically, zero-tolerance has been conterminous w/ the rise of amphetamine ADHD pharmacology. There was none of that back in my day.

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