Friday, December 30, 2011
Learning vs Schooling
Hello. Nice to meet you. My name is not important, you can just call me “Mother”. I am crazy. I do not hide from who I am and what I believe. I know I am crazy, I don't think like other people think I should. That's quite alright, I don't mind. I have learned through years of experience that I would much rather be crazy than depressed, and thinking the way they want me to think is depressing.
My life experiences are a big part of what led me to being crazy. I was raised in a traditional, conservative middle class home. The youngest of four children, and the only girl, I had a fairly “normal” uneventful childhood. My own Mother repeatedly told me I was the smartest person in the family, and then went on to tell me that I should become a secretary or a bookkeeper. It was made quite clear to me that there was no way in Hell I would be going to college. They certainly were not going to waste their money on it and since they made far too much money for me to qualify for any grants, I shouldn't even consider the option. I should just look for a nice man with a good job and “marry well”.
Now this might be an understandable if I was 20 or 30 years older, but I was born in the late 60's, and even in the 1980's when I was a teenager, they were still telling me this. While Gloria Steinem and other strong women were telling women across the country and around the world they could be and do anything they wanted, I was being told that my goals and dreams were “unrealistic” and that I should learn something “useful”.
Since I knew college was not in my future I started on a path of “self-education”. With all the information in the world out there waiting for me, I didn't see any reason to limit my learning. I knew at an early age that if I waited for a school or teacher to educate me, I would never be allowed to learn everything I wanted to know. So I never waited. At 4 years old I made my youngest brother (who was 12 at the time) teach me to read. From that day forward I read everything I could get my hands on. By the time I got to High School, I was so bored at school that I couldn't take it anymore. In my quest for learning, I was constantly finding examples of things that they were teaching at school that were either just plain wrong, or blatant lies, the hypocrisy of their claims to be educating children when what they were really trying to do was indoctrinate children was overwhelming to my fragile psyche. I dropped out. I wasn't going to college anyway, what was the point?
I did go back to school a few months later, when I found a school that would let me learn the way I did best, alone. I was given all the coursework at the beginning of the class, and told that I only had to show up to class to take the tests or if I had questions. My experience at the time was that if I wanted my questions actually answered I should never ask a teacher, so I showed up to take tests and did my “learning” in restaurants and parks. I finished 2 years of High School in 6 ½ months. I had two credits left when they decided to change the school rules and require daily attendance in class. I dropped out again.
It was just before my thirtieth birthday before I finally took the test for my GED. I didn't “study” for it or do any preparations whatsoever. I just went and took it, my oldest son (who was 10 at the time and home schooled) could have passed the thing if they would have let him take it with me. I started college that Fall.
When I graduated (Summa Cum Laude) from college (by the way, at the time, I was the ONLY member of my immediate family to EVER graduate from college), my parents did not come to the ceremony. They lived less than 200 miles away, but couldn't be bothered to take the time to show up. They gave me a used desk that they didn't want anymore as a “graduation present” several months later. My ex-Mother-in-law (not ex at the time, but shorty thereafter), with whom I had a relationship based on mutual disrespect and extreme dislike at the time, actually not only showed up but also was extremely supportive. The woman was a “raptor bitch from Hell” when it came to her attitude towards her own children and grand children (yes I actually called her that, to her face, some years before), but she closed her business, gave her employees the day off, and came to sit front row center for my graduation.
As a result of my life experiences with public education, I hold a different view of it than most people. I do not expect the government to educate children. It would be fabulous if they did! But I don't see it happening. Public schools are designed to "school" children, they are not designed to help children learn. The only time my kids have ever gone to public school is for Kindergarten and when I have had no choice in the matter. Every one of my kids went to Kindergarten, because they wanted to. But even when they were “in school”, I didn't depend on the school to educate them. To me, life is a learning experience, is not a metaphor, its fact. From the time I found out I was pregnant with my first child I started making everything a learning experience. I talk to my kids about everything. There is no subject “off limits” because of their age. If they want to know something I help them find the answers, and I help them learn to use their own minds to think through the answers we find to decide which one is correct or at least, most true. I teach them how to learn. Once you know how to learn, no one can stop you from learning but you.
Now there are some things that you probably just shouldn't try to learn completely on your own. I'll be the first to admit I do not want a completely self-educated neurosurgeon operating on my brain without some kind of extensive certification process. And I don't know if everyone is really as capable of it as I think they are. I believe if you start young enough and give kids a solid love of learning the vast majority will do far better than they do being force fed information that is, at best, irrelevant to their lives. But this is just my thought on the matter, I don't have huge studies or statistics to back me up, I don't need them because I am not trying to change public policy, it doesn't really matter whether I can “prove my theory” or not. It seems to be to be pretty much basic common sense to me though, human beings are the most inquisitive creatures on the planet, we are born to learn. When you put limits, or restraints, on a child's ability to learn you limit their ability to become fully human. To be all they can be, as it were.
I do know that what they are doing in our public schools isn't working, there are plenty of studies to prove THAT! Bubble tests will not solve education problems. And teaching FOR the tests is a ridiculous waste of our childrens' precious childhoods. I do NOT blame teachers for any of this, please do not think I do. Almost every teacher I ever had tried their very best to make the best of a bad situation, but they were even more stuck than I was. They had to follow the guidelines that they were given. They were not allowed to answer all my questions, or let me move on to the next thing when I was finished, everyone had to do everything at the same time, that was just the rule. Stupid fucking rule if you ask me, but totally not their fault. I had some AWESOME teachers who encouraged my learning and went out of their way to help challenge my mind, and I had a few shitty teachers who got mad when I corrected their “facts” when they were clearly wrong. I am sorry that I was not capable of keeping my mouth shut when the 8th grade science teacher told the class that “the electrons of an atom can be found in the nucleus”, but ... seriously?!? But, as I say, the bad teachers were few and far between fortunately.
I know most people depend on public schools. I understand the need, and I would never judge anyone for sending their kids to school, even if they didn't have to. But most parents HAVE to send their kids to school. They have to work to put a roof over their heads and food on the table. And too many parents have been brain washed into thinking they are “not smart enough to home school” their own kids. And quite frankly there are plenty of parents who probably SHOULDN'T be the sole educational facilitator of their children, but unfortunately I do not think other people should be able to tell me I shouldn't be allowed to educate my kids so I would never say it to someone else, no matter how much I believed it. I am not suggesting public schools should be eliminated and replaced with private schools or online schools, or anything of the sort. I am suggesting that just because a child goes to school does not mean that the school has to dictate what or when they learn. The world today is truly awe inspiring in the amount of knowledge and information that we have at our fingertips 24/7. There is no reason to be dependent upon the public school system for learning anything.