“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”  Gustave Flaubert  (this quote seems a fitting one to open this post, which i wish i had written myself. flaubert is *h’s friend angus’s favorite author, and although i doubt that angus reads this blog, i’m gonna dedicate this post to him)


here’s an excerpt from a post that was linked on my friend avivah’s blog. she posted the list, but i read the entire original post at tess bomac’s blog (very worth a read if you have the time). i don’t mean to displace neon vincent- the next post down on my blog- but this was so good it has me on fire… i can’t wait for your feedabck!

from tess:

The only types of schooling that worked for me were homeschooling and college. I’ve never been good at staying focused on tasks that are drawn out. If learning a new math skill should take 10 minutes to teach and 50 minutes to practice, then so be it—I’m your girl. I’ll listen closely, work hard, and follow your advice. However, I have never been able to focus on a 45-minute lecture while sifting out the 10 minutes worth of usable material. My response in school was always, “I guess I don’t really need to know this, since nobody can explain how it works or why it’s useful.” Asking things like, “How can I use this information?” or “How will I know that I’ve mastered this skill?” were treated like mutiny. (I don’t remember this, but eyewitnesses swear that it’s true: when I was a junior in high school, a few weeks into an allegedly tough English class, the teacher, who routinely graded papers with college-level rubrics, had us pick out plastic animal figurines from a bag, then sculpt our bodies so that we resembled the animal. Apparently my response was, “This is malarkey; I am not doing it,” and then I walked out of the classroom. I do remember dropping the class and homeschooling myself in English, German, and humanities for the rest of the year, taking just a few classes for the rest of high school.)

Based on my experience, I believe that students in regular classrooms learn many self-defeating lessons from their teachers and classmates. These include:

  • The rules are always changing, and since you never know when the teacher is going to enforce them, try to get away with as much as you can until she starts screaming. Then blame your neighbor.
  • You don’t need to think about your education. The teacher will decide what you should learn, you’ll do the things that she decides matter, then she’ll give you a grade that represents how well you can follow arbitrary directions.
  • While the teacher can make mistakes and move deadlines all the time, you will be penalized if you misunderstand the directions.
  • Almost everything you learn is a measure of your docility, not your intelligence or your effort.
  • Working with others is more important than learning actual content. Group projects, no matter how unfair, inefficient, and tedious are here to stay, and if you complain about it taking 10 hours out of class to make a collage that demonstrates 15-minutes worth of learning, tough. Life isn’t fair.
  • Life isn’t fair, so thus it is okay for me to be unfair.
  • Don’t question textbooks, even though most of them are riddled with errors and omissions.
  • Learning is for school, school is painfully monotonous, so learning must be boring, too.
  • Learning is for school, so once the day ends, you’re free to do whatever you find fun.
  • Learning can only take place in hard plastic desks, in crowded classrooms, while being told exactly what to do.
  • Nothing is more important than fitting in. If you don’t fit in, there must be something wrong with you. Maybe you should buy some more accessories? Try a different hair style?
  • The earlier you start dating, the more important and grown up you are.
  • Talking about Jesus is for people who are “not open minded” and are “trying to push their beliefs on others.” Incidentally, would you like to wear a rainbow pin to support the gay marriage?
  • Reading in school? Are you crazy? We have to get ready for the state tests!

As an adult, I find myself reading and studying to make up for the fact that, during most of my years in “regular school,” I didn’t learn anything. Nothing. I can barely describe who fought in major wars, the type of government France has, the capitol of more than half of our 50 states, how to calculate compound interest, how to diagram a sentence, how mitochondria fuel cells, or how electricity makes its way through power lines and into my computer. Given the state of education, I’m lucky I can read, and that was something I learned while homeschooling.

I spent eight hours a day, 180 days a year, waiting for the teacher to get to the point or for the class to stop talking or for us to stop reviewing, for the third time, the material we had already learned, in order to help the kids who had talked right through it the first two times. School is tough on the good kids, because they don’t have the solace of goofing off and enjoying time with their friends in class. They might spend 30-50% of their time in school watching the teacher manage the behavior of other students, while getting scolded for reading during the downtime.

Modern-day schooling is a daily exercise in mediocrity, or worse. Students are taught in hundreds of ways, all day long, that your output doesn’t matter, how much you’re learning doesn’t matter, what you think about it doesn’t matter. What matters are grades and popularity.