Lately, I have been thinking critically about many things, but one thing that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is school and how it functions. I have mostly been questioning if sticking a group of children around the same age in a small building for six and a half hours every weekday and sending them home with two to three hours of additional work to be completed by the next day is the most effective way to teach children. Why is there such an emphasis on this particular model of education in this society? How do people think it’s healthy to stick children in an unnatural environment to learn skills they will likely never use in their adult lives?
To answer those questions, one must first investigate the origins of the American education system. It emerged about 150 years ago during the Industrial Revolution. The initial goal of schools was to educate children to become effective factory workers. The skill set required of a typical factory worker was simple: the ability to do something when someone tells you to do it without questioning what you have to do. To be an effective factory worker, you had to mold yourself into whatever your boss needed you to be at that moment in time. The best way to reinforce that skill is to transform entire generations from creatively-thinking individuals into a homogenized mass of human bodies, and the forefathers of modern education devised a plan for this transformation that took the form of a school. The fascinating thing is that even though the Industrial Revolution has been over for more than a century, schools have fundamentally remained the same. Everything else in our society, from technology to the arts, has changed except for schools.
The most fascinating thing about school is that many children do not effectively function in it as it functions today. Most children are able to adapt to the groupthink expected of them pretty easily, but there are several children who simply do not have that ability. These children often possess far more creative, bright minds than their average peers. Many of the world’s most prominent scientists and artists were placed in this category of “different” as schoolchildren. Nonetheless, schools view children who are different as somehow broken, rather than uniquely gifted. In reality, it is these “different” children who will change the world for the better simply by continuing to be themselves and refusing to accept the status quo.
A significant problem that stems from schools labeling certain children as “less than” their peers is bullying. If adults tell children that they all need to be the same and that people who are different are somehow less worthy, children will follow that message and act accordingly. The “normal” children will antagonize those that do not follow “the rules” of being the same as everyone else, and the “different” children will feel ashamed of their incredible strengths and talents.
The notion that everyone in the world must know all of the same information and function in the exact same way is detrimental to society because it is simply not true. Not everyone is meant to do the same thing in life. If children with different minds continue to be suppressed by the American education system, the cure to cancer, next great masterpiece or revolutionary invention might never materialize. Every person is born into the world with unique talents and gifts, and if schools continue to deny children who cannot mold themselves into carbon copies of their peers the opportunity to explore their unique gifts, the world will suffer.