not to be missed

Peter Gray is writing some wonderful articles and posts at Psychology Today and on his blog, Freedom to Learn.  Look for excellent posts about trustful parenting, compulsory education, the importance of play (and I might add, mistakes) and a Brief History of Education.   From one post:

But I think it is time that we say it out loud. School is prison.

If you think school is not prison, please explain the difference.

The only difference I can think of is that to get into prison you have to commit a crime, but they put you in school just because of your age. In other respects school and prison are the same. In both places you are stripped of your freedom and dignity. You are told exactly what you must do, and you are punished for failing to comply. Actually, in school you must spend more time doing exactly what you are told to do than is true in adult prisons, so in that sense school is worse than prison. 

At some level of their consciousness, everyone who has ever been to school knows that it is prison. How could they not know? But people rationalize it by saying (not usually in these words) that children need this particular kind of prison and may even like it if the prison is run well. If children don't like school, according to this rationalization, it's not because school is prison, but is because the wardens are not kind enough, or amusing enough, or smart enough to keep the children's minds occupied appropriately.
There is a lot of backstory that can be added:  how the entire context of schooling has changed since the end of an agrarian/new industrialized society. The vast majority of people made a living and led productive lives without a school degree of any kind.  Many professions were still primarily self-taught (one had to read the law and take an exam) or were learned by apprenticeship.So while the Prussian mania for grading and sorting and ranking school work was present, it was far less of a real threat.

Also, the primitive behavior modification programme of grades and promotion was yet to be undermined as it was entirely by the founding of the discipline of psychology.  There is now good, hard evidence that these primitive tactics undermine learning.

The public school system in the United States has been in place since the end of the 19th century.  And in that time, it has grown ever more centralized and the compulsory attendance laws have ensured a lack of grassroots democratic input while corporations have moved ever more aggressively to profit from the captive audience.
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