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School Is Bad for Children, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 750

Essay

In the article “School is bad for children”, author John Holt argues against the system of mandatory schooling for children. Holt looks at the common teaching patterns in our education system and evaluates them for their effectiveness. The author claims that children do an effective job of learning by themselves but the education system takes away the incentive to think independently, explore out of curiosity, and learn by mistakes. This is because teachers decide what and how children will learn and any deviation from the prescribed methods is not only discouraged but also severely punished. As a result, children become focused on how to play the system rather than engaging in real learning. The author adds that instead of making the children better prepared for life, we make them even worse off than before as he states, “It is a rare child who can come through his schooling with much left of his curiosity, his independence or his sense of his own dignity, competence and worth.” (Holt). The author makes some valuable suggestions but fails to take into account many of the benefits of the current mandatory education system. Overall, getting rid of the mandatory schooling system will do more harm than good.

The article argues that the current mandatory schooling system promotes obedience to authority rather than independent thinking and inhibits experimentation by attaching a stigma to failure. The author suggests that children learn better without supervision and with absolute freedom because teachers do not take into account the individual strengths and weaknesses of the students. In addition, exposure to the real world is the best way to prepare for practical life yet we shield them from the real world which is ironical. Learning only works when students are engaged in it which is why instead of mandatory schooling, schools should develop interesting programs to attract the interest of the children. We should also involve real life professionals in teaching students so that learning doesn’t become a boring, standardized ritual for children.

The problem with the article is that the author renders the whole education system ineffective on the basis of few flaws he finds in a mandatory schooling. No system is perfect but the whole concept of mandatory schooling stands on sound reasoning. Schools and colleges exist so that they can teach the accumulated knowledge of mankind in different areas in a systematic way because to understand complex ideas, we have to learn the basics first. Not all knowledge is observable such as atoms and similarly, not all learning is subconscious such as learning to speak a language. Actions speak louder than words and we rarely see any scientist, accountant, engineer, biologist, astronomer, or psychologist etc. who skipped a mandatory schooling and self-taught himself/herself everything. There are many countries in the world where mandatory schooling doesn’t exist and almost all of them lag behind in terms of economic development and scientific progress. Children do not know what they need to learn because they have a limited life experience and view of the world. Since children have limited experience of the world, they can’t differentiate between useful and useless learning. Real life exposure is indeed beneficial but to understand the whole system better, one should learn about the individual components first. Basic ideas may be simple but it is not possible to understand complex ideas without mastering the basics first.

Mandatory schooling can indeed be improved and will as we develop a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. No system is perfect and progress always takes an evolutionary path. In addition, mandatory schooling doesn’t always inhibit learn as the author suggests though it may be true for some cultures but not most of the western countries. In addition, even within the same country, different school systems exist and Montessori system in fact has been credited with encouraging creativity in children (Sims). Upon a closer look, the author’s ideas have some similarity to the concept of Montessori learning methods but this still doesn’t justify abolishing the mandatory schooling. A better alternative to writer’s suggestions would be to move to Montessori learning system while keeping the mandatory schooling. Children do not think much about preparation for practical life and basically live in the present. Their ideas of life are basic and only adults have the luxury of experience to determine how to prepare children for future in a systematic way.

References

Holt, John. “School is bad for children.” Saturday Evening Post 8 February 1969.

Sims, Peter. The Montessori Mafia. 5 April 2011. 9 April 2011 <http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/04/05/the-montessori-mafia/>.

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