We have inherited several assumptions about how to educate our children that are just not true, including that educating requires 6-8 hours per day, nine months a year, for 13 years, and must be done by professionals. None of this is true. These are not requirements.
What is true is that we humans educate our young. Unlike the dog licking his tail, certain things such as the knowledge of the wheel, how to forge metal, or how to type or drive are not written on our DNA.
Via observation and imitation, the child will, in his early years, learn the great bulk of what he will use over the course of his life. However, a significant portion of direct instruction must come into play, and parents must consider exactly what to teach their young. They will teach what they believe their child will need to know in order to survive in the times that they imagine the child will live when an adult. The father may teach the son to string the bow to hunt, as well as to deter and ward off the enemy. The mother may teach the daughter to tan the hide and roast rabbit over a dung fire.
In the modern era we have come to worship education, and why not? The ocean of knowledge that we have accumulated over the last 500 years in particular certainly has extended our lives and made them vastly more comfortable than our pre-modern ancestors could have imagined. Whether it has made us better is another matter.
Spoiler: it hasn’t. It hasn’t because that which can make us better is in fact written on our DNA and thus has always been known, or knowable, and may be summed up as prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity, the exercise of which will serve all men, in all times, in all circumstances.
The wise parents with conscious intent should strive to cultivate these virtues within their children, first and foremost by their example, but also via direct instruction and when necessary, discipline. But it doesn’t take thirteen years. Neither does it take thirteen years to teach them to read, write, add, and subtract, or to inspire them by lessons of the past wisdom and deeds of man. It does not take thirteen years to prepare them for the vast majority of modern occupations which are learned in the doing. Neither need it consume the bulk of their childhood to prepare them to embark upon strenuous advanced studies at any age, whether fourteen, eighteen, twenty-five, or fifty years old.
We as parents (and We the People) need to do a re-think of what our educational objectives for our children are and what is actually required to achieve them. Just as importantly we need to consider the damage that we have done to generations of Americans and thus our culture by grinding all of us through a one-size-fits-all K-12 regime.
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2 thoughts on “Modern education is a colossal waste of time for most of us, and soul-crushing for too many.”
I hear ya. Why 13 years of English/Language Arts? I have said many times before that we need to set up our lower educational system much in the same style as Colleges. Once you have mastered (passed) a class, you move on to the next. There is absolutely no reason for a bright 8 year old to have to repeat reading, for example, over and over again if they have mastered it already. Move on from reading to literature. I remember when I was in college and finished my English classes. I moved on to a writing class and then literature. After that I used those skills in writing papers for all of my other classes. Once I fulfilled my math requirement, I never had a math class again, but I did use those math skills in several of my other classes. I went on to teach and retried after 30 years. During my last 4 years I was a Reading Specialist. I was given students who had been earmarked as grade levels behind. I had one 4th Grade boy who was tested at the 2nd grade level. I put him on a computer reading program that was called FLRT (The name has changed). It was a simple program that did vocabulary first and then moved on to reading passages and then stories. The reading speed changed as they advanced. After about 2 weeks in classroom, he started crying. I asked him what was wrong. He said the reading was too hard and going too fast. I looked at my controls and saw that he had gone from the very beginning and had passed the 11th grade level! He failed to follow my instructions which was to advise me when they reached and passed the 5th grade level. I was allowing them to do one level above their grade. I had this rule because other kids were waiting for their turn in my class. So here we had a kid who was labeled behind and but he was actually bored out of his skull being in a traditional class. Left alone, he could move right through the material.
My experiences in the traditional classroom make me agree with you. I think we are way behind the curve and should change the way kids are educated.
Great thoughts! We not only need to review all of our assumptions about what is taught and how, but also about how children today should spend their childhoods’. We also need to step back and be honest with ourselves about the functions that the modern educational establishment are performing, which ironically, does not appear to include educating our young.