Sunday, March 14, 2010

School - Teaching Dependent Thinking

Since the fall of the World Trade Centres we have heard time and time again how Westernised education teaches children to think for themselves, whereas schooling where "our enemies" are from teaches children by rote, without provoking independent thought or an ability / desire to question the powers that be, and read between the lines. The reason they question our system of government is because they are not free thinking ... apparently.

However, I can't comment on any style of education outside that which I have been exposed to.

In Westernised countries children are supposedly being taught to think for themselves, however I really don't see much evidence of that. Take the adults we encounter daily - those who were schooled for between 11 and 13 years in our free thinking system. How many of them are totally horrified at the state of education within the institution, complain about it, can see how unhappy many children are, and yet feel that my choice to homeschool is a purely rebellious and dangerous act that disadvantages my children!?

It's the same with hospital birth. One can spend hours bemoaning the state of our hospitals, how people are dying from anti-biotic resistant super bugs, they are understaffed, staff are over tired and make mistakes (like amputating the WRONG LIMB!), cesareans are all to often performed for no good reason, equipment is old and out dated, and yet my home birth is crazy and dangerous?

Why is it that [almost] an entire society of people, who have reportedly learnt to think for themselves, and question the status quo, fail to see the irony?

Possibly because it's impossible to teach people to think. Thinking is a natural ability that everyone has. However the institution judges individual thoughts and grades them according to a list of criteria that don't necessarily support real thinking. Given that a criteria must be set, in order to judge pupils evenly, it's impossible to include all the realms of possibility in that critique. So some thoughts are judged to be valid, and some fall outside the criteria and are deemed to be a failure.

It's also possible that the peer pressure in schooling means that children actually spend more time learning to question what THEY are thinking, and deciding whether or not to voice that idea, than learning to confidently consider the personal truths behind their ideas.

Another very real possibility is that schools teach children that some things are not up for question, only certain things warrant deconstruction, and they will be laid out in front of students neatly - with pre-packaged plans for class discussion and the rest will stay in the closet. For example if a student questions part of the curriculum. That is NOT up for discussion. The teacher knows best, the curriculum has been designed with the students best interests at heart, and as such ... it is not up for discussion. Another example would be that any decision a teacher makes about punishment is final, no discussion will be entered into - any discussion will result in further punishment.

So there are permissible subjects, and illegal subjects of discussion within the institution. That must definitely sway a child's ability to question the powers that be. A group of kids sitting in the playground mumbling about how irrelevant a particular subject is to them, or how unjust a teacher has been, feel like little rebels. Not Free thinking, valid, smart, aware people! By the time that same group of little rebels hit adulthood they have most likely been brainwashed into believing that their free thoughts were no more than the quibbles of insignificant children - personally I find that very disturbing!

There is so little room for freedom within any given institution that it is impossible for them to cater to each individuals needs. And the people that are given the responsibility of raising functional humans, humans to populate the work force, and re-populate the education system , are mere products of that institution! Drones! And one of the greatest lessons they learnt in school is that they are living in a free thinking country, surrounded by free thinking, FREE, citizens.

Dissent is silenced in our culture - something we are very fast to criticise other countries for! But the truth is that people are put in prison for expressing some views, they are chalked up as loonies, and laughed at by the wider community. For example, those who believe that the World Trade Centre attack was actually a government plan. Regardless of the merits of such an idea, the people who have used their free thinking skills to research and document their arguments are labelled as dangerous dissenters, little more than crack pots. Journalists who have reported - or attempted to report - these views are fired depending on the light in which they air this angle.

But surely, if we live in such a free thinking, free speech generating society, these ideas shouldn't be so threatening! They should receive the polite respect due to each individual when they express their opinion, shouldn't they?

I used to believe that schools were the only way to educate children - but I knew their limitations, I used to think that hospitals were the only safe place to give birth - but I knew how dangerous they were! I wasn't thinking for myself when I sent my child to school, or when I gave birth to her in a hospital. I didn't know there were alternatives! Our free society hadn't informed me that I had any choices in either matter. I used to think that terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into big buildings, killing thousands of innocent people. I still think that, but I now question whether or not there was government involvement behind the plot. The US Government would not be the first government to do something that harmed its' citizens in order to sway political direction.

In order for children to receive a full, free thinking education, in order to make them genuinely free individuals who can raise more free thinking individuals, we must give children BOTH sides of the argument, and allow them to discuss freely their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. For this to happen, schools must operate on a democratic system - something our country is unable to do. We must allow children the right to be children, allowing them complete bodily integrity (eat when hungry, pee when the need arises without seeking permission, seek comfort when necessary etc etc) allowing them to voice their views, follow their own interests, learn at their own pace, be judged against themselves and not other students, and most of all children must grow to understand and meet their own needs at a time that suits them. No institution can offer that, the fact that they claim to is worrying.

At home my children live in a far left wing, secular environment, but we openly discuss the views of the middle left, right, and far right. We not only discuss them, we try to imagine why these people hold their views so closely - the same way we do. We discuss religion and validate the rights of all people to choose and follow a religion. We allow our children to research subjects that interest them without telling them that any subject is not worthy of their interest (although I struggle with the monster truck as a worthy interest) or suggesting other subjects that society may consider more valid and useful.

My children will learn to think for themselves. They will epitomise everything our society is meant to foster .... their views will likely differ from the views of the state, and other schooled children but, for that I am glad! My children will be free thinking individuals! Unfortunately they will reside in a society that views it's greatest attribute to be one that it is not even in possession of - FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND SPEECH.