This Quora writer below isn’t a hard-righter, and didn’t focus on how the public school was designed to create Obedience.
But he did say something worth remembering, illustrating how the system perpetuates and serves itself.
It’s worth reading, I think, because it reminds us on why the public school system is still here today.
Ooh! Here’s a chance for me to piss everyone off! I’m going to explain why the school system sucks for intelligent kids, but doing so properly will require a detailed explanation of why the school system sucks in general, so hold on to your hat because we’re gonna cover some ground. In brief, the first step to changing the “school sucks” attitude of our students is to admit that they have a point.
The reason school sucks, especially for intelligent kids, is that the whole thing, particularly in the United States, is built on the assumption that you can manufacture a “good citizen,” whatever that means, the way you manufacture Ford Explorers or tin cans. And if you look at how your average high school routine, it certainly looks like a factory worker’s routine: you sit in a room doing pointless alienating things, until a whistle blows and you leave. Everyone gets roughly the same education: if you’re advanced you might get into honors courses that are ever-so-slightly more difficult, but there’s still a very restrictive idea of what is and is not age appropriate. This is because the school system, as an industry for manufacturing “citizens,” is built on the assumption that everyone is equal, that people are basically all the same, and this is how a kid who could be tackling Schopenhauer or Plato with the right instruction is forced to sit in a room with all of his co-equal coevals and listen to them struggling to read shitty “age-appropriate” young adult fiction. With the right teacher you could understand Milton, but we’re gonna make you sit here with your equals and watch them struggle with Harry Potter.
The underlying problem here is that the school system is not really meant to cultivate the intellect. The goal of a school system is to make children into the kind of people who fit well into the environing society, i.e. socialization. The issue here is that the kind of “socialization” imposed by public schools would have been relevant half a century ago, if every kid there were destined to be a factory worker. The public school system is horribly outdated for socializing anyone in the modern world, it’s arguable as to whether it can even be salvaged, and it never worked for the really bright kids, by which I mean three sigma above average. If you do a little Googling on the subject of test scores between homeschooled kids and traditionally schooled ones and restrict it to academic sources, you’ll find that people who are taught in a more traditional manner, face-to-face by a (parent or) tutor, seems to do well academically. What a surprise!
This is where a lot of conservatives will go on a rant about the school system brainwashing kids into a state-held ideology, and while I won’t deny that public education has an ideological slant, I think that Hanlon’s razor applies here. The school system is pervaded by certain ideologies, yes, but it is also an institution full of sinecures, teachers and administrators, who have a nice secure salary with benefits and create little, if any, value. If you had a position in a system that made you nearly impossible to fire by means of a teacher’s union, and you had guarantees about your salary and benefits and all the rest, would you want to give it up? If you were a school administrator with an easy middle-class job as a government bureaucrat, would you want to give it up? If you were a politician who got elected by spouting sanctimonious rhetoric about Our Precious Educational System, would you want to say something that would lose votes?
(Because I know some public school teacher is going to pop up and start complaining about that last paragraph: yeah, yeah, public school teachers and administrators can piss and moan about how difficult their jobs are (who doesn’t?) but that doesn’t mean that society really needs them, at least not in their current form. Nor does it mean your job is difficult. Would you rather work in a factory or coal mine? No? Then shut the hell up.)
There are some institutions that exist, not because they create a lot of value or have some great social utility, but purely because the environing society is accustomed to their presence and getting rid of them takes too much effort. The school system exists because it’s already there, having acquired enough sociopolitical clout to perpetuate itself. We need the present school system so everyone can go to school for twelve years, and we need everyone to keep going to school for twelve years because otherwise it would wreck the school system. Our precious school system! The sacrosanct institutions of learning that protect Our Democracy™!… From any positive change whatsoever.
To circle back around to the main point, how does this affect intelligent kids? It makes them miserable, that’s how. In Our Democracy™, we have this idea that everyone is equal and that any differences between people are purely the result of some social inequality, so if you remove the social inequality, everyone will have exactly the same needs. This egalitarian pretense makes life hell for anyone outside of the norm, on either end of the distribution. Kids on the far right side of the IQ distribution need, not a more advanced version of the same instruction, but radically different instruction, but we can’t admit this to ourselves because it’s too painful. What, my child doesn’t have access to the best education because they’re not good enough!? But you can’t tell someone, “Your child would not benefit from it because it’s not appropriate for them,” because that will cause a shit-storm.
And so the school system marches on, grinding the average kids into an apathetic pulp, spitting the special needs kids into institutions that take care of them, and turning the highly intelligent ones into bitter misanthropes who cannot fulfill their potential because they’ve seen how society is and don’t care much for benefiting it. That’s Our Democracy™!
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I tend to focus on why the evil system was created, and not how it preserves its own power today. Caleb helps to fix my failing, even though the only real solution — defunding the public school system — isn’t going to happen until the top 20% of the population pull out their kids.
I think that day is actually coming: but it’s still at least two decades away.