The Trouble with Traditional Schooling

Column by new Root Striker Vahram G. Diehl.
 
Exclusive to STR
 
Traditional concepts and applications of learning have generally been one-sided. The “teacher” transmits information in the form of conclusions through words and images, while the “students” are expected to act as flawless receivers and adopters of these conclusions; they are to memorize them until the appropriate moment of testing commences and then to regurgitate the same words and images in a context that demonstrates the transmission was mostly successful. The more complete the regurgitation, the higher grade a student will receive and accordingly be considered smarter and more capable.
 
With this style of information soaking and squeezing, the ratio of students to teachers can be rather high and still function with moderate success. When the only role of the teacher is to serve as a one-way streaming thoroughfare for information and the students are relegated to docile receptacles of this information, dozens or even hundreds of passive students can be accommodated by one active teacher. This creates an active/passive class separation between the two groups; the teacher's only job is to actively teach, the students' only job is to passively learn. In this system of imposed homogeneity, the naturally faster learners are made to sacrifice their own progress so that others might catch up; the naturally slower learners are made to cut corners to create the appearance of equality. 
 
This state of extended passive receptivity gives rise to problems in many students whose minds do not take well to the building of new logical constructs in such a dormant mental state. Even in the seemingly passive act of reading of a book, it is the mind of the reader that actively instigates the advancement of each new word or the turning of the page, and it is the will of the reader to retain the information presented. The inability to learn without active engagement is readily obvious in young children who will typically only participate and pay attention when they are allowed to somehow actively engage in the learning process, which they eagerly do. 
 
For some strange reason, it has become expected that after a few years of gentle conditioning to passivity and weaning away from genuine educational interaction that students of a certain age will easily do away with their juvenile traits of curiosity and enthusiasm. The only function this serves is that they may become more easily manageable for the sole teacher supplied to keep them in line and to efficiently expedite the information transmission process. The students who have the most difficult time relinquishing their natural temperaments toward action are labeled as feeble-minded and troublemakers, though human history has shown that the most brilliant and ambitious of men are often the ones who retain their natural luster and are subject to these labels and ostracisms.
 
When schooling is passive and not incited by the curiosity of the students, it usually results in very fragmented and incomplete education. Teachers and rulers determine for the students which arbitrarily divided subcategories of information are most pertinent and valuable to learn, in what sequence they will be learned, and on what schedule. When an education is compartmentalized and centrally planned like this, students are given content with no context. They come to see the world in segmented chunks of the loosely known details, intermittently obscured by gaping holes of the bluntly unknown. This happens in place of an active and voluntary education, where every new piece of information would fall into logical consistency with and compliment every previous piece of information in the gradual building of an increasingly accurate worldview, like a lens slowly coming into focus. Instead, old topics are seen as outdated and irrelevant compared to whatever the favored subcategory of the moment happens to be. 
 
Ultimately, the passive learners become highly refined specialists on one particular sliver of reality, while largely ignoring the rest of existence and passing off all other knowledge as someone else's field and responsibility; nothing is integrated with past knowledge and the student excels only at regurgitating and applying professionally the same conclusions that were presented to him during his schooling. 
 
This overall process when applied from early youth onward has a cumulatively dehumanizing effect on the students. The long hours required to be at school necessarily bestow upon teachers and other administrative staff a partial parental role over the young, without qualification or consent. They understandably fail to perform the full spectrum of tasks required for the upbringing of a healthy and capable adult human, including but not limited to providing proper nutrition, emotional support and expression, natural socialization, ethics, passion, compassion, love, reason, nonviolent communication, etc. The students are made to sacrifice a major part of the natural maturing process so that they will learn the subjects deemed appropriate by society and their teachers. This is in no way a fair trade. 
 
The uniformity in schooling destroys individuality and creativity in humans. As all children are taught to think in the same socially acceptable ways, comparatively few will go on to have vastly original insights and create unique works of art. Because the teaching styles are not tailored to natural individual styles of learning and coming to understand the world, most will be made to forfeit their own innate ways of thinking and to adopt the same intellectual and emotional methods of everyone else. Progress for all of civilization itself is stifled because most people are only capable of replicating what they are already familiar with and few will seek new and radical changes in the way things are done, however much better those changes might be. 
 
Evolution is driven by the enormous diversity of traits in effect and actively being replicated. By restricting diversity, one cannot avoid restricting evolution itself.          
 

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livefreeretiree's picture
Columns on STR: 13

Gregory helps young people and the older people who have trouble relating to them.
View his website on education and youth coaching here: www.enabledyouth.com
Email him at gregory@enabledyouth.com

Comments

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Vahram: Excellent first article! Although full of many good insights, in particular, I enjoyed the following observation:

"Ultimately, the passive learners become highly refined specialists on one particular sliver of reality, while largely ignoring the rest of existence and passing off all other knowledge as someone else's field and responsibility; nothing is integrated with past knowledge and the student excels only at regurgitating and applying professionally the same conclusions that were presented to him during his schooling."

The impact of this over-specialized form of thinking/living is evident in so many negative ways in our culture. As a result of this sliver-specialization, we have few well-rounded generalists who can "put it all together." That's why you have so many brilliant businesspeople, inventors, and writers who parrot the statist status quo. After achieving success in a tiny realm, they still hold onto the ridiculous political pablum of submission and dominance and violence -- despite their other achievements. So when interviewed about anything outside their narrow field of interest, they can be counted on to parrot the usual nostrums of trust in authority, etc., and the rest of the sheeple nod their heads -- reassured that yet another "expert" has judged that the current political obscenity is indeed the best of all possible worlds.

Thanks for posting!

livefreeretiree's picture

Thanks for the motivation to start posting here, Lawrence. It is a sad fact that we live in a world of compartmentalized intellectuals... especially when this often leads people to start taking their word on authority even in fields outside their known specialty. Einstein's knowledge of nuclear physics did little to grant him a proper understanding of the mechanics of a prosperous human civilization. There truly are a very few people who have accurate conceptions of the whole picture and how it all links together, from the smallest fragments of matter to the biggest galactic motions and everything in between, human nature included.

When I raise my kids, you can be sure I will be giving them a well-rounded and accurate education about reality from day one. Thanks for commenting.

Mark Davis's picture

This is an excellent article, Mr. Diehl, describing the state schooling system and its damaging effects. I do, however, have one nit to pick. You say:
"The students are made to sacrifice a major part of the natural maturing process so that they will learn the subjects deemed appropriate by society and their teachers."
It is representatives of the state, not society, that determine what subjects students must learn. Conflating society with the state’s minions is part of what we are schooled to do; and must recognize in order to overcome.

livefreeretiree's picture

Right on, Mark. I was using "society" in a very loose sense, as obviously it is not a tangible thing, only a shared conception among separate individuals interacting together. The most visible aspects of society come from those in power through their coercive efforts, which are unfortunately often sanctioned by the opinions of the majority. Most people at this time still feel there ought to be enforced regulatory education for children so that they will have to learn the "important" ideas about life and function accordingly. When "society" starts thinking otherwise, the minions of the state will have little power to continue to brainwash our children. Glad you like it though, education is definitely where my passion lies.