When you think of your own school days, what do you think of? What do the days at school of your own children look like?
Certainly, very different from what school was ever intended or imagined to be. The root word of school—scholé—in Greek refers to the idea of leisure. It’s supposed to be a place of reflection. A safe space for learning and exploration. A lifelong hobby. A place of relief and nourishment.
Instead, we’ve turned school into something like a dysfunctional bootcamp. Our modern schools and approach to education is more like the Spartan agōgē—the brutal training ground for their soldiers—except without any of the practical benefits of creating a strong and resilient citizenry. We have standardized tests. We have arbitrary benchmarks. We have frazzled, underpaid teachers. We overwhelm them with groggy, tired children forced to wake up far too early. And then we wonder why they come to resent school, why it doesn’t inspire them, and why they hardly learn anything.
This pandemic has been a gift in that it has forced us to reexamine what education is and should be. Some of us have been at home with our kids, taking over their school. Others have seen—through remote learning—what their kid’s days actually look like and what they’re being taught. As a society, we’ve also had to come to terms with all the other responsibilities we’ve shouldered schools with: daycare, social services, even feeding hungry kids.
It’s clear: We have not been doing a good job. As parents. As citizens. And we have to do a better job—we have to get back to what education is supposed to be. We have to get back to scholé.