What Does This Say About School?

A few months ago we looked at the implications of that belief kids have about adulthood–that the most defining thing about it is that you don’t have to go to school anymore. In one sense, this is revealing about how we, as adults, portray adulthood through our behavior. Our kids don’t see us learning, they don’t see us seeking out or studying things, and so they rightly assume that education and school are the same thing. A thing that inevitably ends at some point before your early twenties, if not earlier.

But the other, far more serious, part of this perspective is what it says about school. While school isn’t exactly supposed to be fun, it is sad that we make it such a grind, such an obligation, such a nightmare in some cases. That most kids think the best thing they can do when they get older is to get as far away from school as possible, as soon as possible, is a scorching indictment. Indeed, one parent recently explained that the blessing of the pandemic was that their daughter got to do eighth grade–an unusually cruel year for many kids–from home, away from the misery of the classroom, and the schoolyard, and the cafeteria.

This is not our kids’ fault. It’s our fault. It’s all our faults. That school, or skole in Latin, is the root word of ‘leisure’, and yet has drifted so far in modern times from that concept is a tragedy for which we are all to blame.

It’d be one thing if schools were tough but effective, if they were a crucible for the real world, for real life. But we all know that’s not true either. School has somehow become a factory for disaffection and incuriosity. It has made learning not fun, and childhood a chore. And it has sent our kids sprinting toward adulthood without the tools they need to reach their full potential.

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