As we prepare for yet another school year to begin, I find myself reflecting about what school is, and why schools are the way they are. Each year brings new opportunities and new challenges. Each year has a fresh veneer on it; a veneer of expectations and wonder, perhaps mixed with some uncertainty and fear.
We all know something about school because we live in a literate society where we have the opportunity to be educated in the public or private sector. We have choices about school. We know about school. We went to school.
I challenge you to think about the school of your childhood and maybe even beyond. Think about what you learned. Reading? Check. Writing. Check. Math? Indeed. But what did you really learn? My guess is you learned to do what was asked of you in the most efficient way for the adults. My guess is you learned reading, writing and math relatively easily if you didn’t have a learning disability and were a compliant student who could sit in a desk for extended periods of time. My guess is that you could either do school well or not.
Now I challenge you to think about how this served you—the child. Not you as an adult. Were you excited and interested in what you learned. Sometimes? Always? Never? Were you able to talk to your classmates freely about your learning, ask endless questions, and seek answers for as long as your search demanded and you maintained interest? Did you find the things you learned led you to other learning or stopped in their tracks maybe just when they sparked your interest because it was then time to move on to another subject? Could you be passionate about a subject and follow that passion? Could you find another student or adult to share in your work and help guide you where you needed guidance but get out of your way when you needed to pursue that interest on your own so you could actually THINK?
My guess is the answer to many of these questions is a resounding “no.” Schools were not set up to serve children. They were established to serve society and the adults who run our society. They’ve largely met the goal of creating a literate populace. However, what they have failed to do is grab a child’s interest and pique her curiosity. Those who can “do school” learn what is assigned along the way but lack the ability to help determine where that path may lead. Those who can’t manage because they need extra help are often precluded from joining in the projects and fun aspects of school because they need extra time to be drilled on the aspects of school that are so very hard for them.
There are schools that ignite passion. There are schools where the children are truly at the center. Many schools will tell you this is the case, but it isn’t always true. They don’t make decisions with children in mind. They make them for the convenience of adults. Which school would you have wanted to attend? Where will your children thrive? As Trevor Eissler so clearly explains in the video above, he watched the fire go out in his child once she attended school. His young, inquisitive and engaged child only became that again when she entered a Montessori school — a school where the child is the focus and decisions are made with the child at the center, not for the convenience of adults.