Education - A Criticism

The American writer, John Holt, says, "Teachers and schools tend to mistake good behaviour for good character". A youngster who continually questions the worth of what he is being taught and the values of the society for which he is being shaped is labelled a 'problem'.

Should a child that does not do his homework be forced to do it by the school or the parents? I think not. The educational system is supposed to be a preparation for 'responsibility'; give him some then. Perhaps his natural inclinations do not gravitate towards society. Forced study is dead study. Let him be a happy human without A levels, rather than an unhappy neurotic; armed with a degree, and fighting his inner drives. Youth, which should be a time of new experience, of wide ranging curiosity, surely the best time to find out who you are and what you want from life; is, for many, a time of fear. "Even in the kindest and gentlest of schools", writes John Holt, "children are afraid, many of them a great deal of time, some of them almost all the time ... afraid of failing, afraid of being kept back, afraid of feeling themselves stupid."

It is this persistent fear of failure that drives many who are not particularly academically included to scholastic success. But, basically, scholastic success is a shallow phenomenon: it merely means playing back to the teacher what the teacher wants to hear. Examination questions are chiefly those that can be memorised. Education, then, stunts spontaneity and 'individual' growth and tests memory rather than thinking. The child learns, but not what he wants to learn. He does not want to know about the feudal system, he wants to know about life. What he needs is time, time to discover his own particular bent, to discover what he wants from life. But the pressure gets worse and worse, the pace, faster and faster.

A. Murrell, U.6

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