The coercive and authoritative nature of our schooling system crushes individual expression, creates anger and resentment towards learning and working, destroys the natural curiosity of children, and correlates with an increase in mental health issues. Mandatory schooling is seen as a necessity for creating a well-educated and productive populace. It’s one of those things that receives hardly any critical examination or scrutiny but rather is taken for granted as good and proper. But when mandatory schooling is thoroughly analyzed, its harmful and long-lasting effects become painfully obvious.
Its Authoritative Nature
Our American model of schooling traces its roots back to the Prussian military model of schooling, where children were taught to set aside their free will and instead be obedient servants to the state. With the explosion of the Industrial Revolution, corporations began funding the education system in an effort to raise and teach children to be efficient, but complacent, factory workers.
With the long rows of seats, an authority figure standing at the front of the room whom we must obey, and with bells and whistles commanding our attention, our system of mass schooling resembles prison-like factories where children are taught to be mindless order-followers instead of creative, free-thinking, expressive individuals.
Forcing children to attend school for 180 days out of the year for 12 years, requiring them to learn mandated curriculums, and threatening their parents with losing child custody if they do not obey the state’s edicts goes against the very ideas of a free society, and for fostering authentic, passionate learning and curiosity.
Passion, fulfillment, individual curiosity, self-discovery, self-expression, and educational freedom should be the foundation of our educational approach. Parents, educators, and institutions should be facilitators and resource providers, but never coercive indoctrinators.
It is no wonder that homeschooling is in an upswing, school choice is becoming increasingly popular, and that more parents and families are turning to the Self-Directed Learning and unschooling movements.
Children’s Mental Health
Research confirms a high correlation between school attendance and suicidal thoughts and behavior, with child and teen suicides peaking in the back-to-school time period. The study also shows a frightening rise in hospital admissions for suicidal tendencies and self-harm for children ages 5 to 17, with the largest increase in teenage girls.
Since 2007, the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds has doubled, according to the CDC. And for girls in that age group, the suicide rate has tripled over the last 15 years. According to Ohio State University psychology professor Carl Tishler, there are now “an estimated 12-15 million children on psychotropic medications.”
Seeing Our Children As Individuals
The research cited above is not to say that the state and its mandatory schooling is the sole cause of the high rates of teen suicide. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are many additional cultural factors involved. But clearly our education system is broken, and depression and anxiety are becoming cultural norms. We need to begin treating children as independent persons with their own passions and unique perspectives, rather than coercing them into conformity. The future depends on it.