The Illness of State Schooling

August 3, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


I’ve been reading over teacher blogs lately with all their blather about kids needing to read about people “they can relate to” (meaning children and teenagers suffering from various forms of dysfunction and anxiety), and I wondered what I’ve wondered many times:


Isn’t education about learning to relate to all sorts of people – and further, how hard can it be to relate to another human being, so long as the person is/was not severely psychotic or so aberrant in behavior that the average person should not be able to relate to him or her?


I remember in 7th grade coming upon a book about George Washington Carver. He lived in an age far different from mine, unlike me he had been a slave, unlike me he was male, unlike me he was black, unlike me he was a scientist… the list could go on for some time. Yet I connected with this man’s life from the first page.


I went on to read many, many biographies of people completely unlike me, with nary a hitch in my cultural-connection gitalong. As a matter of fact, I found the stories exciting. Just look at what these extraordinary people did, at what they overcame, at how they excelled. What bored me after this taste of high reality and possibility were depressing stories of teen angst and mundane or unredeemed lives.


This is one more symptom of the illness called state schooling — its never-ending downward spiral into the abyss of mediocrity, meaninglessness and hopelessness. The practitioners, often out of ignorance, fail to administer the medicines that can cure the baser aspects of the human condition – examples of lives well-lived and ideals upheld, of overcoming not only economic hardship but moral shortcomings.


 I want the children I love to read about people they can admire and emulate. I want them to read about lives that will excite them with hope and possibility. This is what children read before state schools got their hands on them.


The bottom line is that state schooling messes up everything it gets its hands on. It’s messed up our children’s education, their morals, their cultural connectedness, and more recently, their health. Is there anything left?


It’s time to stop the madness.