Monday, January 30, 2006

The School as Gauntlet

They have negative memories of their own education. Although it takes some probing, nearly every professor with home-schooled children mentions traumatic childhood experiences in school. Professors, as a group, tend to have been sensitive, intelligent children who were picked on and ostracized. They foresee the same treatment for their own children, and they want to do everything they can to prevent the children from experiencing the traumas they experienced. Professors recognize how many of our most brilliant students have been emotionally or physically terrorized for a dozen years before they arrive at college. School sometimes teaches otherwise happy and intelligent children to become sullen and secretive and contemptuous of learning.

So writes one professor in his essay For Professors’ Children, the Case for Home Schooling reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. It is worth noting that such intellectual children, their progress often held back by the same "mouthbreathers" who beat them, are easy prey for the egomaniacal doctrines of Ayn Rand or Freddy Nietzsche. How many of these bright young things, I wonder, enter their twenties pondering what happened to all the so-called dumb jocks and losers their admiring teachers reassuringly told them they'd be bossing around in professional life.

Considering the vast number of films depicting high school as Devil's Island minus the trenchfoot, I'm surprised there hasn't been more criticism. The bovine migrations between classes, the petty yet highly traumatic squabbles and bullying between peers, the adolescent angst, and the systematic sapping of parental authority have become so many cliched themes in Yet Another Teen Movie.

I seem to have avoided almost all of these coming-of-age problems by living like a desert solitary in suburbia, but I find it very remarkable that the general hatred for high school is combined with a general fatalism about making it a better experience and a general antipathy towards those who have the willingness to sacrifice to opt out of the chaos.

Link via Stuart Buck

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