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We should reform education, not abolish it.

Some of my favourite home school blogs, Racheous, and Happiness is Here, shared this post today which is an example of a worrying trend I’m seeing in the home education community. It’s ideology is cloaked in progress, but in reality nothing of the sort. It’s much more of a Cameron-ian sort of roll back than even traditional conservatism.

The post read:

A requirement for any worthwhile education is that former students should apply some fraction of what was learned in their lives. Say – at least 70% – if I threw away 30% of my groceries, that might be tolerable. In fact, In 12 years of primary school and 4+ years of college, how much practical knowledge did we gain?

I am a best-case scenario: I was an all-honors student, attentive, deeply curious, smart, but not too smart for the curriculum, who went on to become an engineer.

Yet what did I learn in 17 years of schooling? Virtually nothing of practical use! Everything I use in my career I learned on my own. Most of my learning was spent in libraries and, after the Internet, online. I graduated with two utterly useless liberal arts degrees and learned everything I needed on the job.

Sure – I remember a lot from science classes (which I loved) — but nothing that I use today. Nothing worth throwing away over a fourth of my working life for. Nothing that I could not learn better with my own curiosity and Wikipedia. Nothing that taxpayers should be forced to pay for.

And now people want to extend this failed, useless, expensive system for 4 more years of “free” education? You’re just creating 4 more wasted years of high school!

The higher educational system needs to end. Not reformed, not replaced, but ended – and replaced with nothing. Young people should stop wasting the most valuable time of their lives in class and start their careers at 13 or 14 in apprenticeships and trade schools, as most people around the world still do.

Have you ever looked at the tests and quizzes of 100 years ago? All we’ve done by imprisoning young adults in school is spread the same academic content over three times as many years!

Perhaps a max of 10% of students have the aptitude and practical need to attend school for advanced degrees. The rest are just destroying the most critical time in their lives and wasting other people’s money.

Wasting other people’s money? Quite.

Well we could improve education. We could put all the academic psychology, neurology and education research about learning to some use and actually educate some kids in a way that means something to them. Or, I guess we could scrap it all and let the most privileged kids be even more privileged as they have parents who have the time, resources and possibly the mental health to do what they need for their children.

It used to be that most everyone agreed universally that all children should have equal educational experiences available to them.  I know that we’ve been getting it all wrong, but the conservatives among us would abolish state school and leave private schools for the wealthiest. You might be ok with that if you home school, but that’s no different to the liberal, capitalist feminists who are happy to stand on the backs of care and other domestic workers to have their shot at success.

Peter Gray, in Free to Learn discusses the value of free play with other children without the interference of adults. Ironically all those annoying people who ask about socalisation do have a point. They are seemingly unaware that the current system affords little to no healthy socialisation, but it is important and for some people it will be hard to find from home. An unschooling institution could answer that question. A guided, project led school with lots of free play time could be a good answer for others. Having no place for kids to go when parents are working, or when parents have no inclination to support learning or socialisation would be a disaster.

Abolishing school is not progress. Reform or revolution in education is what we should be pushing for. Even if you would only ever home school, you should be calling for educational reform. Be like the 1960’s white civil rights campaigner, or a privileged, white, professional, radical feminist calling for universal basic income. Because equality is important. Education is important. And not everyone can do what you do.