School is a Prison (Part 2)

As promised last week, here is the final part of the speech written by my daughter, Meryl Faith:

Force-feeding loads and loads of information is not learning. Yes, I said it. Why must students spend hours and hours in school when most of them don’t even like what is being taught? 

In order for people to achieve actual learning and retention, they themselves must first be interested in the topics followed by repetition. In school, they just learn these lessons for a few days then after their exams, they forget it. The forced nature of schooling turns learning into work. Teachers even call it work: “You must do your work before you can play.” The very act of taking control of children’s learning turns that learning from joy into work.  Tell me, how is that learning? How is that education and why is this our standard for education?

We spend almost a fourth of our life in school yet the actual learning is only less than 10% of all the learning we will have in our life as a lifelong learner. Why must we spend this much of our life as prisoners in school just because society deems children as ‘too young’ and that ‘they don’t know anything’. Why do we discriminate against them just because of their age? Aren’t children people too?

Kenneth Danford, a former high school teacher in Boston, saw the disconnect and established the North Star Center for Self-Directed Learning. Here, students get to express what they want to learn and the staff find ways to support them. This is what Danford says in his book, Learning is Natural, School is Optional: “Young people want to learn. Human beings are learning creatures. You don’t see us having to persuade a baby to be curious or to seek competence and understanding. Rather than trying to motivate kids, we have to support their basic human drive to learn and grow. Learning happens everywhere, not just in school. Society expects children to go to school in order for them to learn, as if learning can only occur in places specifically designed for that purpose. People learn all the time outside of school…the best preparation for a meaningful and productive future is a meaningful and productive present.” 

School should not be a prison. It should be a place where children are free to explore their curiosities. Our schools today deny children of liberty without just cause and due process when in other situations, this is against the law and your rights as a human being. We are depriving students the time and opportunity they need to practice self-direction and responsibility because they are too busy fulfilling school requirements that have no meaningful purpose. Why do we frown upon the idea of playing over studying? How do you know that the child isn’t learning more from their play than the content of their textbooks? Let children be children, they are not prisoners. 

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