School's Out

Geoffrey Bax, 16th September 2000ce

Yep, school is out, over, finito, end of the line, and not a moment too soon, and I’m not talking about end of term.

We are at present witnessing the last twitching spasms of an education system that is out of date and out of touch and, frankly, a waste of time.

Today’s society is completely different from the society when schools were first put upon us. We once lived in a very ‘information poor’ environment and we were happy to allow the authorities to push us around and tell us what to do and think. Today we have a completely different set up; we have an ‘information rich’ society and we have realised that we can be who we want to be and not feel we all need short back and sides and grey clothes. Yet the school set up has not changed at all.

Children do not want to sit at a desk all day wearing dull clothes and being bored to death by someone telling them what to think, children have their own thoughts and feelings about things, but oh no, you must not express your individuality in these places because the purpose of school is to make children conform, to take orders and to be subordinate, we all know this, most of us who went to school didn’t like it, yet we continue to send our children to these places.

Two institutions control most children's lives; television and school. Out of 168 hours in a week children should sleep 56. Considering how TV/ computer dominated kids lives are these days 48 hours a week spent with them sounds reasonable. About 30 hours are spent in school a week, with about 8 hours getting ready for and travelling to and from school, and an average of 7 hours a week on homework or out of school assignments. During this time they are under constant adult surveillance, with no private time or space.

This leaves 17 hours a week to create and formulate a unique consciousness. Children also need to eat, maybe 5 hours for breakfast and evening meals. This leaves a total of 14 hours per week, probably less of private time for the child.

"The 1988 Education Act is a very dangerous development for it has politicised schooling in the direction of fascist thinking. It is the worst development in Europe at the moment" - Professor Eugenia Potulicka on the UK schooling system.

School is a major distractor from reality (along with television) and is particularly damaging. We get most of our emotional stuffing knocked out of us in the school environment. It encourages fascist thinking and competitiveness, which are destroying the planet and its life forms. School segregates ages and sometimes sexes, something that is completely un-natural and non existent in reality and apart from these things, it’s really, really boring.

Being the father of three energetic, vital young wholefood eating children I am not prepared to stifle their enthusiasm for life by sending them to an institution which is designed to crush the spirit, limit thought and impede forming a ‘self’. School IS NOT compulsory, you do not have to send children to school, you do not have to follow any curriculum.

According to the words of John Taylor Gatto, a former American teacher of 26 years, it takes only 100 hours to learn how to read and write and work with numbers, so what the hell are we doing, sending our poor offspring to this authoritarian, regimented institution which to me seems so incredibly old fashioned.

"One head teacher told John’s parents to make his home life less interesting so he would not be so bored at school" - Times Educational Supplement 20/09/96, page 3.

It all boils down to that fact that we are being undermined by certain forces into thinking that we could not possibly be able to provide all that is necessary for our children's development. This is complete nonsense. Children have an inbuilt curiosity and eagerness for information and about the world that they live in, all a child needs is to know it’s OK for them to be themselves and experiment, with a caring, nourishing environment along with space and time, to develop at their INDIVIDUAL rate. All children need this flexibility to gain confidence in themselves and in their world.

When you put a child into primary school, you are preventing them from doing what they really want to do, which is to play. Children love to play and learn massive amounts through play alone, in fact the bits about school that probably hold fond memories for you are when you were playing. School gets in the way and creates frustration in children, the children who openly display this frustration are called ‘disruptive’ and are considered a ‘bad influence’ in a class, when all they want to do is be themselves.

Not only does school interfere with a child's natural development, it also restricts the movement and life of the parent to ‘fit in’ with the school system, keeping you in a fixed place with limited scope of movement and flexibility. Having children up, dressed, breakfasted and into school by 9am five sometimes six days a week plus collected again must be a nightmare, I am so glad I am not put through this farcical performance every day!

"School is a twelve year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know" - John Taylor Gatto, 1992.

The more you look at the situation the more insane it becomes. I have heard word that there are plans to introduce a fifth term into the schooling system, or in other words practically doing away with summer holidays because the kids ‘forget’ all the crap they have been copying ‘parrot fashion’ off of the chalk board or books.

In the rare instances that you may actually enjoy a certain class, be it mathematics, poetry or football, you are cut short of your enjoyment by the bell ring, any fulfilment that you may have felt or achievement gained is dashed as you shuffle off to something which is completely unrelated to the previous lesson, rendering it an abstract process, a mish mash of unrelated, timed indoctrination.

As I mentioned earlier, you DO NOT have to put your whole family life through this damaging process, you can provide your children with their own space, to develop at their own pace, at home.

The first thing people say when they realise that you are home educating is about ‘social interaction’. Contrary to popular belief, being with loads of kids of the same age is not helping to encourage social interaction as it actually causes barriers between age groups and is thus anti community and a handicap for a child.

Home educated children on the other hand are at ease communicating with people of all ages, which is vital because outside of an artificial environment like school, the whole spectrum of ages are evident, but alien to the average school child, who would not been seen dead talking to a younger child and takes the piss out of older people to keep their credibility intact. Unfortunately, this attitude often carries on well into adult life.

You do not have to be a teacher to home educate or possess any ‘qualifications' in anything. You do not need to be financially well off or have a miniature school room set-up in your house. We find it much more relaxing and enjoyable just letting our children get on with whatever they want to do, which at this stage in their lives is playing, drawing and, well, being children really.

We are totally confident in their ability to learn whatever they want to learn and we will assist them with whatever THEY want. We do know of people who impose a school style set up in their homes, with a structured approach and strict discipline, but really, this defeats the object and the child may as well be at school.

Home educating is starting to become more popular, whatever the approach, with the further decay and inadequacy of the state school system. With the advent of limited companies now purchasing schools to run them for a profit and pretty soon no doubt your friendly neighbourhood multinational corporation doing the same, hopefully more people will see sense and avoid this consumer producing factory.

If you have children, are about to have children or know someone with children, then please realise what ‘school’ does and what its real function is; to deaden the heart, crush the spirit and produce good little consumers who do not question the status quo. Take back some of the power that we have given away and leave school to carry on disintegrating, because it isn’t educating it’s deaducating.

You can e-mail Geoffrey Bax for further information, book list and to let him know your comments on this article:- [email protected]

Check out this web site, whether you are a parent or not. It’s some stuff by John Taylor Gatto and is completely excellent. Go John Go!

If you already believe that school is not the way forward and need some further information, write to: Education Otherwise, P.O. Box 7420, London. N9 9SG enclosed a C5 sae or pop along to their web site:-

Originally published in issue two of Rooted, January 2000,