Rebirth of Reason


Machan's Musings - Schools Are Making Students Sick
by Tibor R. Machan

So many kids are afflicted with various maladies in school today that one has to be suspicious about the diagnoses being advanced throughout the educational community. The varieties of Attention Deficit Disorders in records boggle the mind, even as many of us have managed to pass through the system reasonably unscathed. Or have we?

There are those who do not buy into this medical approach to assessing the problems with contemporary education. I am one of them. Although not a specialist in the relevant fields of psychological and cognitive disciplines, I have a bit of experience with schooling, if only my own education—from kindergarten to the end of graduate school—and my teaching career—starting in the fall of 1970 and still going strong (not to mention the educational history of my own three children). Maybe the ideas garnered throughout this history of experience, observation, and reflections qualify me to have formed some measure of reasonable insight, if not strict scientific hypotheses (if such is really available in this realm of human interest).

For one, in America there is a pedagogical ideal afoot that’s worth some skeptical consideration.  This is that every solitary child deserves and requires the nearly identical educational experience, from age 6 to at least 18 (graduation from compulsory schooling), if not all the way to 22 (graduation from college, now treated as everyone’s virtual natural right). Elsewhere around the globe education is not treated all that differently as regards its various stages but the egalitarian element is missing—not all are thought to be fit for such schooling. If we combine this egalitarianism and the one-size-fits-all aspects of education, the very reasonable possibility arises that millions and millions of children are getting miseducated.

Just consider that children, like adults, are individuals, not all the same—their psychological, temperamental, and related constitution is highly varied. Although some matters may be required for them all—a bit like in the fields of nutrition and medicine—on many fronts they have drastically different needs. Their talents and aptitudes aren’t at all the same. Their interests begin to diverge early in their lives, especially in the modern era when opportunities are so plentiful for most of them.

Yet they are essentially given the same “education.” They are coerced to attend the same pre-school programs, elementary schools, and high schools, with the nearly identical courses spoon-fed to them whether or not that’s what they need, with hardly any attention paid to the fact of their individuality, their highly varied pedagogical requirements.

Do they really all benefit from being taught nearly the same way, the same subjects, at the same pace, in the same kind of environments, with virtually identical administrative methods? That’s simply highly implausible, even preposterous.

Instead, however, of promoting an educational system that adjusts itself to the immense diversity of the student body, everyone is regimented to conform to the nearly-identical schooling process. Is it, then, any wonder that a lot of kids are deemed unfit, even afflicted with maladies, within such an educational system?

Consider that students who are completely mismatched to what the system has to offer turn their minds to other matters as they are forced to sit in class being “taught” by someone serving as a teacher. So they fail to pay close attention. Instead their minds drift—they gaze out the window and imagine animals forming from clouds, “hear” music in their minds, wish for experiences drastically different from the one with which they are forcibly confronted.

So, upon doing so such students are declared sick, suffering from ADD of whatever, then plugged full of some drugs or sent for counseling or therapy, instead of the much-more-reasonable conclusion that they are being totally miseducated, mismatched to the system in place. It’s like beating someone to a pulp and then complaining that he is sick—what else do you expect? Whose fault is this? Is their malady natural or artificially induced?

I think it is the system that is creating a bunch of sick kids and the kids are fine unless they are subjected to the system. That makes much better sense than the other way around.
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