Okay, so here’s a little more, another story, another example of what I’m talking about — about how schools as they are now just flat-out miss the point, although most everybody involved with the schools, except for most of the students, seriously thinks that they are doing it right and that the students are getting benefits. I recently heard of a meeting of the faculty of grade levels seven through twelve at some school. The group doesn’t meet very often, so when they do, you would think that they would want to discuss something like the latest research on brain development, or learning styles, or how to make their subjects interesting to students who, as I have mentioned, don’t really want to be hearing about those subjects, don’t really want to be hearing about anything that they haven’t chosen to hear about, don’t really want to be in the school. But on this day, at this meeting, this group was discussing whether or not the older students should get to have drinks in their classrooms during lessons, and also whether or not the kids should get to wear hats in the classrooms. Hats, and drinks. Professional educators. Students, and the school that supposedly exists to serve them. This discussion about hats and drinks actually got pretty heated, with some people raising their voices and talking about how the school needed to stand for something, and to show the kids that they stand for something, and make some rules and show the kids that those rules are really going to be enforced, that the school will stand behind the rules that it makes.
So now, yeah, you see? I think that’s really a good example of what I’ve been talking about. How schools have become more obsessed with rules in many cases rather than with helping people learn stuff. I almost laugh sometimes at how the word “schools” rhymes with “rules”. It makes a lot of songs and jokes possible. I mean, is that a coincidence, or an irony, or a serendipitous occurrence, or a cosmic chemical attraction or what? Yeah, it only rhymes like that in English, but still, a lot of people think about English these days. Anyway. So do we, who like to think of ourselves as, and really want the rest of the world to think of us as, professionals in the field of education, do we really want the students who go through our schools to be thinking back thirty years later and think something like, “I’m so grateful to my school for helping me learn how to follow rules”? When almost all the successful — yeah, really, almost all of them, you can look it all up yourself on the internet if you haven’t already noticed it a lot in your life — artists, musicians, architects, business entrepreneurs, writers, dancers, journalists, clothing designers, sometimes even lawyers, and on, and on, and on, when those people are interviewed they all come around to saying something about breaking some rules, going beyond the rules, doing something that is unexpected, outside the norm … do we as educators really want to take pride in how effectively we create and enforce a bunch of rules?????? Rules about hats? Kind of sounds like a … a … a … a prison, maybe? Similar way of thinking anyway. Maybe not quite as harsh as a prison, a school I mean, but it’s a similar way of thinking, this artificial construct that needs a lot of rules to make people behave in certain ways that they would behave in anyway if they were in a place that they had chosen to be in rather than being forced to be in it.
If the students, yeah, here I go again now with how I think schools really should be, if the students really want to be in the school, really want to be learning what is being talked about/demonstrated/provided for purposes of experimentation and practice , in the classroom, they won’t let something like something that they are drinking or something that sits on somebody’s head get in the way of that learning, and they won’t tolerate somebody else doing something like what always happens with hats in schools as they are now, and that is that the students are so tired and tense from somebody else always wanting them to do something rather than them doing something because they want to do it themselves, that just to relieve the tension in some way please god, they start grabbing the hats off each others’ heads and throwing them around and chasing each other and stuff, and that’s why all eight of the schools where I have worked have had rules about no hats, is that kids can’t control themselves, simply can not, repeat, can not, stop themselves from taking hats off other kids’ heads. Hell, I even do stuff like that myself, I’m usually so full of tension, even after seventeen years of standing in front of a group of people who don’t really want me to be there and trying to keep them interested for at least an hour at a time, I even sometimes do little dance steps and stuff, or snap my fingers in some sort of rhythm or something, because of all the tension of the situation where I look at the students’ faces and also see their parents’ faces and the other teachers’ faces and the administrators’ faces and all the people who are expecting that something good should come out of this situation where nobody really wants to be there.
So, yeah, if students really wanted to be there, if the society had been thinking and talking and behaving in that way for a couple of years, or now, it’s probably going to take ten or twenty years if we decide to start trying to change it now, where society was having the philosophy and attitude and approach to education that each person could handle taking responsibility for his or her own education and choose for him or her self when to start working at learning something, or several things, or however it would be for that individual, if that’s how it were, then students would learn how to manage those really important things like whether or not to have a drink with them in the classroom, or to wear a hat in there. They would learn that all by themselves. They would eliminate, all by themselves, the stuff and the behaviours that would keep them from learning, because they had chosen to do the learning, chosen to be there to try to do the learning, and they would be irritated about something that was making it harder than it should be to do the learning and they would get rid of it, or not do it, all by themselves. There wouldn’t need to be groups of professional educators using their professional time arguing about rules about hats. Arguing about how to make this construct work, how to make this artificial situation that has sort of hypnotised whole societies for a hundred years or so work. They could use their professional meeting time to talk about Multiple Intelligences. Or Summerhill School. Something that actually recognizes how human beings learn.