Origins of American Education

Rare is the mother of multiple children who doesn’t have at least one child who struggles in school. A daughter who comes home tired and cranky. A son who is often in trouble for disturbing the class or not staying focused. A child who just isn’t catching on to math or reading. These realities can make us feel like we are failures or something is wrong with our child. Our children may also feel “dumb” or “broken” because they don’t fit well into the school system.

It is important for our kids to go through hard things. We don’t want to rescue them from every hardship. We also want them to learn self-control and social skills. But there are many ways and means in which to have our children face hardships and learn self-control – we need to start questioning if their long hours in public school are the best means to teach these lessons – and the best path to gain knowledge and gain competence.

Before changing course, we need to gather facts. All my children are currently in public schools, so I am on this journey of discovery myself. I am not suggesting everyone needs to pull out of public schools at this moment – but we need to begin to question, to open the door to insight.

Often we take what is normal and expected as what is best. I, for one, believe that many traditions and norms in society are usually there for good reason. But occasionally, you do stumble upon a long-held tradition that doesn’t seem to be bearing good fruit. Our children are the fruit of public schools. Some may be thriving, others may not be – but national statistics tell us that largely children are struggling. Rather than blaming the fruit – let’s look again at the tree. In reality, the modern public school is not traditional, it is intrinsically radical, as John Gatto reminds us,

“Is there an idea more radical in the history of the human race than turning your children over to total strangers whom you know nothing about, and having those strangers work on your child’s mind, out of your sight, for a period of twelve years?”

This 4-minute clip may help us start to uncover some facts about the structure of public schools. We, as deep-thinking mothers, need to start to look hard at what kind of tree is growing our children. With our knowledge, we can use our talents and energy to find solutions. We can work to change any norms that need changing – and build a tree that helps our children thrive.


Books to read:

The Underground History of American Education, John Taylor Gatto

The Phases of Learning, Oliver DeMille

Full episode with Jordan Peterson and Jeff Sandefer

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