Kids Are Being Ruined by Coercive Schooling

Everyone, especially parents, should read this article by Carol Black called On the Wilderness of Children. In it she most eloquently lays out several ideas that I have been, perhaps less articulately, trying to point out. We are ruining children by forcing them through public education, we are ruining ourselves with a coercive society, and we are perpetuating this destruction every generation.

She’s not glorifying tribalism, and she’s not pretending there is a simple equation that will make kids perfect angels; Carol is pointing out how many social problems are created by treating children like caged zoo animals. In fact, when public education was created, the authorities were very upfront about removing children from their natural habitat, and raising them in a way to get them used to working in industrial factories.

And we never left that model behind. Practically everything sick about our society can be traced back to the systematized abuse children suffer that many consider integral to raising children. I recently summarized a different article with the same general theme, that our society is sick with coercion, and it is literally driving us crazy!


And Carol points out that this coercion is normalized in a public school environment, so that a master/ slave paradigm seems like the only way to solve problems.

But as Odawa elder and educator Wilfred Peltier tells us, learning -– like all human relationships –– must be based in the ethical principal of non-interference, in the right of all human beings to make their own choices, as long as they’re not interfering with anybody else.  As Nishnaabeg scholar and author Leanne Betasamosake Simpson tells us, learning –– like all human relationships ––  must be based in the ethical principal of consent, in the right of all human beings to be free of violence and the use of force.  Simpson explains:

If children learn to normalize dominance and non-consent within the context of education, then non-consent becomes a normalized part of the ‘tool kit’ of those who have and wield power… This is unthinkable within Nishnaabeg intelligence.

Interestingly, the most brilliant artists and scientists in Euro-western societies tell us exactly the same thing: that it is precisely this state of open attention, curiosity, freedom, collaboration, consent, that is necessary for all true learning, discovery, creation.

Once you think about the causes of social problems, it all becomes so clear! Why do we think there are huge drug problems–both prescription and illicit–in our society? People do drugs for much the same reason that they starve themselves, behave violently, become depressed, or “act out”: they can’t stand the environment they are in and have no idea how to remedy what has been done to them.

For decades our model of drug addiction has been based on research done on laboratory rats provided with a lever they could press to deliver water laced with heroin or cocaine.  Researchers found the rats would press the lever and consume the drug until it killed them, and they concluded that the drug itself was the cause of the addictive behavior.  But then a psychologist named Bruce Alexander noticed something.  The rats who killed themselves in this way were isolated in an unnatural environment, a barren Skinner box where there was nothing rewarding to do but self-stimulate with drugs.  When they were placed in a more varied, more natural setting, able to interact freely with the environment and with other rats, their drug use was reduced by more than three quarters.  In other words, if you gave them a life they wanted to live, and a world they wanted to live in, they did not destroy themselves.   Or, as author Johann Hari has put it:

“It’s not you. It’s your cage.”

And as a byproduct of our cages, most people end up being terrified by the prospect of free humans. Many people do not understand the world outside the cage, and simply assume it would be chaos. Maybe the cage is a bleak, depressing, violent place to live, but its all I know! The outside must be worse. 

But by studying un-caged societies, and the progress being made on un-schooling the “civilized” humans, it is a pretty safe bet that free animals are happy, productive, well adjusted animals.

Political theorist Toby Rollo has pointed out how the forcible subjugation of children by adults forms the psychological underpinning of every other model of political and economic subjugation.  This is not a metaphor; it’s a structuring principle of political reality.  During the days of overt empire and colonialism –– the same days in which our modern school system was created –– Indigenous people, people of color, women of all colors, and lower-class whites were all viewed as childlike, in need of fatherly tutelage and discipline.  And because it was understood that children often required violent “chastisement” –– for their own good! –– it was natural that childlike adults would require the same.

Those who realize how harmful “traditional” education is to children have the opportunity to create a better society in one generation. We can break the cycle, we can cure the human race, and we can set in motion a cycle of freedom, love, and happiness, instead of a cycle of oppression.


Public Schools: Incarcerate and Indoctrinate

Public schools are really good at preparing students for three things: 1) a job in a factory or cubicle, 2) a job in the government, 3) prison.

Remembering back, talking to teachers, talking to students, and substitute teaching (in one of the relatively good public schools) has convinced me that there is one reason kids are sent to public school, and it isn’t to educate them.

Obey. Public schools take the natural state of things, and flip it upside down. If you have a natural urge such as hunger of having to use the bathroom, you must ask permission. Permission, from the teacher (and by extension government) must be acquired before emptying your bladder or receiving sustinence—two of the most basic natural human occurrences. Lesson: authority trumps nature.

Hierarchy: Obey Your Masters

There is not much controversy over the fact that public schools were set up to prepare children for a life in the factory. But as factory jobs became less prevalent, the same techniques of schooling were used. It is possible that the cubicle set up for private companies arose to accommodate a workforce that had been trained for one thing: working in factories. And it is easier to adjust to fit the government’s plan than to try to change the system of “educating” millions of potential employees.

If you observe many similarities in private industry and public schools, you are observing the effect of government force on private industry. The plethora of employment options and styles in a free market would amaze anyone from such a brutally structured society as ours. But what does industry have to work with? A relatively low skilled, but obedient mass of robots, with a built in system of trying to outcompete their co-workers. Why bother trying (and paying) to change the work force? Just adjust the business model.

The corporate ladder was programmed in high school, and it rigidly defines where and when the competition should take place, overseen by the company leaders of course. Competition on your own however is considered anti-social. If you don’t want to work with a team, you are weird. And when you’re on a team, if you don’t try to claw your way to the top of the ranks, you are also weird.

One teacher is in charge of many students, and the students must direct all uncertainties at the teacher for answers and orders. But the teacher is likewise constrained by a hierarchy. He or she cannot simply do whatever they want, they must report to the principal, who likewise reports to the superintendent. The superintendent is constrained by the school board, elected by the people, giving the impression that the people control the board, who controls the superintendent, who controls the principal, who controls the teachers, who control the students.

But really elections only give the impression of control over our government. We are voting for a school board to have power in our place, and power over us. The parents aren’t who decides what is best for their kid, it is the school board.

Four year olds through 18 year olds are expected to sit still for 6 hours a day (not including homework), 180 days per year, for 12 years. Nothing could be more opposite the natural state of things. These are the most energetic years humans have, yet we are being taught that it is not appropriate to run, dance, skip, laugh, climb or even move without permission—except for maybe 15 minutes at recess.

Government Can Magically Turn Something Bad into Something Good

If your kid cannot handle sitting still, it is not because they are a normal kid. It is because they are deranged and unfit for our wonderful society. They have ADD or ADHD or are bipolar or have anger issues. Pump them full of drugs!

These same drugs are illegal when not packaged in a nice pill form, but this is another government lesson. The government has the power to take two seemingly identical things, and say one is okay, and one is not. Theft is wrong, except when the government takes your money by force and calls it taxes. Murder is wrong, except when government executes criminals, bombs enemies, or kills innocent civilians while “trying to accomplish a greater good”. Kidnapping is wrong, unless the government does it. And drugs are bad, unless the company that makes them pays the FDA millions of dollars to say they are safe fore the market.

So kids get legal cocaine to focus (Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall), and legalized heroin to relax (oxycontin, oxycodone, Vicodin, Zoloft). But if you smoke weed, you will be thrown in jail, and have future opportunities ripped away from you. Can’t you see that drugs will ruin your life? Just look at how we ruined your life when we caught you with “drugs”. Can’t you just stick to pills like most well adjusted American breeds?

Sports: Nationalism, Patriotism, and Destruction of Enemies

Then there are the sports teams. Bring glory to your town by defeating the enemy—another town. If you are not one of the warriors, support them ferociously, insulting others you have never met from rival towns. Fights will at some point break out in the stands, giving even the spectators an opportunity to join in, and show the rival denizens whose government controlled land mass is subjectively better.

Perhaps it is natural for teams to want to compete against eachother. But the teams would not necessarily be organized under various governments (towns). Most likely friends would come together, or those with similar interests, or someone capable of organizing talent would bring a team together. Then the teams are not competing “town versus town”—a predecessor to country vs. country. The teams would be made up of those who share mutual interests in one way or another, and have chosen to associate with each other.

Geographic proximity with borders defined by government is the current method of deciding who will fight who at the high school level. Someday it will be USA vs. Iraq, or USA vs. Russia, or USA vs. China, etcetera. But early on it is ingrained that you fight ferociously and without question for the hometown. Not because your hometown has any special qualities, just because you live there.

Institutionalized: You Scare Society, We Will Confine You

Prisons benefit the political class as well (redistributing stolen tax dollars), and it should be obvious that schools prepare certain students for a life behind bars. The reason you scare society is because they are afraid you might hurt them: they are afraid you as an individual might do what the government does everyday, and initiate force. But not wanting to wait for that aggression to rear its head, the government outlaws any number of things which do not have a victim.

You don’t have to shoot anyone to go to jail, you just have to carry a gun without seeking permission from the government first. You don’t have to kill anyone driving irresponsibly to be punished, you just have to imbibe more than two drinks which could lead to hurting someone. You don’t have to murder someone while high on any number of illicit drugs, you just have to be in possession of the drug, which could lead to aggressive behavior when taken. You don’t have to build an unsafe house to be punished, you just have to violate a code which theoretically could keep people safer. And you don’t have to rape anyone to be a sex offender, you just have to pee in public, because in America, we equate nudity with sex.

Some kids do actually misbehave. But if they misbehave in a public school, they were forced to be there. The system wouldn’t have to deal with many of these kids if they just let them be. In fact many would find meaningful employment in trades without being forced to waste 12 years in public schools. So instead of learning to hate authority, they would be working on an engine. Instead of being bored to tears until they lash out, they might be doing something worth while. But they would at least be doing something they want to do. Stop forcing certain people to associate with each other.

And other kids are not actually misbehaviors, they are just labelled as such because they have a lot of energy. These kids are the worst off in public schools, because it wastes their time, and sets up a self fulfilling prophecy. “If you can’t make it in public schools,” they say, “you won’t make it in real life”. That is a lie though. You don’t need public schools to become an expert on building houses, plumbing, electricity—in fact I never learned any of those things in public school. Yet they are all important and lucrative ventures.

But an employer doesn’t like a criminal record. So when kids are prosecuted for smoking weed, it is not the weed ruining their lives, it is the government. When kids are sent to the principal’s office for goofing off, it is not the goofing off that is the problem. It is the institution they were forced into at the point of a gun.

Public School Success Stories

Kids that emerge from public schools educated, with their future in tact do so for one of two reasons.

1) They have parents who did most of the educating around the dinner table, and throughout life, which is really how most learning takes place anyway. These parents, if not already paying for public school, would likely structure a program at home to school their kids, or send them to a private school for their education. There are so many options these days: home school co-ops have sprung up, where parents decide to group their kids together, and each teach a different course or grade level.

2) The second type of student who emerges from public education with their future in tact is the one who took the government lessons to heart. These students have learned that they must obey authority, and are best suited for a job in government, generally in the bureaucracy, but possibly other places depending on their skill set.

The ones who learned the most from high school sports might join the military, or become police. The ones who excelled in the soft sciences will do great scattered throughout departments of the federal government. The ones who learned public school history might go on to learn intelligentsia history, and with their vastly warped worldview could become professors, political staff, or activists. There might even be a few math and science whizzes who also learned to bow down to authority. Great fit for the IRS, or NASA.

But something they all have in common is that they accept the authority over them, and believe it is just. They have been brainwashed into thinking that the natural state of things is to submit to arbitrary authority. And worse, an authority who is allowed to do all the things that you are not allowed to do like steal, attack, and murder.

And that is the final and scariest group to emerge from public schools. The ones that understand the political system will benefit a sociopath the best. They are the ones who get it: that authority is not really an authority except for their guns pointed at us. But instead of fighting that unjust system, they decide to join it. They do this out of fear, but more often because they want the power for themselves. They rise to the highest ranks of government, and perpetuate the system, starting with public education, using force for their own interests.

The Difference: When Things Are Naturally Organized Without Force

The very word organized has the root of organic right in there. An organism is a living thing, not planned, not a robot, naturally occurring. So why on earth would people think we need the government to “organize” society? Organic means it grows naturally without tweaking or adding. Our lives, our economy, our “organization” of life would be a hell of a lot more organized if left to the natural development. No force, just mutually beneficial transactions.

You see, in nature, it is not that you can’t have your rights violated, it is that they are naturally recognized. If a wolf goes into the territory already marked by another wolf, he cannot expect to emerge from that alive and unscathed. It is understood that the property marked by the first wolf is his, and will be defended as such, to the point of death. The most likely even that will happen upon invading another wolf’s territory is the death of the intruder, since the defender has more to lose. This leads to a natural tendency of the invading wolf to move on to territory not yet claimed by another wolf, and avoid confrontation for the sake of survival.

What we have is a government who takes the natural state of things, and says we can make it better, and we can do this by using force. No longer will a wolf necessarily die if he invades another wolf’s territory, because 100 more packs will descend upon the wolf who defends his territory from certain other wolves. These wolves that help the first one conquer the territory have nothing to gain from this personally, they do it because of third party influence. And the resources they use to do it (taxes), were stolen, not earned.

Imagine a scientist saying he could rip out a human’s circulatory system, and replace it, better, with a mechanical one. That is insane. Yet we allow the government to do that to our children, starting at moldable young ages, and not stopping until the development of their brains is essentially set in stone, according to the government’s blue print.

To be clear, I am not criticizing sports teams, education, business, or structure in general. I am criticizing the force used by government to create a system where they design the type of citizens they want. I want a system where these things are naturally organized by those whose interests they involve.

And I am convinced that we would end up with a happier work force, a more prosperous population, and more advancement in general. It only makes sense, based on the way humans act when met with incentives and disincentives. Currently there are vastly more government created incentives to becoming a obedient worker, rather than a creator. And when people emerge from a public school educated, the state gloriously takes credit.

This relates to an earlier post about how government will take credit for all the good in society, and blame the bad on their enemies. Everything good within a society is attributed to the government, and everything bad to whoever the government has deemed an enemy. It was not family values and good parenting that made that student smart, it was the government. The dumb student? No, no, that wasn’t the government. That was… video games? Gun toting parents? Drugs! Ah yes, another victim of the drug cartels.

In reality, much of the good is organic, while much of the evil is created by government “solutions” because the basis for government is force.

It is a farce. The government is not responsible for the things which happen to go right in society despite their intervention. The market is strong enough to overcome some of the government intrusion to deliver what the people demand from industry, but not all of it. And as the old saying goes, if you think the problems government causes are bad, just wait until you see their solutions.