Is public education the problem rather than the solution? How about home schooling?

From the preface of Paul Goodman's classic sociological work, Compulsory Miseducation

When at a meeting, I offer that perhaps we already have too much formal schooling and that under present conditions, the more we get the less education we will get, the others look at me oddly and proceed to discuss how to get more money for schools and how to upgrade the schools. I realize suddenly that I am confronting a mass superstition. The mass superstition in question, which is the target of this classic and iconoclastic work, is that education can only be achieved by the use of institutions like the school. Paul Goodman argues that on the contrary subjecting young people to institutionalized learning stunts and distorts their natural intellectual development makes them hostile to the very idea of education and finally turns out regimented competitive citizens likely only to aggravate our current social ills. He prescribes an increased involvement in the natural learning patterns of family and community and of the sort of relationships fostered in master-apprentice situations.

(Goodman writes) A great neurologist tells me that the puzzle is not how to teach reading, but why some children fail to learn to read. Given the amount of exposure that any urban child gets, any normal animal should spontaneously catch on to the code. What prevents it is almost demonstrable that, for many children, it is precisely going to school that prevents -- because of the school’s alien style, banning of spontaneous interest, extrinsic rewards and punishments. (In many underprivileged schools, the IQ steadily falls the longer they go to school). Many of the backward readers might have had a better chance on the streets

Who was Paul Goodman?

Paul Goodman was born in New York City in 1911, graduated from City College and received
his PhD. from the University of Chicago. He taught at New York University, the University of
Chicago, Black Mountain College and Sarah Lawrence, and lectured at colleges throughout

He wrote for Anarchy, Commentary, Politics, Liberation, Resistance, the New York Review of
Books and Win, and his books include novels, verse, plays and literary criticism. He was coauthor
of Gestalt Therapy, and wrote a classic of city planning Communitas, with his brother Percival

His books of social criticism include Growing Up Upsurd, Utopian Essays and Practical
Proposals, The Society I live in is Mine, Like a Conquered Province, The Moral Ambiguity of
America, People or Personnel. Community of Scholars and New Reformation. He was one of the
contributors to The Dialectics of Liberation (Pelican). Paul Goodman died in 1973.,,,,,,,,,,,,m ,

Views: 234

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I think he has a point. My memories of public school are of bored students passing notes, ridiculing the instructor under their breaths, throwing spitballs, and wishing they were outside playing. Speaking for myself, most of my intellectual explorations were done at home with books I had borrowed from the library or bought with my allowance.

I think it might come down to individual learning styles. Some kids seem to thrive in the public school environment where they are served everything up in a generally organized curriculum while others are self-starting and self motivated to make discoveries for themselves. I do agree though, that certain elements of institutionalized public education is probably doing more harm than good for society. Really an interesting topic with no simple solutions.

institutionalized learning... ...turns out regimented competitive citizens likely only to aggravate our current social ills

Citation needed... and I count a couple of other statements of fact similarly not backed up by anything. The problem with non-institutionalised learning is that it results in no qualifications. No certificate at the end to say you did it with a satisfactory level of proficiency. The only exception to this is homeschooling, because it is institutionalised just enough.

The problem with schools currently is that class sizes are too big, and there's far to much emphasis on memorisation. Class sizes being too big leads to the bored student problem, where teachers just don't have enough time to be able to support all of the students and so focus on the few who need the most help, leaving the rest bored. The emphasis on memorisation rather than learning the process to get the answer disgusts me and I believe it is a product of too much standardised testing with too much focus on that testing. I don't give a shit if my kid remembers what 3 times 4 is, as long as they know HOW to get the answer when they need it. That knowledge of HOW to get the answer demonstrates an understanding of the problem and what 3 times 4 actually means. I could teach a parrot to say 3 times 4 is 12, but it doesn't mean the parrot understands it.

On the other hand...if we DIDN'T have public schools, we wouldn't have to fight the damn creationists and morning prayer jackwagons over them.  They could pray their pea brains out in school and you could send your kid to a school that never mentions doG if you want.

Our public school system is not conducive to real learning but homeschooling isn't the answer. Homeschooling can be done well but most of the time it isn't. In many cases children are offered biased materials and only exposed to the ideals of their parents. They are also not given opportunities for interacting with other children and being independent from their parents. These problems don't need to exist but they would in most cases.

 I was home-schooled up until high school and it did not do me any favors. I showed up to public school not having ever seen a cell diagram. The only thing that I knew about evolution was that it was evil and wrong.I also had no idea how to properly interact with my peers. I became invisible for 2 years and was finally able to make friends as a junior. I realized that I love science and began to love learning about the world. At least in my case, public school was better for me in every way.

The system needs a major overhaul. Children should be learning through play and exploration. Finland has it right!

Why are Finland's Schools Succesful?

On the other hand, there's a surprising number of secular homeschoolers.  You can bet they get evolution and science in their homeschooling!


© 2022   Created by Rebel.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service