There has been a lot written about the idea of the school system as a colonial tool. It’s not hard to comprehend. It makes sense when you take time to think about it. The public school system in North America was developed as a way to create a baseline of core knowledge including literacy, history, and basic skills that would train people to be employable in a labour based workforce. It’s no accident that this system was instituted at the same time as the rise of capitalism: factories needed workers, bosses needed labourers. But more important than the content of the curriculum is the method in which it is taught: one that forces compliance, obedience, and a culture which declares that your time and mind belong to someone else, not to yourself. It teaches oppressiveness, power structures, and unhealthy competition. It teaches that adults know better than children, that “good” kids follow rules and fit into boxes. These concepts become core to our culture – we assume them to be truths of human behaviour, but they are not, and it take years of deprogramming to undo the damage they cause.
Beyond that, the public education system has become a tool of cultural genocide; it is used to eradicate indigenous cultures through shame and punishment. It uses that same approach to punish neurodiverse children, to squash out creativity or uniqueness. It teaches one curriculum, one version of history, in one manner without leaving room for the natural inquisitiveness of children or the cultural diversity that they bring.
And there are, of course, amazing teachers out there trying to undo these problems, but like the police, the problems ingrained into public education are systemic. The good apples will not be able to reform a system that is designed at it’s core to be oppressive; designed to produce a base level of competency so that it’s graduates can enter other oppressive, capitalist systems.
Most people see school as a necessity. As an unschooler, I’ve been fighting off the questions for the last 3 years: how will your kids get a job? How will they be able to succeed in life? I’m here to tell you there are other ways. There were ways to educate kids before compulsory schooling, and there are new ways being dreamt up as you read this. Self directed education, unschooling, ancestral schooling, child-led learning: these are all concepts that not only work but work better than the public school system as they show kids what a world without inherent oppressive structures can look and feel like.