Criticism of schooling Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_schooling

Anti-schooling activism or radical education reform describes positions that are critical of school as a learning institution and/or compulsory schooling laws or multiple attempts and approaches to fundamentally change the school system respectively. People of this movement usually advocate alternatives to the traditional school system, education independent from school, the absence of the concept of schooling as a whole, or at least the right that people can choose where and how they are educated.

These attitudes criticize the learning atmosphere and environment of school and oppose the educational monopoly of school and conventional standard and practice of schooling for reasons such as the use of compulsory schooling as a tool of assimilation, the belief that a too structured and predetermined learning system can be detrimental for children and that the school environment often prevents learning rather than encouraging the innate natural curiosity by using unnatural extrinsic pressures and bribery methods like grades, or the conviction that schooling is used as a form of political or governmental control for the far-reaching implementation of certain ideologies in the population. Another very persistent reason is that they think that school does not prepare children for the "real life" outside of school and that many teachers do not have a neutral view of the world because they have only attended academic institutions a large part of their life. Others criticize the forced contact in school and are of the opinion that school makes children spend a large part of their most important development phase in a building fobbed off from society exclusively with children in their own age group, seated and entrusted with the task of obeying the orders of one authority figure for several hours each day. Some may also feel a deep aversion to school based on their personal experiences or question the efficiency and sustainability of school learning and are of the opinion that compulsory schooling represents an impermissible interference with the rights and freedoms of parents and children; and believe that schools for knowledge transfer purposes are no longer necessary and increasingly becoming obsolete and therefore consider compulsory education (which would also include autodidacticism) to be more sensible than compulsory school attendance laws.


Teaching as political/government control[edit]

A non-curriculum, non-instructional method of teaching was advocated by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in their book Teaching as a Subversive Activity. In inquiry education students are encouraged to ask questions which are meaningful to them, and which do not necessarily have easy answers; teachers are encouraged to avoid giving answers.[1]

Murray N. Rothbard argues that the history of the drive for compulsory schooling is not guided by altruism, but by a desire to coerce the population into a mold desired by dominant forces in society.[2]

John Caldwell Holt asserts that youths should have the right to control and direct their own learning, and that the current compulsory schooling system violates a basic fundamental right of humans: the right to decide what enters our minds. He thinks that freedom of learning is part of freedom of thought, even more fundamental a human right than freedom of speech. He especially states that forced schooling, regardless of whether the student is learning anything whatsoever, or if the student could more effectively learn elsewhere in different ways, is a gross violation of civil liberties.[3]

Nathaniel Branden adduces government should not be permitted to remove children forcibly from their homes, with or without the parents' consent, and subject the children to educational training and procedures of which the parents may or may not approve. He also claims that citizens should not have their wealth expropriated to support an educational system which they may or may not sanction, and to pay for the education of children who are not their own. He claims this must be true for anyone who understands and is consistently committed to the principle of individual rights. He asserts that the disgracefully low level of education in America today is the predictable result of a state-controlled school system, and that the solution is to bring the field of education into the marketplace.[4]

The corruption of children – Rousseau[edit]

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his book Emile: or, On Education (first published in 1762) that all children are perfectly designed organisms, ready to learn from their surroundings so as to grow into virtuous adults, but due to the malign influence of corrupt society, they often fail to do so. Rousseau advocated an educational method which consisted of removing the child from society—for example, to a country home—and alternately conditioning him through changes to environment and setting traps and puzzles for him to solve or overcome.[citation needed]

Rousseau was unusual in that he recognized and addressed the potential of a problem of legitimation for teaching. He advocated that adults always be truthful with children, and in particular that they never hide the fact that the basis for their authority in teaching was purely one of physical coercion: "I'm bigger than you." Once children reached the age of reason, at about 12, they would be engaged as free individuals in the ongoing process of their own.[citation needed]

Grading – Illich[edit]

In Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich calls for the disestablishment of schools. He claims that schooling confuses teaching with learning, grades with education, diplomas with competence, attendance with attainment, and, especially, process with substance. He writes that schools do not reward real achievement, only processes. Schools inhibit a person's will and ability to self-learn, ultimately resulting in psychological impotence. He claims that forced schooling perverts the victims’ natural inclination to grow and learn and replaces it with the demand for instruction. Further, the current model of schooling, replete with credentials, betrays the value of a self-taught individual. Moreover, institutionalized schooling seeks to quantify the unquantifiable – human growth.

Effects on local culture and economics[edit]

In some cases schooling has been used as a tool for assimilation and a both deliberate and inadvertent tool to change local culture and economics into another form. Opponents of this effect argue it is a human right for a culture to be maintained, and education can violate this human right.[5] Forced schooling has been used to forcibly assimilate Native Americans in the United States and Canada, which some have said is cultural genocide.[6][7] Many psychologists believe the forced assimilation of native cultures has contributed to their high suicide rates and poverty.[8] Western education encourages Western modes of survival and economic systems, which can be worse and poorer than the existing modes of survival and economic systems of an existing culture.[8][9][10]

School related stress and depression[edit]

There are many factors that can cause schooling to be source of stress and depression in a person's life, which can have long-term health effects[11][12] and mental disorders.[13] School bullying can lead to depression and long term emotional damage.[14] Societal and familial academic pressure and rigorous schooling can also lead to stress, depressions, and suicide.[15][16] Academic pressure and rigorous schooling has been pointed to as a cause of the high rate of suicide among South Korean adolescents.[17][18][19][20] General boredom from school can also cause stress,[21] and low academic performance can lead to low self esteem.[22] A student's family can suffer from academic related stress as well.[23]

Ineffective or counter to its purpose[edit]

Some of the proposed purposes of western style compulsory education are to prepare students to join the adult workforce and be financially successful, have students learn useful skills and knowledge, and prepare students to make positive economic or scientific contributions to society.[24][25] Critics of schooling say it is ineffective at achieving these purposes and goals. In many countries, schools do not keep up with the skills demanded by the workplace, or never have taught relevant skills.[26][27][28][29] Students often feel unprepared for college as well.[30] More schooling does not necessarily correlate with greater economic growth.[31] Alternate forms of schooling, such as the Sudbury model, have been shown to be sufficient for college acceptance and other western cultural goals.[32]

Instead of being a way out of poverty and a way to stay away from crime, for many, school has the opposite effect. Schooling often perpetuates poverty and class divisions.[22][33][34] At many schools, students are introduced to gangs, drugs and crime.[35] The school to prison pipeline also converts children into criminals through overly harsh punishments.[36] Punishments from truancy and other school related laws also adversely effect students and parents.[37][38][39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Postman, Neil, and Weingartner, Charles (1969), Teaching as a Subversive Activity, Dell, New York, NY.
  2. ^ Rothbard, Murray N. (1999). Education, free & compulsory. Auburn, Ala: Ludwig von Mises Institute. ISBN 978-0-945466-22-2.
  3. ^ Holt ; Holt, John Caldwell (1975). Escape from Childhood. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-24434-5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Branden, N. (1963). Public Education, Should Education be Compulsory and Tax Supported, as it is Today? Chapter 5, Common Fallacies About Capitalism, Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 89.
  5. ^ Noam, Schimmel (2007-01-01). "Indigenous education and human rights". eprints.lse.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  6. ^ Austen, Ian (2015-06-02). "Canada's Forced Schooling of Aboriginal Children Was 'Cultural Genocide,' Report Finds". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  7. ^ Jones, Jennifer; Bosworth, Dee Ann; Lonetree, Amy (2011). "American Indian Boarding Schools: An Exploration of Global Ethnic & Cultural Cleansing" (PDF). Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways.
  8. ^ a b "A struggle for hope". apa.org. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  9. ^ "Philosophy of Education -- From: Chapter 5: Schooling in Capitalist America". faculty.webster.edu. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
  10. ^ "neolithic hunter-gatherers: Marshall Sahlins- The Original Affluent Society". www.eco-action.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  11. ^ Schneiderman, Neil; Ironson, Gail; Siegel, Scott D. (2004-11-01). "Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants". Annual Review of Clinical Psychology. 1 (1): 607–628. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141. ISSN 1548-5943. PMC 2568977. PMID 17716101.
  12. ^ Abeles, Vicki (2016-01-02). "Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  13. ^ Gray, Peter (2010-01-26). "The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders". Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  14. ^ "The Long Term Effects of Bullying". www.mentalhelp.net. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  15. ^ Lythcott-Haims, Julie (2015-07-05). "Kids of Helicopter Parents Are Sputtering Out". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  16. ^ "School Stress Takes A Toll On Health, Teens And Parents Say". NPR.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  17. ^ "South Korean education success has its costs in unhappiness and suicide rates". 2015-06-16. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  18. ^ "Why We Should Not Copy Education in South Korea". Diane Ravitch's blog. 2014-08-03. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  19. ^ "Suicide is leading cause of death among South Korean teens, says report". UPI. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  20. ^ "The All-Work, No-Play Culture Of South Korean Education". NPR.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  21. ^ ""I'm Bored!" – Research on Attention Sheds Light on the Unengaged Mind". Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  22. ^ a b Thomsen, Michael (2013-05-01). "The Case Against Grades". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  23. ^ Pressman, Robert M.; Sugarman, David B.; Nemon, Melissa L.; Desjarlais, Jennifer; Owens, Judith A.; Schettini-Evans, Allison (2015). "Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents' Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background". The American Journal of Family Therapy. 43 (4): 297–313. doi:10.1080/01926187.2015.1061407.
  24. ^ ASCD. "Education Update:Quality Feedback:What Is the Purpose of Education?". www.ascd.org. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  25. ^ "What is the purpose of education?". www.sec-ed.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  26. ^ "Schools 'failing to prepare young people for work', say business leaders". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  27. ^ "Schools are 'too focused on exam results and don't prepare students for the workplace', survey finds". The Independent. 2015-08-24. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  28. ^ "'Education inflation' hurts Swedes' job prospects". 2013-09-17. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  29. ^ Reich, Robert (2014-09-03). "Robert Reich: College is a ludicrous waste of money". Salon. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  30. ^ "Survey: Most high school students feel unprepared for college, careers". EdSource. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  31. ^ "Education and Economic Growth - Education Next". Education Next. 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  32. ^ "Sudbury Valley School • Online Library. Alumni". www.sudval.org. Archived from the original on 2016-10-04. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  33. ^ Soling, Cevin (2016-05-15). "How Public Schools Demand Failure and Perpetuate Poverty". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  34. ^ Hochschild, Jennifer L. (2016-11-19). "Social Class in Public Schools". Journal of Social Issues. 59 (4).
  35. ^ Howell, James; Lynch, James (2000). "Youth Gangs in School" (PDF). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Juvenile Justice Bulletin.
  36. ^ "School-to-Prison Pipeline". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  37. ^ "Compulsory Education's Unforeseen Consequences: Nebraska Case Studies". COMMON CORE. 2013-07-23. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  38. ^ Goldstein, Dana (2015-03-06). "Inexcusable Absences". New Republic. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  39. ^ "Jail for Missed Days at School? The Madness of Truancy Laws". Reason.com. 2015-06-06. Retrieved 2016-11-20.