“To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education.” ~ J. Krishnamurti
Although I am grateful for my conventional education and experiences in traditional schools, here’s why I don’t want my child to ever be subjected to the tyranny of the classroom.
School worked for me. I was on the honor roll, a teacher’s pet, a nerd, an academic achiever, a lover of reading, writing and math (until trigonometry). I liked school and made wonderful friends there. I graduated near the top of my gigantic class in 1998 in a suburb of Austin and immediately matriculated at the University of Texas, all of 20 miles from my childhood doorstep.
I majored in advertising, but a few years later I got an alternative teaching certificate and brushed up on my Spanish. School worked for me, so much so, that I decided to work for it. I was overjoyed. Going back into the classroom (initially as a sub, and in 2006 as a certified, full-time, bilingual third grade teacher) was like a sweet homecoming, bringing back cheerful memories of my early school days.
So why wouldn’t I want that same experience for my daughter?
As a teacher, I gradually became more disillusioned with each passing year. At the end of the day, between mandatory tests, curriculum, and policies and procedures, I felt I had little left to give, regardless of how creatively I approached the content.
After three years at a low-income, public elementary in Austin, I fled the district, state and even country. Working at an elite, private school in Guatemala City for the next three years, I had access to incredible resources and made amazing friends, yet I felt more and more clear on the fact that the traditional, “American-school” style of classroom education was not for me.
Last year, I realized that even a very small, progressive school that teaches “global citizenship” and promotes peacemaking (in theory, at least), is still a school, and still just simply does not work for the vast majority of learners.
I am still a teacher and a mentor. I am also now a mother, which has clearly shifted my perspective on education as my partner and I continue to contemplate what we want for our girl. (She’s currently two.)
I am thrilled to never again have to coerce kids to sit still, nor make them line up like little soldiers, nor force them ask my permission to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. I am blessed to have this opportunity, yet I have also made it happen through my choices which have led me to drop out of the system and to embark upon a new learning experiment here in our neighborhood. I’ll let you know how it goes.
My childhood in the 1980s wasn’t that long ago, yet our world has changed drastically. The internet mushroomed. The planet is facing dire environmental crises and by that I mean the System and the ecosystem are on the verge of destruction. We cannot, should not and will not stand back and watch helplessly.
We can and we must connect with our communities and increase the sustainability of our lifestyles through becoming way more mindful about the foods we are eating, the liquids we are drinking, the clothes we are wearing, the products we are purchasing, the mode of transportation we are using… and the education (formal and informal) that we are giving our children.
Bonus: 12 J. Krishnamurti quotes on education that will blow your mind, from his brilliant essay, Education and the Significance of Life:
Conventional education makes independent thinking extremely difficult.
Reaction only breeds opposition, and reform needs further reform.
It is only when we face experience as it comes and do not avoid disturbance that we keep intelligence highly awakened; and intelligence highly awakened is intuition, which is the only true guide in life.
As long as education does not cultivate an integrated outlook on life, it has very little significance.
All of us have been trained by education and environment to seek personal gain and security, and to fight for ourselves.
Though we cover it over with pleasant phrases, we have been educated for various professions within a system based on exploitation and acquisitive fear.
Education is not merely a matter of training the mind.
If education leads to war, if it teaches us to destroy or be destroyed, has it not utterly failed?
To bring about right education, we must obviously understand the meaning of life as a whole, and for that we have to be able to think, not consistently but directly and truly.
The function of education is to create human beings who are integrated and, therefore, intelligent.
Intelligence is the capacity to perceive the essential, the what is; and to awaken this capacity in oneself and in others, is education.
What is the good of learning if in the process we are destroying ourselves?
The individual is of first importance, not the system.
Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Editor: Travis May
Images: IMLS Digital Collections/Flickr