How to vacate the school system

3 superior alternatives to school

In my last article, the Tragedy of the Teacher, I argued that the school system is tragically transforming you from a well-meaning teacher into little more than a prison guard. In the school system, your sole purpose is making your inmates march to the beat of the drum: following one-size-fits-all school curricula and completing countless tests. This is sacrificing your professional discretion on the altar of administrative control and uniformity. It’s an insult to your intelligence and professional competence; and it sure as hell is not doing your students any good either. So it’s high time to look at some alternatives.

The school system is sacrificing your professional discretion on the altar of administrative control and uniformity.

Before we start looking around at other styles of education, though, we need to narrow down exactly what it is we’re looking for. After all, there are thousands of different educational styles out there; and we want to make sure we’re moving in the right direction at least.

Luckily, we have already diagnosed the problem: systematic rigidity. One-size-fits-all curricula and mandatory standardized tests, largely divorced from reality, and no room for your professional discretion to help students in their development of their individual strengths and talents.

Calvin’s futile escape attempt

If the problem is rigidity, then the solution is freedom. Freedom for you to choose a method that most effectively assists the student in his or her development, without an administration micromanaging what happens in your classroom. But most importantly, freedom for students to pursue their own interests and learn what’s meaningful to them.

This style of learning is called self-directed learning and it is regarded by many as the only ethical way of learning; because it doesn’t rely on compulsion. There are roughly 3 different ways that this style of learning can be practiced:

If you prefer video over text, I recommend watching this one
  1. Sudbury school (democratic school)
    This is a school where students are completely in charge of their own education and free to spend their time however they wish, pursuing their own interests, and learning what is meaningful to them. Teachers are there to assist students as helpers, not judges. All decisions about the school (including how the money is spent) are decided by direct democracy, with both students and staff having equal votes.
  2. Unschooling
    Like Sudbury students, unschoolers are free to pursue their own interests, and are completely in charge of and responsible for their own education. The difference is that unschoolers are not necessarily part of a learning community centered around direct democracy. This is why unschooling is often seen as a subset of homeschooling. Games, play, travel, museums, internships, apprenticeships and real-life social interactions are important modes of learning for unschoolers.
  3. Self-directed learning centers
    Self-directed learning centers are basically buildings where unschooling happens. The main difference with Sudbury schools is that the learning centers are not based on a democratic structure of collective governing, but on spontaneous order. Self-directed learning centers typically provide students with classes, speakers and events based on the individual goals and interests of the students.
Photo courtesy of the Sudbury School of Atlanta

The reason these alternatives are superior to the current school system is because they all recognize a couple of fundamental truths about ourselves as human beings and how we learn:

  1. We will always learn what we need to learn in order to achieve our goals
  2. We forget information that is not relevant to our lives

This is why you don’t forget the names of your siblings or things you need to know for your job. But you have probably forgotten the capital of Tanzania, the atomic number of iron, and 95% of all the other things you were taught in school.

Compulsory schooling is both unnecessary and ineffective

Because these truths are fundamental to how humans work, no matter their age, compulsory schooling is both unnecessary and ineffective. Self-directed learning makes students learn what they need, when they need it, which makes this method of learning far superior to compulsory schooling.

If you’re still not convinced that the school system is bad enough to vacate entirely, stay tuned for my next article in which I go deeper into exactly how the school system is ruining students, and how it has probably ruined you to some degree if you were subject to it in the past.