This claim seems an unnecessarily sour assessment of the schools we have and how we got there; and as more hindrance than help with moving forward.
For my own part as a student, I found nothing at all of suppressing my ‘inherently free human spirit’. Nor do I, looking back, see spots where the education given failed me via errors of commission. Rather, I look at the failures of my formal learning as omission, as work and knowledge the schools should easily have given me, but didn’t.
Which, of course, is not to say that schools effectively serve all, or even most.
Schools simply have not had the resources to teach all that was needed to all comers. My high school had no good writing teacher. My university had no way of squeezing writing training into the science curricular day.
This is changing. Far more is actually or theoretically available to customize how, where, and what is learned. We have automated or crowdsourced text editing. We have instantly available videos to show the way. A friend last night taught himself to cut a door hinge mortice. It took YouTube for me to learn to sharpen a chainsaw after decades of paying or using a dull chain.
Our challenge ahead is to facilitate use of these wonderful learning resources. To connect them, so one boy can practice writing what he learned about chain saws, while another girl practices coding for a rocket orbital journey.
When we talk about education, we too often talk of the feelings and needs of the writer’s spirit, which of course is most familiar to the majority of authors commenting on education policy and practice.
We forget that human dignity comes when a teen enters a hospital needing extended treatment. And can only get better if many people suppress their spirit and arrive at work in the morn, with a full knowledge of bones and muscles and pharmacokinetics, of flavorful nutritional balance, of electronic records security, of the magnetic resonance spectra of the metaboleme.
As we modify K12 learning to accommodate old ideals and new resources, it’s important we focus not on dour perceptions of the past, but rather on careful, enthusiastic adoption of the opportunities of the present.