Sunday, June 12, 2005

Column on Miseducation

Schools are Making Students Sick

Tibor R. Machan

So many kids are afflicted with various maladies in school today that one
has to be suspicious about the diagnoses being advanced throughout the
educational community. The varieties of Attention Deficit Disorders in
records boggle the mind, even as many of us have managed to pass through
the system reasonably unscathed. Or have we?

There are those who do not buy into this medical approach to assessing
the problems with contemporary education. I am one of them. Although not a
specialists in the relevant fields of psychological and cognitive
disciplines, I have a bit of experience with schooling, if only my own
education?from kindergarten to the end of graduate school?and my teaching
career?starting in the fall of 1970 and still going strong (not to mention
the educational history of my own three children). Maybe the ideas
garnered throughout this history of experience, observation, and
reflections qualify me to have formed some measure of reasonable insight,
if not strict scientific hypotheses (if such is really available in this
realm of human interest).

For one, in America there is a pedagogical ideal afoot that?s worth some
skeptical consideration. This is that every solitary child deserves and
requires the nearly identical educational experience, from age 6 to at
least 18 (graduation from compulsory schooling), if not all the way to 22
(graduation from college, now treated as everyone?s virtual natural
right). Elsewhere around the globe education is not treated all that
differently as regards its various stages but the egalitarian element is
missing?not all are thought to be fit for such schooling. If we combine
this egalitarianism and the one-size-fits-all aspects of education, the
very reasonable possibility arises that millions and millions of children
are getting miseducated.

Just consider that children, like adults, are individuals, not all the
same?their psychological, temperamental, and related constitution is
highly varied. Although some matters may be required for them all?a bit
like in the fields of nutrition and medicine?on many fronts they have
drastically different needs. Their talents and aptitudes aren?t at all the
same. Their interests begin to diverge early in their lives, especially in
the modern era when opportunities are so plentiful for most of them.

Yet they are essentially given the same ?education.? They are coerced to
attend the same pre-school programs, elementary schools, and high schools,
with the nearly identical courses spoon-fed to them whether or not that?s
what they need, with hardly any attention paid to the fact of their
individuality, their highly varied pedagogical requirements.

Do they really all benefit from being taught nearly the same way, the same
subjects, at the same pace, in the same kind of environments, with
virtually identical administrative methods? That?s simply highly
implausible, even preposterous.

Instead, however, of promoting an educational system that adjust itself
to the immense diversity of the student body, everyone is regimented to
conform to the nearly identical schooling process. Is it, then, any wonder
that a lot of kids are deemed unfit, even afflicted with maladies, within
such an educational system?

Consider that students who are completely mismatched to what the system
has to offer turn their minds to other matters as they are forced to sit
in class being ?taught? by someone serving as a teacher. So they fail to
pay close attention. Instead their minds drift?they gaze out the window
and imagine animals forming from clouds, ?hear? music in their minds, wish
for experiences drastically different from the one with which they are
forcibly confronted.

So, upon doing so such students are declared sick, suffering from ADD of
whatever, then plugged full of some drugs or sent for counseling or
therapy, instead of the much more reasonable conclusion that they are
being totally miseducated, mismatched to the system in place. It?s like
beating someone to a pulp and then complaining that he is sick?what else
do you expect? Whose fault is this? Is their malady natural or most likely
artificially induced?

I think it is the system that is creating a bunch of sick kids and the
kids are fine unless they are subjected to the system. That makes much
better sense than the other way around.

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