This is my experience of school. That it takes all that is attractive in a child – playfulness, exuberance and a willingness to try stuff out – and replaces it with fear: of failure, of not fitting in, and of being picked on by someone who is bigger than you.

And then they tell you that they are the best years of your life.


You get people going on about the 3R’s as if it is the magic formula that will ‘save’ the next generation. That, and discipline in the classroom. But if that is the limit of your ambitions for the education system you will have a workforce fit to work in McDonalds and little else.

Technically speaking, the 3R’s is the 1R, 1W and 1A. But who cares if Reading, Riting and Rithmatic is spelt rong, eh?


This is the only purpose of education, as I see it: that when our children leave school they are in a position to maximise their potential in life; to express themselves fully. That is the opportunity that education, by its very nature, provides; and that is the opportunity that education, as we know it, misses.

If the vast majority of children spend most of their time at school being bored out of their minds, that, to put it bluntly, is a disgrace. It is not their ADHD that is the problem, it is the fact that so much of what they are taught is completely irrelevant to their lives.

If you see how they engage with gadgets and gizmos and the like, so many young people have incredible aptitude and intelligence. They know everything there is to know, and more. Why don’t we operate on that level? Why don’t we get them to create and build and operate stuff that relates to their experience of the world?

That is how the real world works, so perhaps our education system should reflect that.

Or is it a pride thing: are we afraid that if we operate on their level they will show us up? How dare they be better than us!? It is our duty to make sure that they understand the way things are …

Or, maybe, it is time that we learnt a thing or two from them.

And more to the point why, when people discuss education, is everyone involved in the process apart from the people who actually experience it?

Any other business that showed such disregard for its customers would be closed down very quickly.

Any system of government that operated on that basis would be called a tyranny.

It is time that our education system left the 19th century and entered the 21st.

Let them have their say, and then, maybe, more of them will want to stay


“Yes, well, they’re kids. What do they know about life?”

They know enough to not be in a job they hate for years and years, and married to someone they can’t stand for years and years. They know enough to go out and have fun and play, without worrying whether it’s the right thing to do. It’s when they become adults, and they have to start taking life really seriously, that they start doing all the things they swore they would never do.

In many respects, ‘adulthood’ is a virus worse than cancer, as it kills all the juice, all the energy, all the life, of life, slowly and surely.

© Phillip A. Klein March 2008

Published in: on March 13, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment