Why I’m a Little Bit Anti-School (and Anti-Public Education)
I’ve been to school and I’ve been homeschooled. I’ve done a lot of research about school and homeschooling. The more study I do, the more I become convinced schools – particularly public schools – can perform better than they’re currently performing. In this post, we’ll look at a compilation of anti-school quotes that illustrate the shortcomings of school, and how a homeschooling education can be much more beneficial!
Here are some reasons people are anti-school:
- bad school culture and practice
- peer pressure
- lack of discipline
- too much time is wasted controlling students
- too much busywork
- public school interferes with learning
- because public education is a dangerous weapon
- because schools can make you stupid
- too much testing is detrimental
We’ll look at these objections in more detail below by examining quotes on the subjects.
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As a caveat to this whole article, teachers in schools generally do a stellar job and many of the problems pervading schools and public education are more to do with faulty structure and philosophy behind schools and government mandates.
With the odd exception, teachers are lovely and put in countless overtime hours, putting themselves last so they can help children learn difficult concepts or feel valued for their work.
But, this is an anti-school article, so without further ado, let’s begin with the Youtube video below (yes, the one with that strange-looking gentleman on it.).
Unhelpful School Culture and Practice
Sometimes schools can have unhelpful school cultures and practices that are inherent or transferred as a result of peer contact. These include age-selection, over-sexualization, and failing to notice or value a child’s talents properly due to busyness.
But, good gracious, you’ve got to educate him first. You can’t expect a boy to be vicious till he’s been to a good school. – H. H. Munro (Saki)
When we think about diversity in schools, we should also remember we are extremely selective when it comes to age. 100% of the students in just about every classroom are the same age, give or take a year. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
One of the oddest and in my view most harmful, aspects of our treatment of children today is our penchant for segregating them into separate groups by age. We do that not only in schools, but increasingly in out-of-school settings as well. In doing so, we deprive children of a valuable component of their natural means of self-education. – Gray, P. Why We Should Stop Segregating Children by Age: Part I. (2017). Psychology Today.
School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is. – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society
I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. – Anne Sullivan
Sex is common in schools because sex education is no longer about whether students should or shouldn’t have sex. Rather sex ed is about how to apply a condom effectively to avoid Sexually Transmitted Diseases or unwanted pregnancies. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
The biggest lie homeschoolers tell is that it’s not right for everyone. School is totally ineffective. We all know our schools are broken. We are trying to fix them. So the kids in the schools are guinea pigs. The bar is very low for how much better life needs to be outside of school for it to be better than school. – Penelope Trunk
When schools insist on grouping children according to their chronological age, they ignore much research showing that chronological age is a poor indicator of a child’s readiness for school. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool: The Case for Christian Homeschooling.
The best education consists in immunizing people against systematic attempts at education. – Paul Karl Feyerabend
The classroom is for the child; the child is not for the classroom. – Douglas Wilson, The Case for Classical Christian Education (p. 146)
Negative peer pressure teaches some children more than the school itself. We need to be aware that school curriculum and teachers are not the only ones ‘educating’ our children and that, in many instances, peers are more effective at passing on their values to their fellow pupils than teachers or parents might be.
I pay the schoolmaster, but it is the schoolboys who educate my son. Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the biggest problems with school is the peer pressure thing. Basically, you have a few popular kids and everyone wants to be friends with them. If there is an awkward kid, it’s fine to pick on them and it’s funny. It really bugs me. The children aren’t mature enough to see past that. – Mark Demol quoted in Why on Earth Homeschool.
Another reason I’m generally anti-school is due to the pervasive bullying issues present in so many of these establishments. It strikes me that we are missing something big when our most vulnerable members are bullied in school more than we suffer adults to be bullied in workplaces.
Since every effort in our educational life seems to be directed toward making of the child a being foreign to itself, it must of necessity produce individuals foreign to one another, and in everlasting antagonism with each other. – Emma Goldman
Perhaps it’s ironic that while adults would never endure bullying on the scale we see in school, many think a bit of bullying is normal for the weakest members of our society. In fact, many call it ‘resilience training’.- Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
We adults will not endure workplace bullying on the scale schools allow, yet we sometimes expect our younger, more vulnerable members of society to tolerate bullying. We realize workplace bullying is harmful and can cause damage to the worker. But, when we take our children to school, we call bullying ‘resilience training’ – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool: The Case for Christian Homeschooling.
Lack of Discipline
Given learning is often a process that comes about through the discipline of the mind (internally and externally applied), is it any wonder students get so little done when we have establishments that don’t encourage mental discipline and fortitude in their pupils? I say establishments as many teachers are frustrated beyond measure at being impotently unable to discipline children with effective results. Lack of learning is too often the result of a lack of discipline.
Lack of control, as many parents will realise, is detrimental as children need boundaries to mature. Without boundaries, children will suffer the consequences of their unruly and undisciplined behaviour in the future. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool: The Case for Christian Homeschooling.
Unfortunately, expecting public school children to respect one another has adversely affected students as it has set up false expectations as to the graciousness of a child’s character, thereby leading to the failure of schools to institute disciplinary measures in line with the real nature of children. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
Too Much Time is Spent Controlling Students
Another reason I’m anti-school and anti-public education is because schools spend so much unnecessary time controlling a minority of badly behaved students. During the time teachers spend restoring order, the whole class is made to wait until peace is restored. Children don’t need to spend seven hours learning when they can get their lessons done in far less time (homeschools generally complete all their work in three hours or less!); however, this time elapses due to many issues with school including this one.
I don’t blame the big schools for the approach that they take. With thirty two kids in a room, it is impossible to cater education toward each child. Children do have to wait because there are a lot of children to wait for. It is necessary to provide tight order and structure or chaos would take over. It is important to start school at an early hour with a full seven hour day in order to fulfill state requirements..For some kids ‘school’ [might be] the best place. But for our family, it is not. – Nikki Schaefer
Are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day? – Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers, p. 2.
Too Much Busywork
Another massive issue with schools is the timewasting issue of busywork. Busywork is work students are given to occupy them until the bell rings and class is over or the slowest student has caught up to the fastest. Substitute teachers are particularly guilty of handing out busywork due to laziness, lack of commitment to a class they won’t teach again or other factors outside of their control. This unnecessary work is especially deleterious to smart students who end up spending a good proportion of their time failing to learn at the more advanced level they’re capable of working at. For this reason, many parents with gifted school students are told to homeschool their children otherwise their children won’t have an opportunity to properly develop their powers or genius.
“What madness it is,” says Seneca, “to learn so much trash , when time is so precious.” Nothing, therefore, should be learned solely for its value at school, but for its use in life, that the information which a scholar has aquired may not vanish as soon as he leaves school. – John Amos Comenious, 1957, p. 78.
School filler work is as useless as stopping up a rat-hole with an apple dumpling. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
A tremendous amount of filler is done because the day is too long and little children can’t last. They do a lot of stuff just to fill in the time. I think it just wastes their lives away. – Susan McAulay, Why on Earth Homeschool.
School is where you go between when your parents can’t take you, and industry can’t take you. – John Updike
Schools should compress the academic curriculum into a small amount of time. Small children benefit from being at home and spending time in play and activity, supervised in an unstructured way, rather than this artificial school day, where they come home, worn out, having done little academic learning and a lot of filler. – Susan McAulay, Why on Earth Homeschool.
So much time is wasted at school… At school, you can elect to learn a lot about a specific area, but not a little of each as you would usually require in life. – Neville Hesford, quoted in Why on Earth Homeschool.
The modern boy and girl are certainly taught more subjects – but does that always mean they actually know more? – Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers, p. 2.
‘I May Like Learning, but I Don’t Like School – There’s a Difference’
You don’t have to like schools to love learning. Many men who’ve contributed to society extensively have hated school, yet loved their work. The anti-school quotes below exhibit the point beautifully:
I loathed every day and regret every moment I spent in a school. – Woody Allen
How I hated schools, and what a life of anxiety I lived there. I counted the hours to the end of every term, when I should return home. – Winston Churchill
It is a very grave mistake to think the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry. – Albert Einstein
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards. – Mark Twain
Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least. – David P. Gardner
One had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year. – Albert Einstein
Public School Interferes with Learning
Furthering the point above, many believe school isn’t all that helpful when children need to be educated:
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. – Mark Twain
Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education. Bertrand Russell
Assessment of only one type of writing has meant other forms of writing are forgotten, and teachers can’t diversify their teaching to their students’ needs. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool: The Case for Christian Homeschooling.
The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. – Albert Einstein
My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school. – Margaret Mead
What we call education and culture is, for the most part, nothing but the substitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the obsolete fictitious for the contemporary real. – George Bernard Shaw
In public school, many smart students are held back in that they easily complete the average class workload but they can’t go any further in that classroom. These students are looking for an academic challenge, but not one that will draw attention to them. They don’t want to do more than the other students but will spend the rest of the lesson playing on their mobile phones or drawing pictures on their work and whispering.- Kerry Robbins, quoted in Why on Earth Homeschool.
A second major illusion on which the school system rest is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching, it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only in so far as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives…most learning happens casually, and even most intentional learning is not the result of programmed instruction. Normal children learn their first language casually, although faster if their parents pay attention to them.- Ivan Illich
Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. – Plato
Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that to-day, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass-propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard-of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible? – Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning, p. 2.
Education is a Dangerous Weapon
Schools have been used (and many would say are currently being used) to indoctrinate and brainwash children into the desires of the state or leader in power. While education can be used for wonderful purposes, it can also be a weapon in the hands of unscrupulous leaders.
The escalation of the schools is as destructive as the escalation of weapons but less visibly so. – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society
Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run. – Mark Twain
What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook. – Henry David Thoreau
Public school’s preparation for the real world is about as useful as trying to douse a house fire with a small, paper cup. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth HomeschoolI’m afraid the schools will prove the very gates of hell unless they diligently labour in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth. – Martin Luther
The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes and probably lead to acts of violence. – Oscar Wilde
As we’ve thrown God out, we’ve thrown out a lot of Christian education, which benefits our school students personally. Although schools weren’t originally designed to facilitate ungodliness, schools became effective tools for spreading ungodliness. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t school at all. – John Holt
School can Sometimes Make Children Stupid
Far from improving the minds of children, schools can make their intellect stagnate and their critical analysis skills dull.
But such [institutionalized] care only makes them more dependent on more treatment, and renders them increasingly incapable of organising their own lives around their own experiences and resources within their own communities. – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society
Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learned (that is only to be expected) but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? Are you often bothered by coming across grown-up men and women who seem unable to distinguish between a book that is sound, scholarly and properly documented, and one that is to any trained eye, very conspicuously none of these things? Or who cannot handle a library catalogue? Or who, when faced with a book of reference, betray a curious inability to extract from it the passages relevant to the particular question which interests them? – Dorothy Sayers, Lost Tools of Learning, p. 3.
It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. – Albert Einstein
…if we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages. – Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers
Just Throw More Money at Education and It’ll (Surely!) Improve
We seem to waste a lot of money when we throw money at schools yet fail to observe that lack of funding isn’t the issue making schools ineffective at teaching children.
Our entire school system is based on the notion of passive students that must be “taught” if they are to learn. . . . Our country spends tens of billions of dollars each year not just giving students a second-rate education, but at the same time actively preventing them from getting an education on their own. And I’m angry at how school produces submissive students with battered egos. Most students have no idea of the true joys of learning, and of how much they can actually achieve on their own. –Adam Robinson
It is our American habit, if we find the foundations of our educational structure unsatisfactory, to add another story or a wing. – John Dewey
But in both places [North and Latin America] the mere existence of school discourages and disables the poor from taking control of their own learning. All over the world the school has an anti-educational effect on society: school is recognised as the institution which specializes in education. The failures of school is taken by most people as proof that education is a very costly, very complex, always arcane, and frequently almost impossible task. – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society
Schools Have an Unhealthy Monopoly on Education
Who said you had to go to school to get an education? Unfortunately, this is the pervading rhetoric today and it’s led many parents who’d love to home educate to feel inept and destitute of the necessary skills they think they need, but in reality (for the most part) already have.
Potential school teachers are never scarce for long because, on one hand, demand for a skill grows only with it’s performance within a community and, on the other, a man exercising a skill could also teach it. But, at present, those using skills which are in demand and do require a human teacher are discouraged from sharing these skills with others. This is done either by teachers who monopolize the licences or by unions which protect their trade skills… school teachers and made scarce by the belief in the value of licences. Certification constitutes a form of market manipulation and is plausible only to a schooled mind. Most teachers of arts and trades are less skillful, less inventive, and less communicative than the best craftsmen and tradesman. – Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society
If leaders control children through education, we control future leaders and, therefore, the country. – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
Too Much Testing is Harmful
Every time national testing occurs in our school, we see countless articles on its negative effects on students such as stressing out young children unnecessarily. Perhaps the outrage is fierce because many people already realize the tests are less for the sake of the child than for the sake of government records and for the benefit of competitive tiger moms who expect results before relaxation.
Neither learning nor justice is promoted by schooling because educators insist on packaging instruction with certification. – Ivan Illich
Public school creates an environment where children are forced to learn information, much of which is rote learning. Students learn how to swallow lots of information for an exam only for it to be regurgitated and promptly forgotten after the exam. Then they bring this limited learning style to university. There is a better way! – Rebbecca Devitt, Why on Earth Homeschool
Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer. – C. C. Colton
Although I love teachers and appreciate the hard work they put in, I’m really not a fan of schools or their method of teaching. After a considerable amount of time looking at these issues (see my book on it), I’ve decided there are plenty of decent reasons to be anti-school. My experience with school and homeschooling has led me to prefer home education on a personal level. Furthermore, there are many academic reasons to prefer homeschooling over school. These anti-school quotes show how dismal education in school can sometimes be – but there is hope, and homeschooling can be the vector through which you deliver that to your children.