A Celtic New Year’s Kindling: School


Shoes31The year blesses us with so many opportunities for “do overs” and “undo’s”.  The end of October is a great time to take all the old, dry sticks of “used-to-be” and burn them, so to speak. What a good time to talk about the effect of what happens before we go into our careers.  For most of us, that means  enduring schooling. So, today, let’s light a bonfire and use all the broken script, bad files and soul malware for kindling. Let’s talk about what school is good for and what it’s just not.


12 years (o mas) of learning how to stand and walk down a narrow space, without touching either wall,  in a straight line.

Walk in line (no talking!) to the bathroom at exactly the same time every day;

Walk in line to the gym and back; to the cafeteria and back; to the library and back; to the bus and off the bus home.

You can tell who went to school in the USA: they all stand in line when anything is being passed out.

It’s beyond belief. At the end of those 12 years of obediently standing in line, the educated man or woman is suddenly expected to know how to live life and make the multiplicity of decisions adults must make, like–

  • Determine what to do to make a living
  • Find and keep a job
  • Decide who to marry, to get married, go to graduate school or join the army
  • Vote the party that wants to pump more money into an antiquated, basically dysfunctional system
  • Vote the party that wants to dump the system and go back to the time when it was all up to every individual to educate their own kids their own way

The argument about exactly what school is supposed to do in society changes every generation. Believe me. I was a teacher once and I made it my business to study the history of the profession. The joke “easter egg” I stumbled upon in my independent study is the circular movement of change: about every 30 years or so, somebody comes up with an idea to “fix” the educational system. In response, every generation of education experts goes into an “educational reform movement of the day” tizzy and begins worrying weary teachers with articles and long-winded training seminars on the “new method”.

Gradually, the “new thing” falls out of fashion under the stern examination of another group of researchers–usually from another field–and schools allow the “new thing” to slowly collapse under administrative paperwork until it goes away and another “reform” takes its place. It like the nightmare of platform shoes. This is my opinion, of course, but I have seen it, student and teacher, happen so many times.  Look at this: Math never made sense to me until I got out of school. Back in the 6th grade, when everybody was supposed to “strengthen our weaknesses”, I was assigned into an experimental remedial math program (the only thing I learned was how to sleep with my eyes open). Wonder of wonders, I was actually learning to do math very well in the program that allowed me to learn at my pace in a self-guided system until…suddenly the program just stopped.

Clearly, there are things school is great at doing, but things it definitely is not!

Happy and Blessed Celtic New Year.