On unconventional means of animal care

I keep wanting to write a long post explaining my thoughts on teaching, the educational establishment, childhood development, and related topics.  I never seem to get around to it.  But as I was explaining my views to a friend today, a phrase came out that I think sums all of my thoughts on this subject up neatly:

“Education” is like feeding a dog by shoving kibble up its ass.

That’s really all there is to it.

EDIT: See also: here, here, and here.

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  1. you know, you used the wrong form of “its.”

  2. well said, though I would phrase it “compulsory education”.
    Actually, I’d call it “brilliantly said’.

  3. depends..

    If you are an auto-didact–then any kind of compulsory education is going to suck.

    However, having lived in Germany and gotten to see how a very “free and happy and study whatever you want and show up to lectures if you want to or don’t and whatever, just feel how awesome it is to be in this free environment where you can attain your full experience at your own pace and blah blah blabh..” and seen that most students–and these are the ones that even got the right to go to a university by being at the tops of all of their classes–just fucked around for years on end and the average time to finish the equivalent of a liberal arts degree was something like 9 years.

    I prefer more structured environments. Yes, you sometimes have to learn crap you don’t want.. but guess what.. sometimes you learn crap tha tyou thought would be boring, but you find out, after a bit, that it actually is useful and fun and helpful.

    Pluralism is the key. if you don’t like structured education, then don’t do it. Homeschooling is possible and generally accepted, so go do that.. but dissing the entire educational system just because it doesn’t work for you and assuming that it then obviously cannot work for others is rather narrow and biased (and somewhat sketchy at that…)

    1. Re: depends..

      Nope, sorry. Not gonna be gracious on this one. Education is broken, end of story. Children are not made to learn that way.

      1. Then..

        Nope. Sorry. You are wrong.

        Children learn in different ways.
        You are not me and I represent a counter example
        Thus, your grand claim can be shown to fail to be in accord with empirical reality.
        Thus, it is merely abstract nonsense.

        End of story.

        1. Re: Then..

          I never said that children can’t learn despite the system. I know lots of smart people who were subjected to compulsory schooling and yet resisted it’s underlying lessons retained their sense of curiousity and ability to learn.

          Unfortunately most of their peers were not so strong.

          1. you are all basing this on an assumption..

            that children only learn stuff if they like it.. and that this is enough…

            You are imputing wisdom to them that they may not have.

            Prove your assumption for every single child in every case and I will agree with you. Don’t give me evidence from a private school with a self-selecting group of kids. Instead, find evidence where an entire cities school system is run this way and that then every kid does better.

            otherwise, you are just making assumptions that are without any robust empirical foundation. That may work for you, but it isn’t particularly convincing for me or a number of others.

          2. Re: you are all basing this on an assumption..

            Yes, and the current system is obviously working out brilliantly.

          3. Re: you are all basing this on an assumption..

            I have interacted with a lot of children, and I have never once met one that could efficiently learn subjects he or she was uninterested in. You could try; but you could be certain that 95% (at least) of the information would be gone within 6 weeks.

          4. Re: you are all basing this on an assumption..

            ..and more usually, within 6 hours.

          5. Re: Then..

            I’m smart.

            I was subjected to compulsory schooling.

            I hated the social atmosphere but loved the actual educational parts (had some issues with the physical act of writing, but that was more of an ADHD thing and it was gotten past once I learned how to type).

            If the “underlying lessons” means “conform. obey.”, I somehow never got those lessons (well, I got them from the Catholic School but that was more of a religion thing than a school issue).

            I never lost my sense of curiosity or my ability to learn.

            I learned WITH the system, not despite it.

            Sorry, you’re wrong.

            Honestly? Speaking frankly, w/ no “niceties” covering it up, I think that the complaint you’re making (and that I’ve heard from a ton of others) is merely the complaint of people who didn’t want to learn what school had to teach them. “Uppity” kids (usually brilliant) who didn’t want to learn what they needed to learn. Now a part of this might be those individuals saying that they were bored and they already knew all of this, but I HIGHLY doubt that they already learned LITERALLY EVERYTHING that school was trying to teach them. The classes going too slow, yes, I can see that. But there’s no way that these kids already know every single scrap of knowledge, every single fact that school teaches.

            I was always GRATEFUL to learn damn near anything anyone wanted to teach me. My thirst for knowledge was that strong. And so I loved school, at least the educational aspect.

            Oh, sure, I got bored sometimes. Sure, there were times that I didn’t pay attention. But I think in large part that was due to depression and my screwed up head from being in that horrid social environment for so many years. (Of course, there’s probably some real boredom in there, but everyone has times when they’re bored.)

            You should talk to about school from the teacher’s angle. It’s damn hard to do any changes in the classroom when you’re stuck trying to wrangle kids who don’t want to learn, kids who are so messed up that they threaten your life (happened to her), and the school that says you have to teach XYZ and you have to teach it in NOP way and that it needs to progress at the speed of Q.

            Q being a variable of course. Not Q from Star Trek. Although that would be cool too. 😉

    2. Re: depends..

      Also: if self-guided education doesn’t work, explain the success of this. I’ve met a guy who did a documentary on these schools. Not only does it work, it works consistently and repeatably, with copiously documented metrics showing that the former students wind up better off and happier than their public-schooled peers.

      It sounds like you’re talking about a university, which is something people go to long after their minds have been irreversibly fucked by the primary schools.

      1. Easy..

        You are talking about a self-selecting group at that school. thus, you already have a biased sample and any study that looks at a private school with $6000 tuition for the first incoming child automatically will be biased.

        it’s like doing a study of chocolate lovers and finding out, “Hey! Chocolate really is the best food in the world!”

        In any case.. I’ve also have first hand experience raising kids and know that if put little Josh in such a place, he would learn absolutely nothing. He lives only for video games. He reads never. he does the least amount of work possible in everything else.

        Overall, you are basically coming across here as an arrogant elitist who is trying to make absolutist claims about how everyone is–which is remarkably similar to the basic flaw in many public educational systems of trying to make every student learn in the same way. You are merely replacing a dictatorship that you don’t like with one of your own.

        how noble.

        1. Re: Easy..

          You obviously read very little. You know what a lot of those kids spend most of their time doing? Playing video games! And yet, amazingly, they come out of it better educated than their peers!

          But from what you’ve said above, in your world view that is already a impossibility, that a child could play video games all the time and still get a full education. So what’s the point of arguing?

        2. Re: Easy..

          Nix that first line (“You obviously…”). I’m not sure if the website I pointed to goes into the habits of the children.

        3. Re: Easy..

          Incidentally, do you expose Josh to your insulting opinion of his capabilities?

          To far? I’m sorry, but I believe it’s warranted. I am sick to death of living in a society where parents and teachers routinely tell their children just how little they expect of them, and just how little they think of the things the children find important, thereby insuring that they will almost certainly undervalue themselves and their own interests for the rest of their lives. When an “uneducated” 10 year-old in India shoulders the responsibility for caring for his entire family it’s not because he’s “different” or “special”, it’s because it needs to be done and no one is around to tell him that all he’s good for is playing worthless games.

          1. too far.


            Why do you feel the need to resort to implied ad hominem attacks… Because I disagree with you?

            whatever. You may believe what you believe. I shall not raise any objections any more, seeing that you obviously don’t really want to hear any difference of opinion. I shall merely watch.

            For the record:

            I do not ever insult little Josh. I do not tell him that he is stupid or even imply it in his actions. All I do is try to help him with his homework for a number of hours each weekend when I have the chance and to encourage him to explore whatever interests him.

            I do take exception to him playing video games all the time for a number of practical reasons.
            1) For a while, he began to lie to us about whether he had homework to do so that he could play more video games. This obviously is not necessarily a healthy thing to encourae.
            2) More importantly, it became clear over time that the longer he played video games, the worse his behavior became towards his siblings. There was a direct correlation between the time he spent doing them and the cruelty he displayed towards his sisters and the amount he would hit them. This could not be tolerated.

            In any case, you obviously don’t really want to hear my opinions any more. I only piped in here to offer the view that, perhaps, your assumptions might not be borne out 100% in all cases. I did not state that the process you described was awful or stupid–mainly because I do not even think that–I myself went to a Montessori school and got to experience a more free form environment from age 3-6 and I do value such things.

            I also know that there were lots of things that I at first abhorred–such as reading–but only really got into after being forced to do more of it and thus finding that there were fields of literature that I really enjoyed.

            But I’m getting off track. You don’t really need any of my examples or opinions and that is your right. When you imply that I’m a dictatorial parent just because I don’t agree with you, however, then I think that is over the line and I don’t wish to participate any more.

            I’m sorry for intruding, and shall now refrain from doing so again.

          2. Re: too far.

            You brought your parenting into this, not me.

            I push back at you because unlike 90% of the people I meet, I think you’re actually smart enough and open-minded enough to learn new perspectives.

            If you’re not willing to participate in relationships where your friends actually push you and hold you accountable, fine. I prefer my friendships to be more than hippy wishy-washy anything-goes lovefests. I expect them to challenge me, and I challenge them back. If I had a friend who routinely slapped their child in the face I’d challenge them, and I hope they’d do the same for me. Yes, even if they were “just” a friend online. This isn’t just an abstract intellectual farting ground, it’s about real life, and real people.

          3. No I didn’t.

            I did not bring my parenting into this. All I stated was some observations about how my stepson appears to act at times. I did not state how I handled these situations.

            You, however, made assumptions about my parenting–and negative accusatory assumptions at that–based only on a stated observation. That is an ad hominem attack, that is not pushing.

            You could have asked, “how do you handle his seeming preference for video games over work?” or other such questions before accusing me of being an abusive parent.

            You did not. You made an accusatory statement based on your own ideological framework without any actual real first hand experience or even textual accounts of any of my parenting actions.

            As you say.. you want more than hippy wishy-washy friendships–you want challenges and consequences. Well, challenges are one thing, but baseless accusations are another and the consequences are that I don’t really feel like continuing this conversation.

            In any case, my original disagreement with you had nothing to do with whether I was open-minded enough to learn new perspectives. I never stated that I was against this new mode of education. All I did was voice my skepticism that it was the grand solution to learning for each and every individual. I was not disparaging the content of your position, merely displaying my disagreement with your epistemological certainty about its validity in all cases.

            Your retorts to me have continually posited that I am close minded and antagonistic towards this content, which is unsupported by any of the evidence here. I, as I have stated in other posts in this thread, am actually sympathetic to the kind of educational system you are referring to. I think it would actually work quite well for jessica–who is a natural go-getter/artistic and quite sharp–but who gets easily bored in school. I admit that it might also possibly work for lil Josh, but I’m much more doubtful about that for a number of reasons that I haven’t even begun to elaborate here.

            Finally, what irks me the most here is that you went on the offensive and attacked me as a person in this disagreement. You could actually have proably gotten me to agree with you if you had counter-argued that:
            “Well, I guess I could concede–or at least to agree to disagree–that perhaps in not every single solitary last case that this would work best for everyone–but I am going to stick to my guns with my assertion that overall and in the majority–perhaps even vast majority–of cases that this system is stronger, more effective and works better than anything else out there.

            With that pragmatic argument, you probably would have gotten me. Instead, you basically slandered me to uphold your idealistic distaste for the public school systems in this country and, if I were like 90% of the people in this country, would have definitely turned me against whatever proposition you were pushing.

            That does not uphold your oft proclaimed desire to have dialogues with people of differing opinions. instead it tends to give evidence that you just want these people as cannon fodder for your sharp tongue.

            I do appreciate honesty–even brutal honesty–but when it appears more to be just brutality, then I’m not appreciative.

          4. Re: No I didn’t.

            For what it’s worth, I feel equally accused of saying things I did not say.

            You voiced not just facts, but an attitude – perhaps you would prefer the word opinion, or belief. That belief was this:

            I know that if put little Josh in such a place, he would learn absolutely nothing

            . I would feel insulted on any human being’s behalf – child or adult, relative or stranger – if you said that of them. It is a statement that says you have evaluated their potential to thrive in a free environment, dismissed it, and that the case is closed.

            Then I asked you whether you reflect that attitude to him in your interactions. I didn’t tell you what you do. I didn’t say you were dictatorial or anything else. It is my experience that our beliefs about people shape our interactions with them. I wondered if this was the case, and asked in order to prod you to think about it. I used judgemental language, yes. I feel very strongly about this subject, and as I explained above, I find the dismissal of a child’s – or anyone’s – potential to be insulting. So that’s what I called it.

            Throughout this conversation I have called into question not your actions, but your beliefs. I have tried to make you aware of attitudes that seem, to me, to be so deeply embedded that that you actually see reality differently from me (see e.g. above, re: coercion). I admit I am not communicating well because I am emotionally invested, an investment I hope to explain in a later post. But I’m also trying to shock you out of some assumptions that may be so deeply rooted that they form part of the mental framework within which you evaluate the ideas I’m trying to get across. Perhaps that’s not the best tactic.

          5. I really, truly do see the world differently…

            1. How does my statement of belief that I don’t think he would learn anything there equate to a dismissal of lil Josh’s potential?

            Maybe I think his potential would be better served in a different environment.

            You, again, continue to make ideological pronouncements upon my statements–merely because I am coming from a different perspective than you.

            You claim to want me to open up my mind to re-evaluate my perspective–which is fine, I can see the value in that–but I’m less likely to do that when all you do is criticize my perspective and make accusatory statements about me because I hold this different perspective.

            You cannot bully me into believing what you want. Kicking someone in the nuts is indeed shocking, but not likely to make them like you very much.

            In any case.. I know that I see reality very differently from you. I constantly question my own reality and test it.. so you are not really shocking me on that level anyway. I still disagree with you, and not out of spite or ignorance, but because I DO see the world differently and hold different values.

            Thus, your attempts at “shocking” me are just coming across as patronizing.

            ps–You did imply that I was cruel and dismissive of my son based on a statement I made about whether I thought he would fit in a particular school system well or not. If you feel insulted when I do not actually dismiss someone’s potential, but only say that his potential would be better served elsewhere–are you at least equally insulted when you think that you have to shock me out of my framework–implying that I am so clearly ideological that I don’t question things myself.

            Seems like the only potential that’s really been dismissed is my own by you.

        4. Re: Easy..

          Look, I don’t know if I can get anything coherent across about this. What I’m saying is, when you say “I’ve also have first hand experience raising kids and know that if put little Josh in such a place, he would learn absolutely nothing.”, that shows me that you are so stuck inside the mindset that I am fighting that you can’t even see the possibility of another mindset. That’s exactly what other people say about their kids, and it is that attitude in and of itself which perpetuates the problem. And on the rare occasion that they put their kids in a school like Sudbury, they discover, lo and behold, he learns!

          What they are missing, what it seems you are missing, is that they are locked into a mindset where they only recognize certain models of learning, and when a child resists those models he must be resisting learning! When in fact, he’s only resisting someone else’s idea of how education has to take place. And the sad thing is that it’s a vicious circle, because the harder the child pushes, the more they think that regimented education is his only hope, and the less likely they are to lighten up. As you put it, he would learn absolutely nothing. It’s a foregone conclusion. There’s no other possibility. So there is no reason to even try. The belief becomes reality.

        5. Re: Easy..

          And before you accuse me of talking out my ass, I have a stepchild who is exactly as you describe. He plays video games “all the time”. He resists books (that are pushed on him) and all other work. I’ll bet they’d get along great.

          1. Tricstmr

            Personal anecdotal evidence: My son, the same one of whom Avdi writes, plays video games probably 60% of his waking time. The rest of the time he plays with friends, discusses topics of interest with me, plays with Legos, helps me cook.

            I’ve adopted the unschooling model over a short period of time and have found that this works quite well for my kids. I have two at opposite extremes. While my son, to the outsider, might appear lazy about learning, he learns quite a bit! One would be amazed at what he absorbs when it is of interest to him. He made a Lego pirate ship complete with paper sail without anyone’s help or directions on his own. My daughter, otoh, sits at the computer all day chatting wtih friends and (remember, she’s 12) creates graphics, writes HTML, goes about learning other webbie things such as PHP. On Her Own! And, following in her mother’s footsteps, has become quite the grammar-geek, always correcting everyone’s grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

            This self-directed thing ROCKS! Not to mention it works. I would recommend it to anyone with kids of any variety (ADHD, OCD, NORMAL…).

        6. Re: Easy..

          As a teacher, and someone involved with a school like the one in the documentary, I need to stick my nose in here.

          I would assert something entirely different: that it is better for kids to learn nothing at all than to learn not to think for themselves. And let’s not kid ourselves: public schools teach children to follow the rules, crave the approval of authority, and accept a numerical judgment on their capabilities. Kids who buck this system are troublemakers, no matter how smart they are, or how good their numeric scores are. (For example, see: ME)

          I have a daughter, and if I had to choose between letting her think for herself and forcing her to master fractions, the fractions could go to hell.

          Fortunately, science actually supports the claim that people (especially children) learn better when they are not coerced. ALL people. Additionally, this school in Avdi’s documentary does self select for students: it self selects for students with learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Often, kids like that end up in schools like this because other schools will no longer take them. So the sucess of this model is based on a student population that would be considered problematic in a normal school. Dyslexia is irrelevant: kids learn anyway. ADHD is irrelevant: kids learn anyway. Oppositional behavior is irrelevant: kids learn anyway.

          So let’s talk about Josh. What’s with the videogames anyway? Why are do so many kids prefer them to real interaction? I mean, okay, games are fun, sure, but beyond that: why is it all video games all the time? Why immerse yourself in a virtual world instead of the real one? What’s outside the videogame? Parents who think you’re lazy and oppositional. A school system that gets to place a value judgment on you and provides stupid amounts of pointless work and stress. A family who values their children based on achievements within this system. Well gee, doc, I’d avoid that shit too. If your son says “Hey dad, I beat three guys who were stronger than me today” you don’t consider that an achievement. If he says “I’d like to save up my allowance money to buy a new video game” you don’t consider that a worthy goal.

          The point here is that people want kids to buy into the system of goals and achievement that are accepted, and don’t give kids any way to feel their own sense of achievement outside the system, outside the approval of the adults in their lives. That’s why oppositional behavior is so addictive, because even if it’s wrong or self destructive at least you are making your own rules.

          Where does that oppositional/avoidant behavior go when kids are allowed to make their own rules from the beginning?

          Away. It goes away.

          And I’m not speaking out of my ass, or from some unsupported theory. The theory is supported by practice, and the practice is supported by scientific research.

          I don’t expect people to accept it. People like to control things, and their little systems are a safety net, a way to keep life orderly. They don’t let go of those systems easily, and shore up the defenses when someone challenges them.

          The way I see it, children raised the way Avdi and I believe in raising children will be at an advantage later on in life. So the people who believe children must be forced into learning can just keep playing that game, because at least my children will be free.

          1. just to respond quickly to you..

            I don’t actually have anything against these methods. That is not what I ever stated. I also agree that kids learn better when they are not coerced.

            All I noted was that some kids do need more structure than others and not all may function equally well in each school type.

            As for little Josh–we never forbid video games–but as I state above–we do limit them because they tend to lead him into some destructive behaviors that are antagonistic against other people around him.

            We actually have encouraged him to save up money to buy video games and help him to learn whatever he wants to learn.

            I don’t appreciate the implication that you think I think the kids are lazy and oppositional. You don’t know the situation exactly and haven’t seen the evidence.

            In any case, something that I can add is that not all public schools are the same. I went to some very excellent public schools whose teachers won “best teacher in the state” awards and whose students had higher rates of college attendance (and Ivy League attendance) than the private schools around them.

            Thus, I do take a bit of umbrage at the idea that all public schols suck. I know that not all do. ARe there masisve problems in many school districst and I do agree that many changes should be made in places.

            I’m not ideological here–I just do not agree with–to me–overgeneralized statements about how “all education is shit.” Empirically I know this was not true in my case or in the case of most of my friends growing up–thus I disagree.

            I can agree to disagree.. but when I’m attacked for it.. then I need not participate anymore.

            See you on the INTJ list..

          2. Re: just to respond quickly to you..

            You’re missing my point: public schools suck on principle. Just because they pump out students with higher “achievements” than some private schools doesn’t mean they are any better on principle. Remember, I don’t value those achievements, so the fact that some public schools produce kids who get good SAT scores and get into Ivy League schools means nothing to me.

            I object to public schooling because of the coercive nature. Every child needs to learn to respect the rights of others and not, say, attack his sisters, but beyond that children really don’t need to be forced into learning. For every piece of literature you enjoyed but never would have picked up on your own, there are a dozen other things that you have forgotten you ever learned because you didn’t care. People learn things when they are ready to learn them, and sometimes people are never ready and that’s okay. I could read (and interpret) literature when I was 4, but I couldn’t get a decent grasp on advanced mathematics until college. One of my best friends was factoring when he was 8, but still doesn’t read books. Nobody ever forced me to learn to read, and nobody forced him to learn math. We just did, when we were ready to do so. Nobody, especially a child, is going to grow up in this world without figuring out how to count money, or read street signs, or write letters to each other. The skills that are necessary to live in this nation become apparent, and people learn them from each other without being coerced to learn them.

            What you are defending is what is called “liberal arts” education. The theory of liberal arts education is that everyone should be able to do a little bit of everything. A mathematician SHOULD be able to read literature, and a historian SHOULD be able to differentiate. Why? You say it’s because these unspecialized skills are opportunities to be involved in something you might never otherwise know about. It’s a good argument, but defeats itself: people are just as likely to come across these things in their peer group as they are in school. I’m learning Ruby because thought it was a cool programming language. He’s reading Atlas Shrugged because it’s my favorite book. Neither of us has to be forced to do things outside of our sphere of mastery. We eagerly do so without coercion. And we aren’t special in this way. Everyone learns from their friends.

            I have read more books on educational philosophies than you could shake a stick at. I’ve been a teacher, I am a teacher, and I was a TA for the education department at my University.

            All I ask is that you do what it takes to actually inform yourself about this new model of education. This is one of those opportunities a social community gives you to learn new things.

            Ultimately, you don’t have to agree, but please don’t shut out the possibility because we aren’t able to explain the entire movement in detail. Free at Last explains the philosophy and practice in detail. The Pursuit of Happiness examines alumni of this educational model and offers empirical comparisons of “achievement” even within the system we reject.

            I’m not trying to be a jerk, but so many people seem to think that “children need structure” means “children must be forced to do what we think they need to do.” It’s a hard barrier to cross.

            So please, I think you have the wrong idea about all of this. Read the documentation and decide for yourself.

          3. When idd I say…

            .. that I thought the movement was wrong?

            All I said was that I don’t necessarily agree that it works for everyone.

            You claim that all public schools suck on principle because they are coercive.

            Mine wasn’t. I went to private and public schools and the most open and encouraging teachers I ever had were at my public high school.

            i don’t see what your point actually is?

            That I must agree that every single child will automatically always do better at this one kind of school because only it has the one true path of education??

            I will tend to doubt that on prinipcle.. because that kind of experience has never struck me of being true for humans overall.

            perhaps I’m wrong, and I will look into the system.. but I still find this rather knee-jerk attitude that everything public must always be awful to be far more ideological–and empricially unfounded in my case–than the reverse.

            Finally–I still find the method of argumentation used here to be less than helpful. Because I don’t agree with some of your positions–i.e. that public schools suck on principle–I’m put in the category of someone who is obviously uninformed and whose disagreement cannot possibly be due to logic or experience–but must be due to ideological blinders.

            That, I hope you can see, is rather insulting. I did not go out and say that this movement you support is wrong.. I did not say anything negative about it. yet you keep trying to posit that I have.

            I’m happy that these kinds of schools are out there.. i believe that they serve a good purpose. I hope that the good public schools learn from them and adapt and that the crappy public schools get replaced by them.. I’m not ideological about this…

            I just want things to work.. and will support the things that I have known to work… trying to tell me that they can’t possibly have worked is not going to convince me otherwise…

          4. Re: When idd I say…

            You claim that all public schools suck on principle because they are coercive.

            Mine wasn’t. I went to private and public schools and the most open and encouraging teachers I ever had were at my public high school.

            The reason we are at cross purposes is because you are looking at a dog and saying “This is a cat. I know that it is a cat.”

            In those open, encouraging, non-coercive schools, were you free to sit in the hall and play with legos instead of attend class? Were you free to pick a different teacher? Were you free to read a book of your choice while the teacher spoke? When I say “were you free”, I mean, could you do those things with no negative repercussions at all? No attempt to make you do something else?

            If the answer is “no”, then by definition it was a coercive environment, and by saying otherwise you are lying to yourself. Think about that for a second. I know you are a smart person, capable of thinking analytically and introspectively, and yet you are so enmeshed in this system of thought that you can’t even name a thing what it is.

            I’m not saying you didn’t thrive in the system. Nobody’s saying you didn’t learn. Or that you weren’t happy. Clearly, you were not coerced in ways which you found objectionable in the long run. But to state, flat-out, that it was a non-coercive environment simply because you didn’t mind doing what you were told, going to the classes you were directed to, listening when you were supposed to listen, does not make it any less coercive; and the fact that you apparently can’t even see that is scary. It’s like a prisoner saying “I enjoy it here, therefore I am free.”

          5. no again..

            1. To continue your analogy..

            I am looking at my cat, and you are telling me it’s a wild bobcat that will not be a good pet.

            2. No, I wasn’t able to play with legos, but I disagree with your understanding of “coercive.”

            Coercion, to me, implies forcing someone to do something that someone does not really want to do.

            Your definition of coercion, which includes directions on doing stuff that you don’t mind doing pretty makes every single possible restrictions on ones actions “coercive.” Thus a cake recipe is “coercive” because it tells you to do certain things and not others.

            I find this to be a silly definition of coercive. it is far to broad and not particularly helpful in my view.

            3. I can see what you think is going on–but I disagree with your description of it. For you, again, it might actually be a prison, but for me, a prison is a far different thing.

            The difference, here, is that you are trying to impose your set of definitions of such things as “coertion” and “prison” with all their attendant negative meanings upon my description of my own experience, whereas I am not trying to do the same to you.

            I have not stated that I think that your position is delusionally naieve or any such thing (I don’t actually believe this, but I know people who would describe it as such)… You, however, are not granting my own personal description and evaluation of my own experience with the same validity that I grant yours.

            I see the world differently from you, Avdi. You think my world is warped and twisted.
            Fine. I don’t really see it that way.

            I, personally, find your perspective on the world to be rather more characterized by wishful thinking than reality–but I recognize that my perspective is limited.

            I would find it nice if you would recognize your own limitations and stop trying to tell me how I have to see the world. Suggestions are welcome, but telling me what my values have to be is not something that is your right.

          6. Re: no again..

            3. I can see what you think is going on–but I disagree with your description of it. For you, again, it might actually be a prison, but for me, a prison is a far different thing.

            Can you at least appreciate that if you really were in prison, and you stated this belief that since they weren’t making you do anything you didn’t want to do, that it wasn’t a prison, how insulted your fellow inmates would feel?

            The difference between coercion and non-coercion is simple. A cake recipe will not discipline you if you depart from it’s instructions. A public school will. Some might give you more leeway than others, but eventually they will; whereas no amount of provocation will ever cause that cake recipe to send you to the principle’s office. I don’t see this as a question of “perspective”; it’s just physical reality. It can be empirically tested.

          7. If..

            If I were in prison.. then I can see that statement might irritate other inmates.

            But so what? If I dispute that I am in prison–and if I have a large group of fellow people around me who also would dispute that we are in prison.. and then this one person comes along–or even a different group comes along and says–“BUT YES, YOU ARE AND YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE US WHEN WE TELL YOU THAT!”
            and then they get insulted when we say we aren’t…

            Then it is the other group that is being insulted… they are acting like Christians who claim they are being oppressed when you disagree with what they believe in.

            I cannot agree with this perspective. It only works if we all agree on the foundation–otherwise, you are acting like many fundamentalist christians I have known…

            As for Coercion–you may find this trite semantics–but HELL YES THE CAKE WILL DISCIPLINE YOU! If you decide that it doesn’t need flour, but instead needs sawdust, then the cake will totally fail to come out. And if you continue to eat it, you will feel it’s discipline.

            You may feel that there is somehow something different in the quality of discipline–but I don’t think there really is from my perspective. If I decide to agree to abide by the system–if I don’t mind the rules that they make–then if I break them, then I should expect discipline.

            Now.. I’m not saying everyone will agree to these rules–or that such a system is most effective for all people. But just because you do not think it can possibly work for anyone does not make it so.

            Some people do like structure more than you do. Some people do not place the the coercive line where you do.

            People do think differently. I accept that for you. Should I revise this view? Should I become as dogmatic as you?

            Tell me.

          8. that should say..

            “then it is that group that is being insulting…”

          9. Re: If..


            You’re taking the English language to places I just can’t follow.

          10. P.S. The last comment was by me.

            [See title]

          11. A Quick Aside

            I know my boy (the “depressed” “ADHD” kid) would thrive in the Sudbury-type school. I wonder, though, about kids like my daughter – the gifted ones. I assume they also do well, but I haven’t heard, or read, anything about those kids in the Sudbury environment as of yet.

  4. Nah. I think much more often education is more like putting the dog into the processing plant and what comes out are kibbles and bits.

    Nothing left much living…

  5. There is one thing that one does learn in the hated conformist-manufacturing public school system that is difficult to learn elsewhere: survival behind enemy lines.

    By that I mean the ability to thrive even when thrust into an environment that was skillfully crafted to discourage independence and critical thinking, and is full of people who enjoy such an environment. There are genuinely very few places on the planet where one is not surrounded by the sort of people who make public school a living hell for the thinking kids; even a tenured professorship is no escape, from what I have read. Thickening one’s skin is important.

    1. Except only a small percentage survive. The rest buy into it hook line and sinker.

      1. I have no proof, of course, but I suspect that whether a kid “buys in” and becomes a drone is determined mostly by genetics and perhaps by parental upbringing, and only very weakly by anything a school might do.

  6. That was our assignment in a class: we had to come up with an analogy for teaching math.

    Mine was:

    “Teaching math is like cramming everything you can into a fliptop head, slamming it shut, and hoping the chewing gum apoxy doesnt leak.”


    “Kids wish they could just hook up to the matrix and know kung fu.”

    By the end of the class, we had to change our metaphors.

    Mine talked about roads, stairways and pathways, but now I’m in fliptop head land again.

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