Monday, June 19, 2006

Education Vindication

Every so often my most excellent other half will surprise me with a moment of vindication concerning some subject near and dear to my cantankerous soul. This was the case recently when, during a conversation with a colleague of hers the subject turned to our educational system and its shortcomings. Now, in the past I have pointed out the evils of the Prussian System and its founders to her but, as is sometimes the case, she had to find and see the info for herself (in order assure herself that I wasn't just having a Dale Gribble moment, no doubt). That evening she came home and informed me that I was right. The American government school system, inspired by the Prussian System of King Frederick William III was evil and we needed to do something about it, mainly to find some way to not put our kids through the same mind numbing grinder which we had been forced through.

She mentioned private schools, (which we had utilised to great effect for "Pre-school" and "Pre-Kindergarten") but quickly became discouraged when I pointed out that even the "private" schools were based upon the same system. Even though the academics they offer are superior, the teachers are better and they often manage to challenge the kids more than the government schools they are still based upon the same Prussian inspired educational system.

Of course, there is always the time honoured and proven method of Home Schooling, an option that must always be on the table. And that is an option for many but, sadly not for all. As someone who has been involved in the political arm of Libertarianism for years I've seen most of the arguments and plans that are out there. None, other than the abolition of government schools have really addressed the issue of getting rid of the Prussian influence, (other than Home Schoolers). "Public" or community schools are unlikely to ever go away and "libertarian" politicians are growing ever more reticent in mentioning it, in order to preserve their "electability".

So, once again I set my mind to the task of finding an answer to the problem of community schools. No matter how we cut it, communities are going to need schools of some sort, due to the fact that a large number of parents are either incapable of teaching their children or are unable to. The main goal must be to keep the Prussian system at bay and somehow manage to maximise the educational potential of the children. Yes, not all of them are going to be scientists or healers but, the world still needs manual labourers, dish washers and even the occasional chef and artist.

While I was pondering this problem my mind kept coming back to two things; Chiron, the original "teacher" and the ancient Greek "gymnasium" system of education, (still alive, in spirit in some countries, but co-opted by the States). Here, I think is a model to build a community school upon. An open ended educational system, with speakers and tutors, rather than instructors. Buildings, (when necessary) that reflect the gymnasium concept of openness and freedom would necessarily be a must. This is one that I actually had some experience with. Way back when, in a land far to the South of where I currently reside, some truly intelligent person managed to sneak something by the Powers That Be and designed a school and a system that came close to what I now envision.

Back in the day, when I was a 7th and 8th grader I attended a "Middle School" that had no interior walls, (other than those necessary for structural integrity, storage and privacy). The large interior was divided by movable storage, (closets, cubby's and the like) and had as it's core a library. The curriculum was the standard fare, approved by the state and local school boards, with some advanced course work available for those so inclined. The students were given a blank "schedule" every week, in order to satisfy state requirements for course attendance and were expected to attend a minimum of 5 hours of any given class. The courses available were Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, English, Physical "Education", Art and Music. Bells still announced the beginning and ending of "periods" but there was no requirement for you to leave one class for another. You could continue to explore an experiment as long as you wished, continue reading in English, complete a weeks worth of Mathematics in a day or whatever you wished.

This was a step in the right direction but, sadly the school was remodeled and their system discarded a few years after I left, at the behest of the Unions and the Educational Powers The Be, no doubt and what could have been the seed of a better way was quashed in favour of uniformity, "tradition", mediocrity and control. The "open" school concept is a sound one, as proven by the old "one room school house" and it's too bad that our current government systems preclude it.

Now, to get back on track...the Community School or, as I like to term it, The Chironasium (an homage to Chiron, not "Oblivion"), would be a place of learning with visiting or permanent "lecturers" in a given subject, rather than instructors. A system where the teacher sets the pace to suit the students and the students who are more advanced jump in as tutors for the newer or less advanced students. Above all a place where there is an exchange of ideas and knowledge rather than rote learning as we currently have in our government facilities.

Let parents, kids and the instructors work together to determine how much of what a kid wishes to ingest in any given time frame and work within a free form "schedule". Any testing or exams could be carried out the way they were in the "One Room School House"...the older students teach the younger students, becoming a lecturer in fact. If they can teach to the subject they certainly prove their comprehension more readily than any pen and paper test could ascertain.

Such a concept could work, provided the State, unions and other busybodies could be kept out of the equation. A place where students could wander from lecture to lecture, from laboratory to library as and when they wished is anathema to the Prussian system inspired authoritarians who currently control things. Funding would have to be voluntary tuition, paid by families of attendees with scholarships being made available via charity or private donations, rather than through unrepresented taxation and property rights negation. A Chironasium could even allow for the free attendance of those unable to pay or work out arrangements for a family to pay via voluntarism by doing grounds work, janitorial or maintenance work in exchange for educating their young.

By necessity the student numbers would be kept low in order to assure that there was an actual teacher/student relationship. While this might mean more places of learning per community than we currently have it would insure a better learning experience for everyone and would be based upon voluntary attendance and funding, not taxation. It's not a new idea by any means, but it is definitely one worth exploring for those who have some need for community based schools. A free market "school" and system, a place where kids could be taught the Zero Aggression Principle, individualist philosphy, as well as the great philosophers and concepts of Liberty at a younger age.

As for us...who knows what we'll finally do? We will continue to supplement our childrens education in defiance of the government schools and will undo the indoctrination as it occurs and see what happens. Perhaps we'll go the Home School route sooner, rather than later. Something will have to give, tho. Our current system of government indoctrination, unrepresentative taxation and property rights negation to fund schools must change. Even those who choose to Home School or have no children still support the system currently in place via property taxes and other coercive taxation an that is a blatantly unfair thing. Shoot, even the old "One Room School House" concept is superior to what we currently have. My father attended one in his extremely rural area until he was High School aged and he turned out just fine. Maybe I'll have to find some funding and open the first Chironasium...anyone want to be a lecturer?

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sunni said...

I would love to teach again, but I will not set foot in a state-controlled classroom. Sign me up.

Michael said...

I have you as numero uno on the list! Now if I can find the kind of cash...give ma couple of years and I'll see what I can scrounge up!