Sunday, 14 October 2018

The Three Things I Learned In School

I recently read an article where some psychologist pondered why kids are increasingly bored, irritable and distracted in school.

The fact that there is a person alive who needs to ask that question led me to write this to try and expunge the horror and disgust from my body and soul.

I spent the requisite number of years slowly ageing in school, the sole manifestation of my completion being the time that had passed.  People have claimed to my face that I clearly learned something in those years, given that I am not entirely illiterate or innumerate.  This of course ignores the fact that while I was well above average in literacy when I completed school, that speaks only for the average state of literacy and nothing of my own.

What I did learn in school took the form of either accidentally noticing what the teacher was saying because I had nothing better to do, or noticing someone knew something I didn't that may be useful and so learning it myself.  I learned to read not when it was taught in school, but when I found out that some books had stuff about stars and planets in them - and that other kids could apparently read them - so I needed to learn to read if I wanted to know about those things, because of course teachers never knew anything worth learning.

Yet the title of this post is "The Things Things I Learned In School", so on to the topic at hand.

My first lesson was on my very first day.  At least I can't accuse school of being slow in imparting the first basic truth!

I was at least partially looking forward to school.  I had been told there was a person there, a "teacher" who knew a lot of things and I'd be able to ask them questions and learn about all the things I wanted to know!  What an exciting notion!

I arrive on my first day and we go through the expected orientation, are seated at our tables and handed pieces of paper with outlined fish on them, along with piles of coloured pencils.  "Colour in the fish to match the colours" the teacher said.

Now looking back I understand that the purpose of this was for the teacher to evaluate what level each kid was, who could read and identify the different colours, who could hold a pencil properly and so on.

But when I was 6, all I knew is that this was a stupid waste of time, because I wasn't retarded so obviously I already knew how to do this and so it clearly wasn't going to teach me anything new.  I asked the teacher why we are doing it and she said "Because that's the task for the class this morning."

This confused 6 year old me, because I was told school is a place where you learn, and I didn't realise that not only had I been lied to, but that even teachers themselves were deluded enough to not know how worthless school actually is...

I asked again and as you'd expect the teacher just got annoyed with me and said "All the other kids are doing it without a problem, so you should too."  I looked around and surely enough all the other kids were either happily colouring in, or looking confused and watching the kid next to them to work out what to do.

My heart sank.  I realised that not only were my entire class retarded sheep, but that school was a place to enslave retarded sheep into doing menial tasks.

Lesson 1:
"School is a place to enslave retarded sheep into doing menial tasks."

It only took about a year to get onto the second lesson, which is pretty good by schooling standards!

In first grade we were assigned a task to write a story.  It could be about anything we wanted, a real story or made up.  So we all wrote our little stories and the teacher had us read them out to the class.

One by one we all get up telling our predictably poor 7 year old kid stories.  The teacher then telling each kid what was good and what needed improving about their story.  I don't remember what she said about most stories, but I could probably safely assume everything she said was wrong given what I've seen about teaching writing since then.

Regardless, up comes one girl, I believe her name was Emily, and reads out her story, which at least to my young mind was quite fascinating.  It was the only story in the class that actually qualified as a story, rather than just random statements about nonsense strung together.  It was certainly better than my own, and the only one that was.  I was curious what the teacher had to say about that!

"You started too many sentences with 'and' instead of using proper punctuation, you need to use full stops more."  And that's it, not one positive comment, unlike every other student.

So I'd already learned that school was for enslaving morons, now that was re-enforced by learning that it was also intended to degrade able people to reduce their ability over many years.

I went from just resenting school and being bored at that point to despising it and wanting desperately to escape.

Lesson 2:
"School is a place to degrade able people to force them down to the average standard, and in turn force the average standard as low as possible."

It took a while for me to learn my third and final lesson at school, all the way until grade 4.  I was a good student up until then, simply because being a good student took about ten minutes a day and shut everyone up so I could mess around the rest of the time.

But in 4th grade, I learnt the lesson that I took with me all the way through the rest of school.

After lunch one day, our teacher assigned us a bunch of seemingly random work to do for the rest of the afternoon.  It was painfully boring, starting with copying nonsense off the board, then doing a bunch of simple math problems.

Finishing after about half an hour (and so with several hours to go), I handed in my work, only to be handed more work.  So I finished that and handed it in, and was handed even more work.

Now I'll admit I was very slow and stupid for taking until this occurred to learn this lesson.  But I sat at my desk with this latest pile of work, realising that if I just didn't do it, I wouldn't have to do any more work.

Then I realised that if I'd never done any of the work I'd ever been given and never did any work ever again, it would make absolutely no difference to anything, ever.  I didn't need to learn anything, because anything I wanted to learn I could learn on my own in 1/100th the time they waste teaching in school, so if I ever found something worth learning I'd just do it myself.  And the assignments of course did nothing for anyone, they were just arbitrary menial tasks for us slaves.

Lesson 3:
"Never doing anything is as productive as doing everything, because all work serves no actual purpose."

And then for the rest of school I basically did nothing and learnt nothing new, and was all the better for it.

Of course the first two lessons were correct, but not good things to be correct.  The third lesson was entirely false in real life, but that's what kids are taught to believe throughout their schooling, so that by the time they are in the "real world" they are typical adults who are happy to work in menial, middle class jobs that achieve nothing of worth, because that's what they are used to.

So when someone has the audacity to complain or question about kids being bored, irritable and distracted at school, I find that rather galling.  If a kid isn't bored, irritated and distracted at school, they have probably already died inside (or weren't alive in the first place).

As a side note, it is well known that in high living standard nations, along with broken families, low literacy and illiteracy are the main factors behind illegal drug use.  And given that schooling seems to do its very best to prevent literacy from being achieved, then it would be fair to argue that school is basically the reason most kids in well of countries end up on illegal drugs.  There's no other way to escape the torment after all, and no one to talk to about it, because it's considered perfectly normal to go to school.

One day I'd like to see schooling reformed so that it actually achieves the vital goal of proper education.  I don't know that it will be done in my lifetime, but it would be so easy with only a handful of changes to turn schools into useful places of learning.  Instead we just throw lots of money at them, pretending that will make a difference.

Maybe one day...

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