Sunday, February 3, 2013

I stumbled upon this quote from the wonderful site Brain Pickings, and I can't help but think it'd be the perfect answer to my son Oliver's unique intelligence and accompanying hatred of school.

Why not eliminate schooling between age 12-16? It’s biologically + psychologically too turbulent a time to be cooped up inside, made to sit all the time. During these years, kids would live communally – doing some work, anyway being physically active, in the countryside... Those four 'missing' years of school could be added on, at a much later age. At, say, age 50-54 everyone would have to go back to school. (One could get a deferment for a few years, in special cases, if one was in a special work or creative project that couldn’t be broken off.) In this 50-54 schooling, have strong pressure to learn a new job or profession – plus liberal arts stuff, general science (ecology, biology), and language skills.
This simple change in the age specificity of schooling would a) reduce adolescent discontent, anomie, boredom, neurosis; b) radically modify the almost inevitable process by which people at 50 are psychologically and intellectually ossified – have become increasingly conservative, politically – and retrograde in their tastes (Neil Simon plays, etc.)
There would no longer be one huge generation gap (war), between the young and the not young – but 5 or 6 generation gaps, each much less severe.
After all, since most people from now on are going to live to be 70, 75, 80, why should all their schooling be bunched together in the first 1/3 or 1/4 of their lives – so that it’s downhill all the way
 Early schooling – age 6-12 – would be intensive language skills, basic science, civics, the arts.
 Back to school at 16: liberal arts for two year
Age 18-21: job training through apprenticeship, not schooling

-- from Susan Sontag's recently released As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980


  1. Could we ever, ever be that common sensical?

  2. My son would love this idea!

    My wish is simple. Start high school around 11:00. Work until 4:00 with a 15 minute break. I believe this would produce kids that actually enjoyed school and better grades. It is my opinion that a lot of teens are simply deprived of sleep as their circadian rhythm is different than others.

  3. I see her point about teenagers. I think it's smart for kids to take a gap year after high school and before college, just to get that kind of world experience. (Granted, that's a bit later than she's suggesting.)

    But going back to school at 50? Don't we already have that -- adult education, night school, that kind of thing?

  4. Thanks for sharing this bit of Susan Sontag's voice. I love how she turns things on their heads, not so much so we can agree or disagree with her ideas but so that we can maybe wake up and see a different vision of education than the one we've got and keep blindly following. I have a 17-year-old grandson who started out with great enthusiasm and creativity, which the system beat right out of him. Now we're not sure he'll graduate high school because he just quit caring. He's been "schooled" into thinking he's stupid, which he is not, but he doesn't learn by sitting in a chair and soaking up data. We need more Susan Sontag kind of thinking.

    Oliver is brilliant. I love hearing stories about him, and I'm over here east of the Rockies cheering him on, and my grandson, and all kids who don't fit the standardization of an education system that is elitist.

  5. I have this photo in a frame in my bathroom. Just saying. :)

  6. I would love to go back and have a fourth try at algebra. I'm certain it would be magical and not torturous.

  7. Did you ever read Boys Adrift (Leonard Sax)? It might be malarkey but I thought it was interesting. In part advocates for more hands on teaching for boys - blowing s*** up in science labs, hiking thru woods, etc.



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