Education is not a classroom

A tradition of the American public school, has been to hold a referendum vote on new taxes every few years. A classic political discussion on new funding will hit on issues such as how important it is for the children, how those who reject new taxes on local families to pay for education do not care about the children, and how public education must be protected and nurtured to blossom into this yet unrealized dream.

FireUsually, the promoters of “more funding” tend to gather around the idea that new technologies are about to revolutionize the system, making it cheaper and better for all on board. Their solution; Just give us a little more money now so we can reform the system, then you will see savings and improvements down the road.

I may get into the idiotic nature of such logic in another article, but today, let’s just focus on what education really is.

When one says a person recieved an education, this is usually to imply that the person attended Kindergarten through 12th grade and now has a diploma to show for it. Unfortunately, a diploma is nothing more than the participants ribbon of the education system. Employers, seeing right through the charade, ask for more. They want experience or evidence that you had the drive to actually finish something on your own (like college).

I would like to challenge these assumption. Here are a few common myths and their rebuttles:

  1. An education is simply a thirteen+ year journey that you take with your local peer group: Nothing could be further from the truth. As edusceptic argues, “the school system absolutely needs to accommodate families who are wise enough to know that learning is a whole world activity, and not restricted to a classroom.” Education is about learning, whether this comes from a trip to a museum, Nick Jr. TV, a Sunday School lesson, or a traditional classroom.
  2. Cutting dollars to public schools diminishes the effects of education: This is a silly statement considering the above point. Sitting in a classroom can be a tool to help children learn, but we also need to look at the opportunity cost. What activities and what lessons are they missing?  Are they slowly having the burning desire to learn leached out of them by boredom and lack of challenge? By the public demanding more dollars from the student’s family, we could be siphoning off dollars that would have been used for valuable out of classroom educational opportunities. See myth #4 on this site.
  3. We need standards. Without such standards, children would fall through the cracks: A one size fits all education system, fails most in the name of uniformity. Tell me if you truly believe that “no child left behind” or “profiles in learning” really made your kids smarter. The truth is that standards testing templates tend bureaucratize the education of children. What we really need is a system of local control where parents have measures to hold individual teachers accountable.
  4. Education is too complicated to be handled by amateurs: The nature of how a person learns has not changed, only the subject matter has changed. In today’s world, technologies have made a K-12 education simpler, not harder. In the age of online encyclopedias, Google, and even post secondary education options for high schoolers, we are kidding ourselves if we believe that single teachers in classrooms can compete with the distributed forms of education that the internet brings. Ask most software developers (myself included) how they learned so much about computers. Guess what they will say. They self taught themselves by research and collaboration online. Sure I have a formal degree in computer science, but that only supplements my learning through other channels. Education is more about teaching people how to find and piece together the information and less about having an expert educator provide you with the information. He is educated who knows how to find out what he doesn’t know.

Finally, I would like to leave you with the quote that has made me think many a time about how we educate our kids. (Thanks Bruce Little for the interpretation an critique of this quote):

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. -William Butler Yeats

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject or if you have anything to add. If you found this post interesting, please subscribe to my posts here.

P.S. As long as we are speaking of education, can you figure out the spelling mistake in the article above?

2 thoughts on “Education is not a classroom

  1. I would add that our education system is doing exactly what is was designed to do: create a mass of people who respond to stimuli and not to thought.

    Check out The Deliberate Dumbing Down of Education by Charlotte Iserbyt or
    The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto

    for a complete documentation of how this was done.

  2. @RepublicanMother, thank you very much for the information.

    I looked both those books up and found out the authors have made them freely available here:

    The Deliberate Dumbing Down of Education (

    The Underground History of American Education (

    I will add them to my “must read” list!

    P.S. You have some great content on your site. I will link to it on my blogroll. Thanks!

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