School Problems

Adapted from the TCS List archives

A poster asked:

Do many TCS parents whose children don't have to go to school find ways to persuade their children to continue with home education (unschooling, whatever) even when the children say that they want to go to school?

Another poster replied to the first:

I hope so. It's my belief that school sucks, generally, even with the freedoms I describe above, and that the only reason a TCS child would want to go is because of the paucity of other ways to get what they want (like meeting people, being with friends, and so on). The best way a TCS parent could handle such a situation IMO is to help provide (create!) a bounty of other good ways for the child to get what they want. This would have the effect of turning school into a sad silly choice (by the child's lights) compared to the better ways of being with friends, or whatever. This is another one of those things that's easier said than done (for most people, anyway).

This is too sweeping. Lots of things ‘suck’ for most people, but very few things suck for everyone. People are very, very different, and there is a danger in just assuming that a child is acting out of desperation when in fact they are quite healthily pursuing their own ends. The danger is that one will then, in effect, be refusing to help them pursue these ends, and, in effect, start to undermine them by constantly seeking alternatives and constantly acting on the assumption that there must be something wrong with them, or with the alternatives that you are providing for them, if they persist in wanting this.

Take Iraq, for instance. Replace ‘school’ by ‘Iraq’ in what the poster suggests above, and you may see what I mean. Very few TCS children want to go there, and if one did want to, the chances are that this would be because of some misconception or ignorance (e.g. underestimating how dangerous it is there). But if the desire to go survived the child's hearing the relevant explanations, then the chances are that for this child, at this point in their life visiting Iraq is a good idea. So then I think the next step should not be to “create a bounty of other good ways for the child to get what they want ... turning [Iraq] into a sad silly choice (by the child's lights)...”. Instead, the parents should try to find ways of helping the child actually to visit Iraq while avoiding as many of the disadvantages as possible.

Admittedly, thinking along those lines might well also include trying to find other countries that were similar to Iraq in the respects that interested the child, but weren't as dangerous etc. This would count as finding “other good ways for the child to get what they want”, but it still wouldn't make the original idea of Iraq seem silly, just less then optimal after all.

Same with school.

On a related matter, a poster wrote:

As you know, my son would like to try the neighborhood kindergarten. But he's not even allowed to get up and go use the phone if he needs to! I am really uncomfortable with that. He may decide at 8:30 that he'd like to call me, but be forced to wait until noon. How horrible!

Possible solution 1: tell the kindergarten organisers that your son is to be allowed to phone you whenever he likes. This is a condition of his attending.

Possible solution 2: mobile phone (or pager).

Possible solution 3: phone him one or more times during the morning (during each call he decides, among other things, how long it should be until the next call).

Another poster also wrote:

Surely if the nursery school is such that it forbids children from making a phone call, it would be coercive in other ways too? It sounds to me as if not being able to make a phone call would be the least of it. The phrase “not EVEN” indicates that there's more to it than the phone calls.
Well, yes, but the situation the other poster described was that the child wants to try the kindergarten. Presumably he has been given the best available information about what the regime is like. So this question is all about what happens if he changes his mind while he is there.

I think that this issue (of being allowed to leave / make contact with parents) is a pivotal one, actually much more important than how coercive the regime itself is. For if the child has the right to complain to a guaranteed-sympathetic adult about a grievance and/or leave at zero notice whenever he likes, there is an absolute upper bound to how much harm the experience can do him. And conversely, if he does not have those rights (or, what amounts to the same thing, if he does not have complete confidence that he has those rights), then even what appear to be only slightly coercive aspects of the regime can easily amount to torture.