|Harm in the School System
Diplomate, American Board
of Psychiatry and Neurology
As a social psychiatrist, I examine society
much like a doctor examines a patient. One of the most troubling
ailments that I encounter is our school system, which - without ever
realizing it -
majority of our students.
It is my belief that our school system is the
most fundamental cause of the social problems that our society faces
today. Far from being expensive, the solution to this problem
would cost no money.
|Speaking from a
psychiatric perspective, our most critical mental attributes
involve emotions, judgment, a sense of priority, empathy, conscience,
interpersonal relations, self-esteem, identity, independence, the
ability to concentrate, and a number of other
functions that defy description. I will lump all of these
attributes under the term
'mindfulness'. Reading comprehension level, mathematical ability,
and standardized test scores are much further down the priority list.
There is a sharp jump in the
of mental illness
after children begin school.
This would suggest that something about our school system is in direct
conflict with the human psyche. The academy-award-winning film
American Beauty captures the essence of social dysfunction
in today's world, and has the power to portray many things that cannot
equally be expressed through the written word. I would urge you to
see this film. Note how most of the characters in this film suffer
from a major personality disorder. By restructuring our schools,
many such disorders could be prevented. I will show you how.
First, we must conquer our obsession with
attempting to align academic
achievement with a time-table. Everyone has a very unique
personality, and therefore, learns at a different pace. Some
people are ready to learn how to read at age 3, while others may be
better to suited to learning how at age 10. In schools, we force
subject matter down the throats of the students. We neglect to
realize, however, that children learn much more quickly and effectively
if they are receptive and eager to learn the subject matter.
Children could master the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic far
more quickly, if they were allowed to learn what they wanted to learn
when they wanted to learn it.
Prior to about 1850,
schooling as we
presently understand the term - wasn't considered critical to the
development of young minds. Granted, some children did attend
schools, but only as often as they wanted to.
education was far from
mandatory, yet children still learned to read, write, and perform
arithmetic. In fact, Senator Kennedy's office once
released a paper stating that prior to the
implementation of compulsory education, the literacy rate was 98%.
Afterwards, the figure never exceeded 91%.
Forcing people to learn has no value, and
is extremely harmful. Tests, grades, busywork, and competition are at the
core of the problems that plague our schools. The motivation to
learn must come from within the student. Often, we become so
concerned with fulfilling the demands of other people, that we lose
track of what we feel and who we are. I have met or worked with
countless individuals who are intellectually well developed, but who
have lost touch with their inner-self.
As a child, everyone is
curious and eager to learn. Before attending school and being subjected to this process
of coercion, children manage to learn a complex language (in bilingual
families, two languages) and a copious amount of things about their
environment. There is no reason why such learning could not
continue without the negative effects of rigid institutionalization and
standardized test scores, which seem to form the basis of modern-day
education. Rather than hindering the growth of our children, we
must provide an environment that will nourish them, and facilitate
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