Okay. Epiphany might be a slight overstatement. But I was thinking last night as I brushed my teeth and pondered the math homework my daughter worked on that evening, what is this good for? What does school prepare you for, really? And I thought about its inefficiency. How many things take longer due to the sheer numbers of kids. And then I thought about all the forms and the papers they bring home and the crazy codes of self correction (I would explain it to you, but then I would have to kill you- or rather, if I explained it to you, you might die of boredom) and the committees and the useless homework and how we all submit to it because that is just the way it is. And then I realised that school is a training for bureacracy. It is a place where you follow mind numbing rules, and participate in mind numbing activities to achieve a mind numbing result.
And then, this is where my frightening little epiphany hit me. If school is there to train our children to fit nicely into society, where they will shuffle papers around because someone told them to, then, what what does this mean? And then I thought of Hannah Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Eichmann the perfect bureaucrat. Didn’t think, just did his job, shuffled papers so well that hundreds of thousands people died efficiently at the stroke of his pen.
I know, I know. This is the extreme. But you get my point? The best scenario is Bartleby the Scribner or the poor guy in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The worst case scenario is that we are breeding a whole generation of tiny, unthinking Eichmanns. In fact, I am not sure if I don’t belong to a similar generation.
The whole idea that school can teach critical thinking skills is laughable. My children complete their work because they A) want to please the teacher B) get me off their backs c) save face in front of their peers. There is the odd occasion where a spark of interest gets them to take some initiative in their own learning process, but sadly, these moments are few and far between.
Now here is the hard part. As someone who has just thought these thoughts, what do I do with them?
I am sure there must be a form for me to fill somewhere….