Education and Freedom
Diplomate, American Board
of Psychiatry and Neurology
there has been an
unending saga of one group seeking to dominate another.
been bitter struggles over slavery, voting, civil rights, and
Seemingly, we possess an insatiable and destructive need to control each
other. If history
teaches us anything, it is that we are terrified of relinquishing
In past times and in other civilizations,
parents often prearranged the marriages and selected the
occupations of their children. Many aspects of our society have
gradually moved away from this model of constraint.
Many educators, however, feel a need to control
the lives of their students
through the rigid determination of their curriculum.
Students, many of whom are otherwise creative or non-competitive, find
themselves in an unfavorable situation: Although school may be
untrue to their personal constitutions, they must complete the process
and eventually graduate, in order to be accepted by society.
Rather than considering a person's substance, our society only places
value on a person's credentials. Many students react to this
system by becoming indifferent; they react by not learning.
In his book Schools Without Failure (1969), educational reform
pioneer William Glasser, M.D. notes that prior to entering
school, children are far more optimistic. Although reality is
sometimes harsh, many children use their creativity to help them cope
with adversity, and make life fun.
Glasser notes that during his early childhood, he was never asked to
succeed according to rigid and time-constrained standards. If he
failed at a certain task, he was never labeled as a failure. He
learned to use his brain for its basic function: thinking.
In schools, however,
discover that they must use their brains mostly for memorizing rather
than exploring their interests, expressing their ideas, or solving
problems. Even worse, much of what they are asked to
memorize is irrelevant to their world. Often, their reaction to
this is either social withdrawal or destructive anger.
|Still, this process
continues. When we force someone to
memorize certain facts, and they
replicate those facts on a test, we are satisfied that we have
successfully controlled them. Educators must stop acting as
controllers, and instead, become managers.
We must be conscious of the knowledge that people who desire a
system of rigid control are the most driven to obtain positions
of power and authority.
children are not capable of understanding what is
happening to them in our present educational system. They are
berated by a constant dialogue of blame and fault. They accept
the system as the way things must be; realizing that one either must
‘play the game’, or accept the consequences of defying the norm.
Very often, this results in anger or apathy.
Coercive psychological systems violate our most fundamental concept
of basic human rights. They violate individuals' rights
that are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States
Constitution and affirmed by many declarations of principle worldwide.
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