Wednesday, March 28, 2012

To school or not to school

I have just finished reading a book by Neil Postman titled “the End of Education”, which I found, very enlightening, especially due to the fact that I was somewhat obsessed with the idea of homeschooling or even un-schooling for my children’s future education, and this book gave me a clearer view on how schools work at the philosophical layer. And thus, giving me a good queue to what path I should direct my children to.

I have read a number of books about schooling and education, including John Taylor Gatto’s “Dumbing us down”, John Holt’s “How children learn” (I haven’t finished this one), and from other authors such as “the Unschooling unmanual”. In addition, I have also listened to speeches about education from various speakers, one of them being Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, who is one of the biggest reasons why I even considered about thinking deeper about the future of my children’s education. Despite the amazing insights presented in the books and speeches, for me personally, Postman’s perspective is the most spot on, on why common schooling doesn’t and will not work for my children’s educational purposes.

Simplifying my interpretation of Postman’s book, all of us are basically worshipping our own “gods”. It may be “the advance of science and technology”, “the struggle towards realizing an industrial society” or “the quest for economic stability”, among the many “gods” that we take. And the “gods” that we take, drive the society, including the purpose of our so called common schooling. The problem for me with those “gods” is that they are all too pragmatic to solve the problems that we have around us.

I remember vividly the answer of my Professor in my undergraduate years when being asked about the purpose of the 4 years in college (and the school years before that), which was to prepare “ready to train workers” for the sake of the companies that need recruits. I was really frustrated and unsatisfied by her answer back then (as I am still now), as I was (and still am) a rather arrogant person and was expecting a more noble purpose for my education. But nevertheless, I can tell that her answer was an honest one.

So it really boils down to the purpose of everything that is learned in school. Is it purposeful? Or is it just a series of incoherencies that eat up time and youth, which build up to the point that students don’t even know why they study? I personally didn’t have any clue why I had to memorize the names of the types of meat that we can cook from cows, nor did I even care about it. Perhaps for some people, school is only about enduring the torture until they reach a certain age and hold a certain diploma to be able to get a job.

Fortunately, unlike Japan (the country in which I am residing in), in Indonesia, now there are many alternatives to conventional schooling. You could send your children to nature school if you want them to be close to nature. You could send them to religious school if you consider religion important. You can do homeschooling, or even create whatever type of schooling you feel fit for the needs of your children. Thus we are free to choose whatever path we want. I for one would like my children to get good understanding on religion and make God as the purpose in whatever they do (or in other words, worship the true God).

Despite all the talk about schooling and its variants, I believe that the most important education that any human being could ever have is what he/she gets at home. A functional family will have a better chance in nurturing good individuals that will have good impact in the society. Thus, if we choose to school our children, we should understand that school does not provide them with the essentials for a good life. The real lessons: about good character, honesty, patience, piety, etc. are the responsibility of the parents. So in truth, I believe that both schooling and other methods of education can be just as effective as long as the parent’s try to cater balance between the child’s time outside (school) and inside the house.