Updated: Jan 22, 2022
What is Education?
What we call “education” is part and part of parcel of the industrial revolution.
Pre-industrial civilizations were unequal mass societies with extended families and defined social classes and rules
For example, in Europe, until the advent of the steam engine, we didn’t have either “children” as we know them today; nor schools. And certainly not nuclear families. Young people above the age of five or six were regarded as exactly that – young people. Their families often arranged their marriages before puberty. They worked as adults. They were judged as adults under law. “Education” as such comprised useful skills: reading, writing, of course, although most people were illiterate; the use of weapons or farm implements. Languages were not studied but learned in situ, which is why we have the English language, which is a mixture of other languages, created through the need to communicate in the marketplace, first a kind of pidgin, then a patois, then the popular tongue.
But with the industrial revolution, society itself came to be seen as some kind of vast machine. As I suggested in my previous article, people were components, cogs, levers and gears, each individual created for a specific role or function, “self” defined by fit and function.
Such cognitive and emotional specialization is not natural for a species evolved for small group, hunting and gathering. To provide coherent organization for our new mass, multilevel, hierarchical societies, we needed mass education, the three R’s in particular—but even more than that—indoctrination. Religion was no longer sufficient. Hence, the birth of public schools and colleges and the concept of the child as a kind of blank slate on which anything could be written.
Education without schools
How much do you remember from high school?
Probably not a lot. And what you did learn becomes obsolete quickly.
For hunters and gatherers, life was learning. They never forgot the lessons nature taught them, if only because if they did, they would be dead.
So prehistoric hunter and gatherer bands raised their children left “education” to nature and to experience, recognizing that it was lifelong.
For at least 50,000 years, children above the age of six, learned pretty much by themselves, watching adults and older kids do things, imitating, playing games with their friends, indulging their curiosities and experimenting. These were reverse dominance societies, in which all were equal, regardless of difference – which included the young. So, our ancestors try to “teach” their kids; they let them teach themselves. There was no bullying. All were “included” regardless of difference.
Of course, the Bushmen of South Africa keep kids away from poison arrows!
This approach, of course, lead to a high mortality rate among children, but healthier and happier adults, if they survived childhood. Over-protection does a person no favors.
Most important of all, as I have said, hunters and gatherers saw neurodiversity realistically, as different cognitive and emotional skillsets, which a small hunter gatherer band needs to survive and thrive. If a neurodiverse child makes it to sexual maturity, they have proven their worth. Nature is not cruel: it is simply fair.
Our modern “civilization” pervert’s nature and the thrust of evolution and it is most definitely not fair.
And it is also often just plain cruel.
The Cruelty of Educational “Authority”
Tertius Wharton, 11, wanted to remain a pupil at Summerhill Progressive Democratic School in Suffolk, which he says helps his behaviour.
It was costing his family £7,000 each year to send Tertius to Summerhill - they withdrew him from his state-paid, mainstream school last year
Summerhill is famous as a “free school”. It regards all its students as unique, let’s them choose what they want to learn—and at their own rate. There are no grades. Teachers do not “discipline”. Limits are set by kids themselves.
Tertius, who is from Wouldham, near Rochester, says his ADHD subsided after moving to Summerhill, where teachers and pupils are given equal rights and are not made to go to lessons.
Got that? No symptoms. And no need for drugs. Lots of "no's".
There also no “lessons” at Summerhill. You are not forced to learn anything. If you don’t want to learn to read and write. Fine. It is a live-in school—so no parental authority figures to mess up your head—not that such people would ever send their kids to a school like this.
The emphasis is on social interaction, with no distinctions of age. There is no bullying because it a reverse-dominance society and egalitarian.
Tertius said: "I went to quite a few lessons. You only go to lessons if you want to and I find it much easier. It helps me be a bit more relaxed. If they forced me, I wouldn't want to do it."
His mother, Joy, said: "It seems ludicrous that they won't let Tertius go to the school he wants to go to - that his parents want him to go to."
Chatham and Aylesford MP Jonathan Shaw is backing the family in their fight to keep Tertius at Summerhill.He said: "The authority felt that the school wouldn't be able to provide the long-term education that he needed, which is a very important issue, but all the reports - and the one person that's been to the school from the council - have recognised that he has made great progress.
"How they can look into a crystal ball and say he isn't going to make progress, when he evidently has, is beyond me."
There are other schools like Summerhill. It is simply the most famous. And it has many successes
Take the case of Jack, a Summerhill student, mentioned by Andrey Kozhevnikov.
There was Jack, a boy who could not learn to read. No one could teach Jack. Even when he asked for a reading lesson, there was some hidden obstruction that kept him from distinguishing between b and p, l and k. He left school at seventeen without the ability to read. Today, Jack is an expert toolmaker. He loves to talk about metalwork. He can read now; but so far as I know, he mainly reads articles about mechanical things and sometimes he reads works on psychology. I do not think he has ever read a novel; yet he speaks perfectly grammatical English, and his general knowledge is remarkable. An American visitor, knowing nothing of his story, said to me, “What a clever lad Jack is!”
Tertius will be sent to the West Heath New School which deals with acute mental health problems from ADHD to OCD and even--oh yes!--“transgenderism” whatever that is. It is as much as psychiatric institution as a “school” and is many times more expensive than Summerhill. Without doubt Tertius will be put on drugs.
But Tertius is not sick. He does not have a “disorder”. Rather, he has an unappreciated and misunderstood gift.
At Summerhill, he is well adjusted--and mentally and emotionally healthy. One cannot say the same for the educational establishment, whose brain-- if it has one-- is nuttier than a roasted walnut.
The emphasis of schools like Summerhill is on emotional and social growth. It teaches children, if it could be said to “teach” anything, that “learning” is a natural process in which you learn you what you need—teaching yourself. It’s called “autodidacticism” and it what our ancestors used to do until we replaced it with what Alvesson and Spicer call “organizational stupidity.” I won’t get into that here. That’s the subject another article.
If you are neurodiverse, as I am, you need to stop thinking about “fitting in”. It is hard, however, to "just say no".
I was lucky. I moved to Japan where I was immediately classified as a “gaijin” – an “outsider”—whose value was he did not ‘fit’. It was my difference that made me useful.
One person’ symptom is another’s gift.
You are worried about your “symptoms”. Distractability. Inattention. Hyperfocus. Impulsivity?
“Distractibility” is simply situational awareness, the thing that all “ace” fighter pilots –just 5% or aerial combat scorers – had.
“Inattention”. When you have trouble paying attention that may be because you recognize unconsciously that whatever somebody is trying to force into your mind is not needed. Or simply because your mind works in vectors and vorticies, as I have said, in my article on ADHD and Fibonacci.
Switch to something else and you will come back to where you were before, naturally, if it is worthwhile
For example, when I write, I write in short sessions, leave it a day, work on something else. When I come back, I have a new perspective, new connections. This allows me fresh perceptions and better solutions—and a lot better writing. “Inattention” can be a creative gift.
It pairs with hyperfocus, which means seeing contradictions and finding solutions.
If you are impulsive, you may be just frustrated—but you may also be following intuition —which is often as not right, even if “contrarian” or “oppositional” in terms of established norms.
Intuition is partly emotional and largely unconscious but capable of processing larger amounts of information than “reason”.
Rational thought is like exploring a warehouse with a penlight. There is only what is in the zone of the light; the rest id darkness. Intuition is a large bulb in the ceiling. The light is diffuse and there are shadows, with vague shapes. Intuition shows more. If you want to explore, turn on the light. AND use the penlight!
If you feel anxious or depressed or have to resort to stimulant drugs, you are getting it wrong—you have allowed an inhuman system to alienate you – not only from yourself --but from others. Social interaction, caring and sharing generates oxytocin and dopamine. The neurodivergent need a lot of TLC and play, in particular.
The most important thing is to recognize your difference and accept it.
Don’t fit in—but don’t drop out!
You do not need society as much as it needs you.
Does modern society require public schools and universities to function? Yes, of course.
The bigger question, however, is whether we need a society based on modern values?
For many people things work fine, despite the threats of economic collapse, war, disease, and irreversible climate change, such that children born today may have a lifespan of less than 50 years.
For a significant minority – the neurodiverse and the gifted—maybe not—but civilizations need us. We are the ones who see the contradictions and find the solutions.
In the meantime, we work with one foot in the System. Sadly, that System is our version of the paleolithic jungle. It is all we have. So turn on, tune in and drop out is not an option.
It can be done….
I was mentally or physically absent in most of high school classes. In university I skipped most classes. Yet I won scholarships and awards - -about 30 in total—including a Fulbright for PhD study at Harvard. For years, I have run a successful PR business, winning more than 40 awards for my clients. I also do consulting, life coaching, and media analysis.
Think outside the box? You don’t need a box to think!
I “worked” the system successfully.
But I am basically “unschooled”. Next, we will look at “unschooling”, which can be a credible alternative to “normal” schools for the neurodiverse.
Since I am dyslexic, you will probably find lots of typos and the like. Please help! Let me know!
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