Hanson on school

Amen, brother:

Given the typical expression on the typical student’s face, it is amazing that schools present themselves as sanctuaries of personal fulfillment, and sacred founts of creativity and innovation. School advocates imply: “All the great artists, scientists, etc. did well at school, and without school they’d be so much less.” But in fact schools arose with industry to get folks to accept the regimentation and ranking of the industrial workplace, and to curb natural human creativity, exploration, and challenging of authority. As Katja’s proposal illustrates, schools could in fact teach folks how to question common beliefs “scientifically,” if in fact authorities wanted common folks doing that sort of thing.

A couple weeks ago whilst rather short on bloggin’ time, I thought it might be fun — and a cheap and easy way to generate content — to run through Wikipedia’s List of Common Misconceptions and list the ones I was taught as fact by presumably well-meaning Education majors.  I quickly discovered that it’d take hours to get through them all, and wrote something about Formula One instead.

Pride of place in such a list would have to go to the notion that glass is a liquid at room temperature, which I was taught in an eighth-grade science class.  (Spoiler warning: It isn’t.)  I was so pleased to “learn” something so obscure and counterintuitive that I promptly (and loudly, and repeatedly) informed my father, who eventually had to be convinced by a note from my science teacher.  Years later, we both discovered the falsehood of this proposition at almost exactly the same time.  He took this as vindication against my uppidy enthusiasm for contradicting my elders (in this case, him); I took it as vindication of my disdain for public schools and Ed majors.  (I’m sure there are any number of perfectly rational Ed majors out there who only teach their students that glass is a liquid because No Child Left Behind forces them to do so.  See?  This is my open-minded face.)

1 Response to “Hanson on school”

  1. February 22, 2011 at 13:27

    Amen, brother! I couldn’t agree more. Seems to me that schools are far more about imposing regimented behavior on their students (and getting them accustomed to Doing What They’re Told By Authority) than they are about learning.

    I like Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s approach. By an interesting coincidence, I posted a video clip by him on my blog just last night, which speaks (among other points) to what you’re saying here. See:



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