I remember becoming a first grader.
It was at Willard Elementary School, in Ada Oklahoma. Our mascot was a Dragon. We were the Willard Dragons.
I had just finished a few years of pre-school classes at The Methodist Church on 14th street, just down the road from my house. My mom worked there sometimes.
Pre-school was mostly fun and games with a nap thrown in mid-day to give us rest, and to give our teachers a much needed break from screaming children. We were definitely allowed to be ourselves and no one got angry if we spilled some paint, or decided to color our clothes with magic markers.
But after a few weeks in the first grade I started to see something different.
There were rules and regulations. And there were teachers who enforced these rules and regulations.
If you did not follow the rules and regulations, these enforcers would humiliate you in front of the class and/or take you out in the hallway and physically beat you with a carved piece of wood, that some called a ‘paddle’.
Some of the teachers gave beatings that were more ceremonial than violent. They wacked you with a ping pong paddle. It made a big sound and scared you, but it didn’t hurt so bad.
Those teachers acted like human beings. But other teachers seemed to really enjoy hitting the kids as hard as they could and inflicting as much pain as possible.
These teachers were monsters.
A few of these monster/enforcer/teachers had their wooden weapons custom made with holes in them so the weapon would travel faster and hit your body harder. One teacher kept his weapon in a cage. He had a name for it, he called it “Killer” or something terrifying like that.
When he beat a kid, he would create a big, dramatic scene before he did it.
First, he would let you know you were going to get hit. This was terrifying to hear. Next, he would call out to his weapon. “Kiiiiiiillllerrrrrrr where are youuuu?”.
He would walk behind the school’s stage and rattle the cage so it sounded like a wild animal was about to be released. Then he’d bring the cage out for all of us to see. He would ceremoniously pull the weapon from the cage and point to the child who was going to get hit that day.
Finally he’d take us aside and hit us so hard that our backsides hurt for days, sometimes there were bruises left behind. Kids would come back into class shaking, with snot pouring out of their noses from crying so hard.
It seemed crazy that this was happening to us, we were just little kids who broke a rule. Maybe we talked to a classmate, maybe we chewed gum in class. The beatings were violence – and such violent punishment seemed to outweight the crime.
But you could not question their authority. Questioning authority got you banished to the school basement for weeks, or just got you hit more often, and harder.
I remember looking around the grade school and at everything that was happening. In my little kid mind I could tell something was wrong.
Outside of a few great teachers (Mrs. Godwin I’m looking at you) it seemed like most of the teachers and staff were more interested in punishings kids than creating an engaging environment where children would actually want to pay attention.
It seemed like we were being beaten into submission for some reason.
Later, I realized the reason.
They beat us into submission so that by the time we graduated high school we would know how to follow orders, how to stuff our individuality and creativity down our throats and accept a job at a factory.
They were building slaves.
Perhaps it is because educational tools that have come into our classrooms over the last couple of decades, whether technology or otherwise, continue to be used within a school structure that is virtually unchanged since the mid-nineteenth century.
That model was imported from Prussia with a different purpose in mind. Horace Mann’s free school movement stemmed less from a belief in the economic or moral imperative of education for all children and more from a desire to simply create a tolerant, civilized society. – The Atlantic
Luckily they made it illegal to beat school kids into submission a few years later and today a teacher would get fired and possibly arrested for what they did back then. But the damage is still going on to this day.
Right now, grade school, middle school and high school kids are still being trained to comply, by threat of becoming outcasts and total failures later in life.
For example, when I was in high school I was told I was going to grow up to be an outcast and a loser by a guidance counsler because my grades weren’t very good. This person messed with my mind hardcore. I can still hear their words to this day.
Let’s Watch A Video
I have thought about writing about this experience dozens of times, but never have.
Then yesterday, minimal artist and all around creative badass, @styblova shared an incredible eight minute video on her Twitter called “HOW SOCIETY KILLS OUR CREATIVITY – IN A BREATHTAKING AWARD-WINNING SHORT FILM”.
I watched it and thought, “yep that’s pretty close”. So I thought I’d share.
Here it is: (watch the whole thing, no A.D.D. fast-forwarding)
School Is Broken
This little eight minute video explains what I think is one of the biggest problems our society has, which is:
Schools are a dumbing-down factory who’s job is to beat the creativity and individualty out of children so that when they grow up, they are smart enough to work for a corporation, but not smart enough to shake things up and challenge the status quo.
It’s a complicated mess, that we’ve created and I’m not sure of the answer. Home schooling seems like a great option, but that requires parents who have free time to do it. Montessori schools are fantastic (I worked at one when I was 12 or 13 for a few summers, with an incredible teacher named Elizabeth Ross, who still teaches me things to this day), but are financially out of reach for lower-income families.
I don’t know the exact answer. Maybe we should hand it off to Elon Musk, he could probably come up with an answer and rework the entire system in 100 days. Maybe someone else will disrupt the whole thing, like Uber did to taxicabs.
Until that happens – I would like to encourage anyone who reads this to know that whatever you were told about yourself in school was probably not true. You can do anything you want.
I would guess that schools, in their current setup will not exist in a few decades. It will all be replaced by an online system that teaches you everything you need to know from the comfort of your own home.
In fact, a kid today could bypass school completely and use the free information available online to educate themselves on almost any subject in the world.
I’ve learned everything I know by reading books and using the internet.
Should you do the same? I don’t know for sure, it’s really hard to say.
What I do know is that school is broken.
And I noticed it when I was in the first grade.