School Still Sucks

17

It wasn’t that long ago that I was wandering the halls of my public school, forsaking it as the bane of my existence. Even though it’s been awhile since I finished with grade school, I still hold it in contempt. For me, school was torture. It was literally painful. For some people school was great (good for them), for some it was fine, but for some it was mind-numbing, soul-crushing, go to your happy place until this is over painful. I was of the latter group. For kids like me, the antsy ones who couldn’t seem to sit still, the daydreamers with a blank look on their face, the trouble makers who couldn’t wait to be expelled, school was a prison.

Why did I hate school so much? Was it because I hated learning? No, I’ve always enjoyed learning about new ideas, and still do. To this day I can easily get lost in lectures or a great book. Was it because I hated my teachers? No, they all seemed like nice people, who cared about their students. Although a few of them seemed to have more passion than others. Was it the other students? No, even though I wasn’t friends with all of them, they seemed alright. After all, we had all been forced together by our parents and the government. Plus some of them seemed to hate it as much as I did; these kids became the core of my clique. Was it because the material was too difficult? No, as I always seemed to easily get high scores on the tests. I could continue with all the things that weren’t the issue, but that might get boring.

So here is a short list of what I hated about school; hierarchical structure, age-based class segregation, teaching to the test, constant testing, separation of topics, an overemphasis on grades, homework, and curriculum-based learning. That’s just me spit-balling as I’m sure I missed some issues. Most of these issues are complex structural issues that I feel negatively affect a child’s desire and ability to learn. Unfortunately,  it seems difficult to dramatically alter any of these issues due to the bureaucratic nature of public schools. Classes will still be separated based on ages. Children still will be taught and evaluated based on tests. Homework will continue to be a wasteful staple of public school. Grades will still be used as a form of evaluation and cause of senseless stress. The system will continue to be authoritarian in nature. All of these could be further elaborated on as to why I consider them serious “issues”, but that’s not my current prerogative. Instead I would rather just rant about homework while I have a captive audience.

That’s right, I have a special disdain for homework and wanted to reiterate that disdain again now as an adult. Special projects were one thing, but the never-ending supply of redundant homework will never be forgiven. I’m sure if you think back you probably hated homework too. It was such a colossal waste of my personal time. I taught English for a year, and when I asked my students what they hated the most about school (and most of them do hate school) they unanimously said homework. Is that because they are lazy little brats, spoiled past redemption? Is it because they didn’t want to learn? I think not, and I support and agree with their legitimate concerns. Sure I’m a grown man at this point who doesn’t have to do homework anymore, so why not just let it go? I won’t let it go because I could see the pain in their eyes and I felt their pain. Their pain reminded me of all the stress that school homework had caused me. And it’s not necessary. Learning doesn’t require the burden of homework. There are plenty of schools that don’t use homework to teach. Seriously, although less in number, they exist. They exist!

Now the good news is that public schools are not the only schools available. And I do understand that not every public school is the same, they do vary. And I also realize that some private schools and charter schools can be just as bad if not worse in these ways as some public schools. One alternative that I personally recommend is Montessori school, which I believe is phenomenal and much more in line with insights derived from developmental psychology. Although the majority of private schools, including Montessori schools can be quite expensive, thus financially limiting those who can attend their services. But there are even alternatives to being schooled in a public or private system which are much more affordable. There are homeschooling programs which can be structured by the parent(s) and child together. There is also un/nonschooling or self-directed learning, in which the child is given much more or total autonomy. Now depending on your states laws there are some necessary steps to not being in school. But just knowing that there is a way out would have been comforting for a kid like me. I just wish I had known about some of these other options back then. It would have saved me a lot of personal grief. And for those kids like my younger self one of these alternatives could still be an option right now.

My point is that if you are a kid or teen that feels like you are stuck in a system that is diminishing your inner desire to learn, you don’t have to sit still. You can literally get up out of your seat and leave at any point. This could even be a form of civil disobedience. If you politely refuse to go and explain why you don’t want to go, eventually someone will listen. Although it may take a while for your parents to support your decision, if they are willing to talk that is an indication that they care and are trying to understand. This might take some restraint on both sides and require some emotionally charged conversations. But some long difficult conversations with the rents could lead to freedom from the school bell. And I know that’s all I wanted, and still do – more freedom!

*Disclaimer: This is not meant to be conclusive in any way. Also I realize that there are many people who loved their school, good for you, for me it was hell.

About Author

Scotty Bubonic

Scotty Bubonic is a voluntaryist who thinks that the non-aggression principle is nifty. When he isn't working on his gravity blast or watching anime, he is concocting ways to live free. He desperately wants liberty in our lifetime.

  • Michael Friedline

    After years of begging, my mother agreed to allow me to home-school myself senior year. I slept in and only studied a couple hours every day. For the the first year ever I studied every text book all the way through, completing every quiz exercise in every book. I took a final test at the end of the year through some sort of home-schooling organization and it was near perfect. Now in my 30’s I study constantly, mostly economics and philosophy, being a punk rock libertarian myself. I still feel acute rage for the many years lost to school-prison. In third grade they had us memorize multiplication & division tables up to 12, this may be the only useful time I spent through all those years.

    There are so many wonderful educational websites today, that I firmly believe virtually every child could self-educate well beyond & more efficiently than in any school system. A small percentage may still need an adult to push them along. In the end if a kid can read and understand basic math, what more do they really need? I know plenty of people far less learned than myself who are far more wealthy and seemingly happy.

    • Wynn

      Friedline, I think kids need more than just math and English. I wish they’d have every kid take critical thinking. Also, civics, psychology, health, geography are important. It would be nice if kids could pace themselves, though. And take breaks when needed. As long as they get good grades honestly, self-paced may be best.

  • Michael Clark

    Homework is immoral! I agree I hate homework too!

  • Wynn

    I, too, hated school, but for slightly different reasons…esp. the private school’s crapola. I did get into punkrock, but it was rebellion, HATRED of the things I saw that didn’t make sense…adults were supposed to protect us and follow their own rules, but didn’t. It is the same today in my jobs, in gov’t, in other groups. I dropped out, for various reasons. Just finished my first semester of college…got a 98 average in all classes and was able to pass an exemption test for math and English. I love to read and don’t have tv. Learning wasn’t the problem in school when I was a kid…other things were, including the students and staff of the schools. Testing is good. We need to know what type of progress we’re making AND how well our teachers are helping us learn. But, I saw the art teacher rubbing many girls’ butts; heard my mom and two front office staff at school either ignore or ridicule me when I told them my 12 yr old best friend had been molested by her stepfather; my social studies teacher ridiculed me for crying in class when a boy made fun of my back brace and the same teacher threw a chalkboard eraser across the room at a student who wouldn’t be quiet: my ADL teacher gave us TWO HOURS of homework a night JUST for English (I dropped out after a week, telling her it was communist for me to do 10X the work on much harder material to get the same grade as other classmates in easy English classes): I could go on and on ! No counselor ever approached me and no teacher ever asked or told me to go see the counselor. I was lost and in great pain. I ran away at 16 to Atlanta 3 1/2 hours away from my hometown. Every male predator out there went after me and I just became more angry (and scared). I would NEVER want to be a kid again. Adults say they care, but only wanna force their views (morals) on you. They lead by dictatorship and rarely by example.

  • latham

    i hated school as well. if it had not been for punk music, then i would have never learned anything about myself. i learned more from music than i ever did from school. without passion there is nothing learned. you cant learn without passion. you can be trained and thats it. school is just a rudimentary form of preparing people to fit in the places that “society” wants them. to break the natural desires and wills of those who have not been properly trained. the structure of culture and society is more important than lives it consumes. always remain an individual. believe in causes and ideas but never allow them to consume you no matter how precious they may appear. you will always be a bigger contributor as an individual. ideas are precious and so are you

  • patrick mcmeen

    Yeah, school was hell for me too although homework was only an occasional occurrence. What got to me was the institutional aspect of it and, of course, the mind numbing boredom of learning things that didn’t interest me. At some point early on, second or third grade, a teacher told me that anything I needed to know could be found in the library which led me to wonder why I needed to go to school once I knew how to read. It’s been decades since I graduated from high school and I still don’t have a good answer for that beyond it was a great place to goof around with my friends.

  • Google Glassware

    School was hell for me – I was in a class of kidws 2 yrs older than me but I was smart enough to keep up – socially however that was an absolute nightmare. The boarding school had us in school from 9-4pm then 2-3 hours of studey 5:30-6:45 then food, then 8:00-9:30 then bed. I don’t remember having any time to do anything. Plus the place was run by violent priests. ….great place – demolished now and hated by just about every student that went there (St Mary’s College, Rhos on Sea, Wales). At 50 I still have the emotional scars.

    • Michael Arnold

      We must have been in St Mary’s about same time…I’m 50 now. Was there from 1976-1980. I found college dull…and one or two of the priest a little unbalanced, but all in all not too many problems. OK…education was a shambles however.

      • vixmagnetics

        I was a boarder at St. Mary’s from ’65 – ’71. Yes, some unbalanced and sad priests and we had no social life – just endless hours of study at night. Correction, one school dance with the girls from Loreto college in Llandudno once a year. Food was dreadful for most of the time. Worst of all, teaching was an utter disgrace, especially at ‘A’ level. The OMI’s (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) should have been ashamed that they allowed this to go on. Never established why the school closed.

        • Michael

          So..it changed little after you left. Food disgraceful. .we went on strike for a day ..did not do much for change..we did get 6 of the best from fr sullivan. Just watched on youtube film of the school before it was demolished..always felt larger when I was there.
          Almost 5 years of my youth went by with little to show at the time. Little real help from the teachers but I guess it smartens you up for real street life.
          Made some good friends..still in touch via fb and other sources.
          Wishing all past students well.

          • vixmagnetics

            Ha-ha, we had a food strike as well – but nothing changed. Assume ‘Tex’ (Fr. O’Sullivan) became head? Yes, it was the youtube vids that awakened my interest. Also felt much larger when I was there and Campion was freezing in winter. Best friends I ever made in my life was at that school. All the priests I knew are now dead (with 1 exception), but cannot say that I had much respect for any of them – Lonnie was a good guy.

            Love to know how females survived there or perhaps none of them were boarders? IMO it was an education for a life that one was never going to lead.

            Yep, my best wishes to past students as well and thanks for taking the time to reply.

          • John Brooks FRCGP

            Yes the females survived very well as boarders in St.Luke’s House. At least 2 of them went to Oxford. One of these was a journalist for the BBC for many years and another was the deputy speaker in the house of commons 2015.

        • JOHN BROOKS

          I was in Gwyn HOUSE FROM 1959 to 1966. The teaching, sport and general atmosphere was excellent. I have nothing but admiration for the priests that worked there. Some of the comments here are biased and untrue. What a very misleading blog.
          John B.S. Brooks MBBS. DCH. DRCOG. FRCGP.

    • JOHN BROOKS

      Could not disagree with you more. You certainly do not speak for the majority of students who attended St.Mary’s College. I was a border from 1959 to 1966. The regime was not harsh and if anything benign compared to a lot of public schools at that time. Most of the priests were dedicated to their work. I was in Gwyn house and my housemaster was Fr Eugene Ford who was assisted by Fr Liam Corish. Fr Ford encouraged his boarders to read outside their subjects and from his vast library fed me with a variety of novels during my time at school. One of the first novels he asked me to read, at an early age ,was “Goodbye to all that” by Robert Graves followed by all the John Wyndham SF books, books on the South African war, Evelyn Waugh’s novels and many more. He would ask a few questions ,when you handed the novel back, just to make sure you had read it ! The point of all this was that he was encouraging us to get into the habit of reading good literature which would be a great help at University and beyond. Fr Ford left St.Mary’s about 2 years after I left the school and taught English Literature at a state school in London. I met him several times at his Tower Hill parish[ not actually his parish as he was working full time] when I was a student in London and later, after I had qualified for many years, at his parish in Kilburn [ where he worked part time as a parish priest after he retired from teaching]. Fr O’Donovan taught me Biology at St.Mary’s. He was an excellent and enthusiastic teacher so I had no problem getting the required grades for medical school. His main interest at that time was geology. It was therefore no surprise that he sent off a whole group of students to read geology at university. Fr Doyle taught me art [ I still have a lifelong interest in the subject] and encouraged me in all sporting activities. I played football and cricket for the school junior and senior teams. In particular he gave me every encouragement to follow my interest in athletics. I was the school mile and cross country champion for Denbighshire and mile champion for North Wales before I left school. Fr Ford and Fr Doyle gave me permission to run from the school to St.Theresa’s hall Llandudno junction where Fr Carolan arranged for me to have a light tea with the other pupils there before I ran back to the main school in time for evening study.[ I later met Fr Carolan in Rome when he was at the OMI mother house. He arranged for my wife and I to attend a papal mass during our stay]. Subsequently I enjoyed running for London University [ London purple 1970] , Barts hospital, the United London Hospitals and Blackeath Harriers simply because of all the encouragement I was given at school.
      To make a statement that every student that went to St.Mary’s must have hated it is ludicrous. Many students that went there achieved high academic standards and enjoyed all that the school had to offer. You may have emotional scars and if that is so then I am sorry for you. Do not, however, take your experience as a generality.
      John B.S. Brooks FRCGP

  • joebaby

    Congratulations to all of you who preserved in spite of public schooling. Being older I didn’t have punk rock but the rest of the stories are all the same. I could never properly articulate the degree to which I found school an incredible poor model for raising real people. I recently came across a book called “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling”, by John Taylor Gatto($9.99 kindle price). Mr Gatto takes the reader
    through the theory behind the parochial and dictatorial hierarchy providing solid
    supporting evidence for all his accusations and a mind blowing account regarding
    the purpose of our current education system. When reading it I felt kind of
    proud that they couldn’t bend me to their will, and I think a few of the posters
    here would probable feel the same. It will blow your mind and leave you with an appreciation for the strength of character you showed in failing to conform, character you continue to show now by being libertarians.

  • John Allen Morton
  • Martin Ekdahl

    I hated school. Went (was forced) to a public school with all the evils in this world – bullying, tired teachers who drank too much and hated being teachers, racism, violence, suicides.. Upper secondary school was better, and I loved studying in the university. Now the socialist Swedish government wants to make upper secondary school compulsory. Stealing the first 18 years of every citizens life. It’s not giving people a good start – It is making them slaves.