Roland Meighan:

Peter Wilby published an article ‘Aint Misbehavin’ in the Guardian on the 23rd September.

Roland Meighan responded with the following (as yet unpublished) letter.

Dr Roland Meighan. D.Soc.Sc., Ph.D., B.Sc.(Soc)., L.C.P., Cert.Ed., and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, formerly Special Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham
24th September 2008

Dear Editor,

Peter Wilby’s piece ‘Ain’t misbehavin’’ demonstrates clearly why we need to close down schools and recycle them as part of more intelligent arrangements for learning. The approach applauded by Wilby can be summed up in the phrase ‘you will do it our way – or else we will find something nasty to do to you’. In authoritarian education, in its various forms, one person or a small group of people, make and implement the decisions about what to learn, when to learn, how to learn, how to assess learning, and the learning environment.  This is often all decided before the learners are recruited as individuals or meet as a group. As an exclusive method, it is favoured by totalitarian regimes because it aims to produce the compliant mentality. The places for learning that result are day-prisons, for pupils and teachers alike, for teachers become, as one of them put it, ‘just miserable rule-followers’..

Schools are (a) obsolete in being yesterday’s attempted answer to yesterday’s problems, (b) counter-productive in producing the wrong mentality for today’s problems, and (c) the abuse of several human rights by being compulsory, conducted in day-prisons for the young, and therefore learner-hostile. So, it is not just a museum-type experience that is imposed, which might be just quaint, but a persistently damaging one. As John Holt observed, school is not a good idea gone wrong, but a bad idea from the start.  I would add the caveat ‘in a democracy’, for schools are a good idea in regimes with totalitarian tendencies with control freaks in charge.

Schools achieve compliance along with the price of resentment: As one inmate concluded, in The School I’d Like, Burke, C. and Grosvenor,I. 2003, “I resented being told what to wear, what to think, what to believe, what to say and when to say it.”  . What happens as a result of this gathering storm of resentment? Nothing very positive, that is for sure. As  Winston Churchill concluded, in 1944: “Schools have not necessarily much to do with education … they are mainly institutions of control where certain basic habits must be inculcated in the young.  Education is quite different and has little place in school.” Sadly, Churchill did not go on to say what we should do about it. Happily, others have. School can become more educational but it needs a new fundamental vision. Until school becomes a voluntary part of a flexible education system providing alternatives for everyone, all the time, it is always only a bigot’s move away from totalitarianism. As John Taylor Gatto proposed: “When you take the free will out of education, that turns it into schooling.”

Yours sincerely,

Roland Meighan

Trustee, Centre for Personalised Education,

Director, Educational Heretics Press

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