Monday, 9 September 2013

Back To School Rant

My wife called me today while I was downtown and asked me to pick up a Texas Instruments TI-83 graphing calculator for my daughter who is in grade 11 math. I asked why she couldn't use a free app on her iPhone instead of buying $130 piece of 1970's technology. Apparently they aren't allowed to use new's considered cheating.

I remember running into the same line of reasoning when I was a kid with regards to using a calculator. Its cheating. I was required to memorize times-tables up to 12 and spend inordinate amounts of time doing equations by hand that could be rapidly figured with a calculator. Never mind that in the real world we have access to technology, the internet, and all sorts of apps and information that can help us rapidly solve problems. The job of school it seems isn't to prepare kids to problem solve but rather to be tested and ranked on their ability to memorize, regurgitate, and obey.

The lesson here kids is that problems are solved by information given to you by people in power over you, like the ones whose permission you require to perform biological functions like go to the washroom. Problems are not solved by information you find, explore, understand and synthesize with the tools you have at your disposal...that is cheating. Your judges in school are ranking you on your ability to be a useful means to the ends of powerful people, to be the opposite of independent free-thinkers, one day your ability to get rewarded handsomely will depend on you being a valuable human resource.

So learn to be a good consumer of the information and instructions you are given and your reward will be a good job where you will be rewarded with more stuff you can consume; tropical vacations, big homes, vehicles, ATV's. Whatever you do don't fuck this up by asking any serious questions. Don't go off curriculum and learn stuff you're interested's not useful to your future employers and you won't be a very good human resource.

Sigh...I lost my mind for about an hour today. You did not want to be around this guy. All I could picture was my kids with their skull caps removed having their synapses arranged by a machine. For a few minutes I was mad at the school teacher for making me spend grocery money on stupidity, but she didn't create this system and she didn't force my kids to go to these institutions and she's probably doing the best she can with good intentions as is everyone. Only one to be mad it is myself. I didn't do enough to prevent this binding of my children's brains...and they are being bound as physically and handicapping as a Chinese girl's feet that have been misshapen by traditional foot-binding. The lessons my kids are learning more than anything else are outlined by award winning school teacher John Taylor Gatto; confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem, and there is nowhere to hide.

If I could have a mulligan I'd be a better dad. I'd teach them how to pursue their interests, how to discern truth from falsehood, how to honestly appraise themselves, the process of meta-learning (critically examining how you obtain and synthesize information), how to set goals and achieve dreams, how to empathize, how to gain self-awareness and examine their own beliefs, how to communicate in a language of connection instead of domination, how to care for their mind and body, that happiness comes from experiences and helping not from things. I'd never have institutionalized them.


  1. Tim, you should write more often. Great piece. I may need to lift a few of your words to share with my own sons (and remind myself about what's important). I also very much appreciated your Neil Young oil sands adventure and have shared it with others. Well done.

    1. Thanks Ron, I really appreciate the feedback! It's encouraging to know that my writing resonates with someone. Truth be told I've got about twice as many half written pieces drafted, lol. I find I get halfway through writing an article and lose interest and steam. Although I just finished reading "The War of Art" and it has lots of helpful advice so maybe my productivity will pick up. Cheers :)