TIME TO CUT CLASS
by Charles Eisenstein, from Education Revolution
Many revolutions fail when they tear down one system only to replace
it with another embodying the same unconscious habits and beliefs. An
education revolution would be no different. Personally, I've noticed
time and again the habits of schooling infecting what I do; sometimes
I end up perpetuating the mind-set even when I speak out against it.
How to avoid recreating the old within the new? How to prevent the
underlying problems from expressing themselves in new form?
Ideological vigilance is not enough, which is why I have decided to
"deschool" myself, to bring these unconscious habits into my
consciousness and dispel them.
In that spirit, I offer up this list of some of the habits and
beliefs of schooling that I've noticed in myself. None of these are
exclusive to school, of course, just as school doesn't exist in
isolation from other institutions of our civilization. These habits
and beliefs are ambient in our culture; school is just one way of
enacting and reinforcing them.
1. Seeking "credit" for the right answer.
2. Seeing problems as having a right answer, and thinking that by
articulating the solution, I have solved the problem.
3. Seeking external validation for choices, as in "What should I do?"
(I can't just choose, can I? How do I know it's the right choice? I
had better go ask someone.)
4. Work: a matter of completing assignments.
5. Life: a process of graduating from one externally provided program
to the next.
6. Status: defined by rank within an institution.
7. Personal worth: dependent on external evaluations.
Wait! As you read through these points, do you notice any habits of
schooling operating within yourself? Are you skimming them to simply
check if you "know" them already (as if for a quiz)? Are you
evaluating each one to determine whether it is right or wrong?
It was in school, after all, that we first learned that it's
important to be right, to hold the correct opinion, and to be able to
produce the right answer. Well, what about letting go of being right
and just listening without judgment? Listening truly and deeply to
another person is a new thing for me, one that requires combating
habits of constantly evaluating myself and others, or listening only
enough to garner information.
Because another belief of schooling is that . . .
8. Information is knowledge, and that to know about something is to
know something. This belief is related to . . .
9. Knowledge and intelligence can and should be quantified, or at
least evaluated, and thus . . .
10. Constantly evaluating yourself as well as others.
11. To say nothing of measuring performance by external standards . . .
12. Seeking external validation for performance and achievements . . .
13. Wanting to be recognized as smart . . .
14. Wanting to be recognized as right, and simply . . .
15. Wanting to be right.
I remember standing one time at the front of a Penn State classroom
when I abruptly saw my entire teaching and writing career as one long
attempt to be right, and to prove my rightness to whoever would
Well, no one really cares if you're right. You don't get any bonus
points from God or anyone else for holding correct opinions your
whole life. You maybe can impress people sometimes, but so what?
They'll just walk away impressed.
What creates rich and fruitful relationships is not being right, but
providing things to people that are useful to them-in other words,
giving. Establishing rightness is really just a subtle form of
taking. It took me a long time to figure this out, and I wasted many
hours on Internet Listservs taking turns being right with everyone
else, as if all the world's problems would be solved "if only
everyone would agree with me." That mind-set is just another
variation of that old school habit of thinking that if you write down
the right answer, the problem is solved.
This list represents just a sampling of the habits of schooling I've
uncovered in my life. No doubt you can think of many more; perhaps
you can find in this very essay some that are still unconscious to
me. But of course, comparing and critiquing others is yet another
pesky habit of school that is rarely useful in the real world.
Perhaps instead, we should cease schooling ourselves and one another.
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