Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 1: Modern Schooling

This is the second post in a series comprising my Education Freedom Manifesto (full PDF Download). For part one in this series, click here.

Education Freedom Manifesto

Section 1

Modern Schooling

The Tragedy of Compulsory Schooling

It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of
instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry;
for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly
in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail.
It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and
searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.
Albert Einstein

Modern school methods do not help children become great thinkers or creative individuals. Compulsory schooling is a counterproductive prison. After generations of conditioning, it has become difficult for many people to distinguish between what kind of education is beneficial and desirable and the real purposes and results of modern schools.

No trace of slavery ought to mix with the studies of the freeborn man.
No study, pursued under compulsion, remains rooted in the memory.

With any captive audience, there is a lack of feedback.
John Holt

In many cases, people don’t even consider the matter beyond how convenient it is to have a place for their children to live out most of their young days until someone can help them find a job. Cognitive disconnections like this have perpetuated a system of accredited childcare centers designed to help parents feel comfortable about being compelled to turn over their responsibilities to strangers.

The Real Lessons of Compulsory Schooling

We want one class of persons to have a liberal education and we want another
class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privileges
of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
Woodrow Wilson

The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda – a deliberate scheme
to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made.
The aim is to make “good” citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.
H. L. Mencken

Most modern schools are places where bored, lonely children are coerced to echo the approved responses to the wrong questions. These systems do an exceptional job of perpetuating aristocracy. The real lessons of modern schooling affect the workings and attitudes of the unconscious mind. Children are absorbing values like these in schools near you:


The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

Schools teach that success means pleasing those in authority. Students learn to compete for the favor of teachers and administrators. This, they are told, prepares them for “the real world” where making managers happy is the difference between being rich or poor. The reality is that addicting people to praise only prepares them for a life of exploitation where only administrators can provide approval.


I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation.
Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc.
Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.
Stanley Kubrick

Schools teach fear of mistakes, fear of failure, and fear of the unknown. Schools teach that only certified experts are qualified to form their own opinions and define the truth. Students learn to accept constant invasion of privacy and intimidation. Schools schedule no private time, and offer no private space.


If I were asked to enumerate ten educational stupidities, the giving of grades would head the list…
If I can’t give a child a better reason for studying than a grade on a report card,
I ought to lock my desk and go home and stay there.
Dorothy De Zouche

Schools teach that motivation and self-control are to be delegated to those who are properly trained to manage others’ lives. Schools employ threats and bribes (like detention and grades) which create a mindset of slavery, not one of maturity and individual responsibility.


To find yourself, think for yourself.

Schools teach that true freedom is freedom from responsibility, rather than freedom of choice. They teach that choice is too risky to be governed by individuals. They teach that there is safety and fairness in letting experts decide what is best for everyone in every circumstance.

In short, children learn from an early age to turn themselves over to the system. They become conditioned for lives of limited opportunity, subordination, supervision, and control. With this basic understanding, it becomes clear why most people in modern societies crave promises of salvation from difficulties they have been told are too complex to understand. Without even realizing it, generations of people have been trained in willful ignorance and submission to their masters.

Truth Hidden in Plain Sight

It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.
G.K. Chesterton

What everybody knows is frequently wrong.
Peter Drucker

Most people assume that there are benevolent reasons behind compulsory schooling. They believe that systems that have been in place for decades or centuries would have been changed already by others if changing them would benefit the people they claim to serve.

If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.
George S. Patton, Jr.

The strong tendency for invisible assumptions to go unexamined and unchallenged is not surprising. What people don’t perceive, they don’t consider. The inception of an idea into the subconscious mind is a powerful thing.

The great problem for reform or transformation is the tyranny of common sense.
Sir Ken Robinson

The truth cannot be recognized until the right questions are entertained. The right questions often challenge assumptions that have come to be mistaken for common sense. When definitions and questions are all formed by those who stand to benefit financially and politically from the implied conclusions and answers, the result is propaganda.

Being an intellectual begins with thinking your way outside
of your assumptions and the system that enforces them.
William Deresiewicz

We can’t learn to see until we admit we’re blind.
Alan Kay

People don’t like to admit that they have been fooled, not even to themselves. It takes courage to accept uncomfortable truths, but it is the beginning of becoming a free-thinking and critically aware individual.

The worst attitude of all would be the professional attitude which regards
children in the lump as a sort of raw material which we have to handle.
C. S. Lewis

Children aren’t units of production destined to be processed into human resources. People deserve to be treated with dignity, and that means respect for and support of their ability to become truly independent. Education should empower people to take control of their lives.

Earnest falsehoods left unchallenged risk being accepted as fact.
Monty Montgomery

For the enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—
but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forbears.
We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations.
We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
John F. Kennedy

School is Not About Learning

A three-year-old is not half of a six-year-old.
Sir Ken Robinson

If school were about learning, then it would be very different. It would be a place where students would be allowed to progress unhindered toward greater understanding and ability. Instead, it is a place where students are segregated by age and socioeconomic class to have their time managed. If students learned too quickly, it would cause administrative headaches and funding uncertainties.

It’s not that I feel that school is a good idea gone wrong, but a
wrong idea from the word go. It’s a nutty notion that we can have a
place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life.
John Holt

After more than a decade spent in these systems, even most college-bound kids have no idea what they’re going to do there, aside from spending the prescribed amount of time and money. Even exclusive, prestigious universities have become glorified vocational training institutions. Training critical thinkers is a dangerous business; they are likely to be critical. It is safer to prepare them for middle-management positions where they can watch over other subordinates.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
Albert Einstein

Too Much, Not Too Little

He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he
whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.
Thomas Jefferson

Proponents of compulsory schooling often argue in favor of more schooling. They promote the assumption that more learning requires more hours spent in classrooms. They propose longer school days and years, more standardized testing, and more power. More schooling begs for more money to solve the problems that it creates. The truth is that a quality education does not require certain amounts of time in certain rooms with certain people. It requires empowered motivation to achieve.

Studied ignorance is the most indelible kind.
Denver Snuffer

Ignorance is easier to remedy than learned helplessness. The hunger for knowledge is easy to remove. Systems teach that you should wait to be told what to do, when to do it, and the rewards and punishments that depend on your compliance. Not even the agents of the system know the reasons behind the methods, either. The resulting emotional and pseudo-intellectual dependency is much more harmful and difficult to correct than not knowing much at all.

If we forced children to learn to walk with the same methods we use to force them to read,
a few would learn to walk well in spite of us,
most would walk indifferently, without pleasure,
and a portion of the remainder would not become ambulatory at all.
John Taylor Gatto

People don’t need school to learn. They don’t need school to learn to walk or talk. They don’t need it to socialize or play. They don’t need it to read or count. Humanity didn’t need school to discover how our solar system works. It wasn’t needed to invent the airplane, light bulb, or television. It wasn’t needed to posit the theory of relativity. It wasn’t needed to map the human genome.

Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.
Peter Drucker

Most school reform efforts take for granted that students must have a certain amount of their time regulated by school officials. Teacher-proofed school systems waste vast amounts of human time. The debate that centers around how to best waste that time is fruitless.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
Peter Drucker

The prime directive of any bureaucracy is to grow in power and autonomy from public oversight, whether the stated purpose is to wage war against terrorists, deliver mail, or educate children. When policy is enacted, it is done to benefit the structure of the system and its key agents. The ultimate justification for all decisions is the threatened existence of the system itself. Administrative adjustments only serve to perpetuate the bureaucracy and show that remonstration is futile.

Education… now seems to me perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous
of all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the
modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing
but producers, consumers, spectators, and ‘fans,’ driven more and more, in all
parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve
‘education’ but to do away with it, to end the ugly and anti-human business of
people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves.
John Holt

School doesn’t help people learn to regulate their emotions, manage their time, or develop their character. It doesn’t make them better; it renders them manageable. The people of the world need less classical animal conditioning, not more.

Rising Above Control

No one is more truly helpless, more completely a victim,
than he who can neither choose nor change nor escape his protectors.
John Holt

There is always tension between freedom and control. Freedom implies risk and uncertainty, which is why systems avoid it. Systems require predictability, and impose limits on freedom to get it. However, freedom and independence should take priority, not organizational convenience.

We must be willing to break with the educational establishment
(not foolishly or cavalierly, but thoughtfully and for good reason)
in order to find gospel ways to help mankind.
Gospel methodology, concepts, and insights can help us to do
what the world cannot do in its own frame of reference.
Spencer W. Kimball

Getting off of the conveyor belt of compulsory schooling is critical, but it should not be done carelessly. Many people who disconnect from the system do so in order to avoid the harm it inflicts without sufficient thought for how they might best proceed.

You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged.
And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
Morpheus, The Matrix

School is a hard habit to break. Like other harmful things, it is always better not to start. Disabusing people of false notions can cause them to react in defense of the very systems that have caused them so much harm (to say nothing of how the system itself is designed to respond). Many good people defend harmful systems because they can’t imagine a better way.

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What we call reality is a kind of hallucination, a waking dream.
Alan Kay

Helping people rise above the system and wake up from their subliminally engineered consent can really only happen by setting the example and encouraging and preparing people to self-select freedom and insist on independence when they are ready.

Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it.
Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to
overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.
Les Brown

 Next in this series: Section 2: The Education of a Free Mind