Children are the center of and the reason for an educational system. Logically then,
the system should revolve around the needs of the child. Instead, since the beginning
of public schools, children have been made to conform to the system. Natural curiosity
and a child’s need to explore his world are not taken into consideration in the
school schedule. This has led to generations of failure and ever-increasing dissatisfaction
in our young people.
In 1993, the U.S. government released the results of a five-year, $14 million study
of adult literacy in the United States. This study showed that 21 to 23 percent
of adults in America could not: locate information in text, make low-level inferences
using printed materials, or integrate easily identifiable pieces of information.
A follow-up study was performed by the same group of researchers in 2006. This study
showed that there was no statistically significant improvement in adult literacy.
The simple facts behind the statistics are that approximately 90 million Americans
have problems with such things as job applications and balancing a checkbook. They
are unable to follow anything but the simplest written directions. They must struggle
through life trying to support themselves and their families when they have not
been given the proper tools to perform the skills required of them.
The current educational model is teacher-centered. This places students into passive
roles in which knowledge is given to them. The knowledge does not have meaning in
the child’s life and therefore does not engage the child in the act of learning.
In a student-centered learning environment, children take an active part in decisions
about what they will learn and when they will learn it.
Each child is different and has different learning needs. A chief cause of boredom
and therefore failure in school is that children are forced to fit into the mold
that is the standard classroom. Instead of having real input in their own education,
children are forced to simply follow the leader. Unfortunately the leader, or classroom
teacher, also has very little input into what she presents to her students. Curriculum
decisions are made in a place far removed from an actual classroom and students.
Because people do not really understand the system, some feel teachers are the problem;
therefore, they take much of the brunt of the dissatisfaction with our schools.
This is both illogical and unfair. Every year new teachers graduate from college
and go into classrooms full of idealism and an honest desire to make a difference
in the lives of the children they teach. Every year thousands of teachers who have
been beaten down by the system give up and go into different careers that are less
stressful and heart breaking. It is the system that is broken, and until it is fixed
not even the best and most devoted teachers can make a real difference. Teachers
cannot be expected to repair all the damages done by years of bad policies and practices
in the public school system.
National educational bodies create standardized tests and decide what appropriate
scores on those tests are. They then put pressure on state educational authorities
to meet these standards. The state authorities put pressure on the administrators
of the local schools. The schools accreditation depends on test scores, so school
administrators put pressure on the teachers whose jobs depend on making sure that
students pass the tests. In the end it all filters down and the cumbersome weight
of this entire unrealistic and irrelevant system falls on the shoulders of our children.
Does all this mean children should not be tested? No, it means the material tested
should be more realistic and apply more directly to what children need to know.
It also means the method of testing should more accurately access a child’s ability
and knowledge. Testing should be a normal part of the learning process. Tests should
be integrated into the system in a way that keeps them from causing anxiety for
It is time to change the pattern from dependence on irrelevant tests and a teacher-centered
classroom to a system that revolves around the child. Children’s minds are incredible
with a capacity for learning that is amazing. One need only look into the eyes of
a child when he sees something such as a butterfly for the first time to understand
there is an infinite sense of wonder there that can and should be tapped. Tapping
into that sense of wonder and fascination should be the primary focus of parents
and of our educational system.
Children should be guided to explore and understand their world in a way that increases
their desire to learn and to develop a meaningful relationship with their world.
The curriculum should revolve around the student’s needs and goals in life. This
above all should be the aim of our public school system. Instead the system has
become an assembly line for churning out bored and dissatisfied young people who
can take in facts and regurgitate them on standardized tests in order to satisfy
state standards that have lost all relevant meaning.
Children are bored and dissatisfied with school because they have the common sense
to understand much of what they are being taught is not significant to their lives.
This conflict between what they need to know and what they are being taught can
only lead to frustration and depression. Frustration and depression can manifest
itself as negative behaviors that can lead to discipline problems and possibly serious
mental health issues.
John Taylor Gatto, in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory
Schooling says we teach our children seven lessons in our public schools.
He maintains these lessons are universal and taught in all schools.
The first lesson is confusion. This is accomplished by teaching everything
out of context. Children are presented with a plethora of unrelated facts and expected
to accept that learning these facts is the right thing to do. It is as natural as
breathing for a child to seek the meaning behind the facts, but meaning is not taught,
only facts and theories.
The second lesson our schools teach our children is class position. Children
are put into a specific class and indoctrinated into the belief that it is where
they belong. This makes the process of education easier for the school, but is not
in any way beneficial for the child.
The third lesson children learn in school is indifference. This is subtle
lesson but one that is accomplished on a daily basis. Children are encouraged to
participate and show great interest in the lesson that is being presented in the
time it is presented. Then the bell rings, and they must immediately change their
interest to another subject, usually totally unrelated to the first. This teaches
children that nothing has real importance; it is the schedule that is important.
Emotional dependency is the fourth lesson taught by our schools. Children
have no real rights in a school setting. Teachers control children by granting and
withholding favors for accepted behavior. Children desperately seek moments of privacy
and independence in school, but maintain the control necessary, this cannot be allowed.
Intellectual dependency is the fifth lesson needed to make the public school
system work. Children must become accustomed to being told what they need to learn
and what they need to think. From the first days of schooling, children learn that
the teacher makes the rules and the teacher will tell them what they need to learn.
This guided learning does not leave room for exploration and natural curiosity.
There is only so much time in a school day, and that time is filled to overflowing
with information that is approved by the system.
The sixth lesson teachers teach is provisional self-esteem. In public schools
children must conform to the system in order for the system to function. Self-esteem
or self-respect is based on so-called expert opinion. Children are given tests,
progress reports, and report cards to tell them how they are doing. Parents have
abdicated their rights in making decisions about a child’s well-being, instead allowing
the school system to tell them how their child is doing.
The seventh lesson children learn in school is that you can’t hide. Children are
constantly under surveillance when in school. This surveillance is carried into
the home in the form of homework. Privacy is alien to a system that seeks to control
A standard classroom where 30 students sit in rows, speaking only when called upon
to do so, for many hours every day, is not conducive to creative thinking or any
type of meaningful learning. It is this type of regimented and restrictive environment
that turns out children who have no tolerance for anybody who is different from
themselves. It creates young people who have issues with self-worth and are disillusioned
with life in general.
For those students who are unable to conform to the accepted standards of what is
popular and acceptable, life in the public school system can become a nightmare.
Bullying and harassment are common in public schools. Children are expected to sit
in a classroom and concentrate when someone who has bullied them physically or emotionally
might be sitting in the desk right next to them. The results of the stress caused
by this type of situation can have tragic results. Suicide is the third leading
cause of death in young people from 15 to 24 and the fourth leading cause of death
in children from 10 to 14. Among the reasons listed by the CDC for teenage suicides
is inability to do well at school, feelings of worthlessness, and rejection by friends
or peers. We must ask ourselves why so many of our children despair to the point
of taking their own lives. How are we not meeting the needs of these children and
what can be done about it?
Free World U’s Life Skills curriculum addresses the issues that are important to
young people. Interpersonal relationships are covered extensively. This is a significant
area in children’s lives, one in which guidance is needed. What children learn about
relationships can influence how they live their lives and treat people. We provide
guidance in areas such as sibling rivalry, romance and courtship, communication,
and abusive relationships. The Life Skills curriculum also has an extensive section
covering careers. This part of the curriculum gives a brief survey of many different
career choices, giving the student information about the steps involved in each
choice. These careers do not only cover professional careers but ordinary, everyday
jobs many young people gravitate toward. At Free World U we believe it is important
to make sure students are well-informed about mental health. Mental disorders are
the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada for people from
15 to 44. It is important for students to understand what the symptoms and signs
of mental disorders are in their own lives and the lives of significant others.
There is also a considerable amount of information in our curriculum about addictive
behaviors. We believe this will help the students recognize issues, hopefully before
they become problems. If indeed there are problems with addictive behaviors, we
offer a clear understanding of what they are and explain many avenues for receiving
help, whether the problem is that of the student or someone she cares about.
Many children who cannot adhere to the current standards set in our public schools
are seen as discipline problems, perhaps even classified as having learning disabilities.
We believe many of these problems will fade away once a student is allowed to make
choices about his learning environment and realize that he does have control of
both his life and his actions.
Due to the current exam mentality, children are being robbed of an essential part
of their childhood, time to play. Almost any expert in child psychology will tell
you play is an important part of a child’s day. Recesses and creative outlets such
as music and art are a thing of the past in many schools. School day schedules are
consumed by the volume of material that must be covered in order for the students
to perform well on the standardized tests. With Free World U’s methods, children
learn up to seven times faster than in a normal classroom environment. This frees
up many hours in the day for children to explore other interests. These interests
will be as different as each child is different.
We believe what we teach children must be relevant to their lives in order for them
to learn. Our student-centered curriculum does not take anything away from what
is now available; it adds to it and adds the advantage of choice. Children who study
through Free World U will learn the facts that they are required to know, but they
will also learn much more. They will learn how to live full and rewarding lives
guided by principles such as honesty, fair play, and a desire to be the best possible
person they can be.
Our curriculum will help to integrate children into lives that are centered on family
and community. Parents and children will make decisions about learning. Without
the artificial structure of public schools, we believe a more natural order can
be established that will be of great benefit to children and to the future of our
country. We believe in this way children will develop a true sense of their own
self-worth and be able to see what is worthy in the world around them.