At the beginning of the calendar year that your child turns five you are to send them to school. They will attend six hours per day, five days per week, forty weeks per year for the next thirteen years. They will be required to wear a prescribed uniform and to adhere to the school’s code of conduct. They will need to do extra work outside of school hours. You do not have any say in who will teach your children, what content they must learn and how they will be disciplined for behaviour which is deemed inappropriate. You are not permitted to be on the school premises except in exceptional circumstances. Most likely after the completion of thirteen years of schooling your child will need to undertake further training or education to be able to gain paid employment. Newcastle TAFE is running a Certificate III in Asset Maintenance (Cleaning Operations) if you find that that your child did not, surprisingly, “come to understand the complexity of meaning, to compose and respond to texts according to their form, content, purpose and audience, and to appreciate the personal, social, historical, cultural and workplace contexts that produce and value them” (http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/pdf_doc/english-syllabus-from2010.pdf) despite 13 years of compulsory English at school.
If anything I have written above is fundamentally incorrect just let me know and I’ll shut up. Otherwise what I have written above is essentially true and if it shocks you, then just like many other aspects of our modern lives, we are failing to question activities that we undertake every day. Unless we seriously question why we institutionalise our children in schools under the guise of education, we are destined to produce further generations of unthinking beings who, like ourselves, are blindly participating in the destruction of the life giving planet that we evolved upon. To expect the youth of today to save the planet after thirteen years of competition with thousands of their peers to get a school mark that will ensure them a pathway to maximum income is perhaps the greatest delusion in which we indulge ourselves. To wonder in disbelief or be shocked by the behaviours of young people in “schoolies week” or to merely dismiss it as “letting off steam” is proof that we adults also endured years of schooling that snuffed out our innate human curiosity to question why.
There are many things that you and I would readily agree to that will cause our ancestors to wonder “why on earth did they do that?”. But I propose that the compulsory shooling experiment that we so willingly and blindly subject our own children to will be one of the most perplexing of puzzles for anthropologists of the future.