Dennis Hackethal’s Blog

My blog about philosophy, coding, and anything else that interests me.

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School Can’t Be about Learning

Most people think schools exist to teach children a minimum of knowledge they’ll need in life. To make sure they’re able to function in society, get a job, and so on. To acquire, i.e., ‘learn’, some ‘sufficient’ amount of knowledge.

That can’t possibly be true. Here’s why. Imagine you’re at a middle or high school where learning Spanish is obligatory. But say your parents are Hispanic and you grew up speaking Spanish so you’re already fluent. If school were really about learning, the teachers would let you take a test to prove you already know Spanish. If you passed, they’d let you skip Spanish class forever.

But schools don’t let you take such a test; you have to take the class anyway. Therefore, school can’t possibly be about learning. Again, if it were, teachers would let you skip what you already know. They’d let you take a test at any time for any class. If you reached what they deem to be the minimum acceptable score to graduate high school, you would be free to skip the corresponding class until graduation. And if you reached a lower but still noteworthy score, they would still let you jump ahead some.

To be clear, I’m not advocating that children should be forced to buy their freedom through satisfactory test scores. Children shouldn’t be forced to do anything. I’m pointing out a flaw in the ‘logic’ of thinking school is about learning.

Like clockwork, proponents of compulsory schools will argue that it would be unfair to those ‘left behind’ if some got to skip classes they already know. But having to endure the mind-numbing boredom of hours upon hours of material you already know isn’t fair either. Equality isn’t fairness, nor is equal misery, nor is it one student’s obligation to make life fair for another.

So if school can’t possibly be about learning, what is it really about?


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