I’ve just finished reading this magazine article In Defense of the Wild Child. It’s about how American schools are failing nonconformist kids. That’s probably true in most other places too, because public schools were designed for conformity. And, anyway, their structure and numbers work against anything but. But there is a school-free remedy.
But first, the article, which is a thoughtful and compassionate critique of the situation. It describes a number of “solutions” that have been attempted over the years for what is not a new problem. But it doesn’t present a real solution. And the problem has become a crisis. Think that’s an overstatement? Just consider the fact that the percentage of school-aged children diagnosed with ADHD has risen forty-one points over the past ten years. The article cites one example in which every boy in a class has been referred for testing for “learning differences” – in one case because the kid had trouble sitting cross-legged in the way that classroom protocol mandated.
See, the “problem” is that most kids are “wild children” in relation to the demands put upon them in schools. They’re not odd, nor wrong, nor mentally ill. Nor wild, really. They’re kids – full of energy, curiosity, and passion to learn. They’re round pegs that the system is trying to fit into square holes…while medicalizing their behavior and destroying their very essence.
I’m not entirely sure what the solution will look like (and I say “will” because things will change). But I do know that for the billions of dollars spent frantically trying to hammer those pegs we could be doing something entirely different. We could knock down the warehouses/factories that we call public schools and start over. We could use the talents and passion of teachers in ways that nurture kids’ curiosity rather than destroy it. We could start respecting kids and trusting their inherent drive to learn about the world.
If only we didn’t lack the vision. Families who are living a school-free lifestyle can show the way.