This Is Why I Hate School

But I absolutely love education
By , on December 9, 2016 - In Their Words

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I hate school.

Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love education.  I am a college professor.  I gave music lessons for many years.  I’ve written many books on scholarly topics, and read several ancient languages.  But I hate school.

School doesn’t work.  It didn’t work for me, and it doesn’t work for most kids.  The chief results of my 12 years of schooling are: 1. the half dozen song parodies I wrote, describing how badly I hated the time wasted there, and 2.  the skill I developed at making myself sick, so I could avoid going.

Yes, they recognized my math talents early on.  In first grade I was the only kid of 50 to be allowed to write in my “Jolly Numbers” workbook with ink.  But by third grade I had discovered some of the principles of algebra on my own.  By sixth grade I was reading math books from the library.  Seventh, eighth, ninth, and eleventh grade algebra were all learned on my own from the unerased blackboards from the more advanced classes in the room before my section got there.  My talents easily earned me the SAT scores to get a state scholarship to the university, where the faculty recognized my talents and pulled  administrative strings so I could complete my masters degree together with my bachelors in 4 years total, as I worked for the department helping tutor.  But I still remember the high school principal that in my senior year tried to keep me from going to the elite “advanced prep” math classes at IIT, so I could sing in the chorus in the school musical.

My music career is well established now. I have 11 recorded albums, written half a dozen musical plays, and led the music for thousands of Christian services.  I have earned money at it for nearly 50 years, 9 years full time.  But for most of the years in school, I was “tone deaf”.  I wasn’t allowed to sing loud in concerts, or be in plays on the stage. Until of course, I taught myself organ, and started writing musicals in my senior year of high school.

They did, however,  allow us to sing in church, at the daily masses.  Every morning, 100 fifth graders from the balcony in back:  “Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla, teste David cum Sybilla”  “Day of wrath O day of terror, when heaven and earth shall end in ashes, as the Psalms and the Sybilline oracles say”, all in Latin.   It would be years before I learned the day Jesus returns is not a terror for those who “cling to the old rugged cross”, the Sybilline oracles are not in the Bible anyway, and the constant verbal abuse and punishment by the nuns in the name of God was not what He would want either.

As a student in a school run by a large institutional church, I learned more theology than many non-denominational pastors ever do, by the time I completed high school.  God intervened, and I was willing to let Him, unlike most of my friends still caught today in a web of confusion about who God is and the power of His love.  I’m ordained now, and run an international online ministry.  And everything I now know about God, I learned over from the Holy Spirit by myself, starting over from scratch.

I knew how to read when I started school, having taught myself with my mother’s early help.  I taught myself more from comic books when I was 9 and 10, and then from math and other books at 11 and 12.  By age 14, I could speed read thousands of words a minute, all done outside of school by myself.

Did the gym classes help me get more fit?  When I left school, I weighted 220 pounds and hardly exercised.   Today at age 68, my body still behaves like I’m almost 20 years younger, I have 3 careers, and I never get sick.  God showed me books in college, and I learned to be healthy by myself.

Did I learn anything in history?  I learned the dates of wars and heresies. Just the hating stuff.  Today I can tell you the spiritual history in detail of every town I have ever lived in, and can quote the dates of Biblical events by the year .  Because I cared to learn more about what God wanted by myself.

If the world of the 1950’s had not changed, I suppose my education would have meant something.  After all, I was trained to be part of  the church of that era, in Latin, and controlled by a single authoritarian “holy” human.   But instead, doing God’s plan for my life, I became a pioneer in the  non-liturgical “young” charismatic churches of today, and in the home churches.  Today, I lead what is possibly the only completely internet based online Acts 2:46 type church in the world.

Over and over, it was schools wasted my time, and God who taught me as I went on with the life He had planned for me.

It’s not just me, either. I’ll call him John.  John is 46 now, but when I first met his mother, he was in danger of having to repeat fourth grade because he could not do long division.  I went to see the teacher, and asked what was wrong.   He could not remember the steps – you know, put this number into that one, write this up here, subtract that down there, etc.  I asked her why the steps are as they are, and she said “because the book says so”.  I knew the reason John couldn’t learn; he wasn’t being shown, he was being pressured to conform.

I made some suggestions to John’s mother.  For a year and a half, John went to a privately run “free school”.  I helped earn his tuition by “teaching” there (actually having fun with music and math until kids got interested).  When the money ran out, I helped tutor John at home.  In seventh grade, he went back to “school”, but was so far beyond the other kids, he was bored.  I am told he was so afraid of being bullied, he never attended high school.   John dropped out in tenth grade, and passed his GED on the first try.  John learned 6 years worth of “school” in a year and a half of “education”.

Most people never really figure out what’s wrong.  I knew at age five God wanted me to be a teacher.  I used to line up chairs and pretend.  When I was in graduate school, I went to the library and started reading educational law.  I found the answer in the prelude of the laws as to why it cannot work.  Teachers are not taught how to teach, and in some places not permitted to.  They are taught to indoctrinate.   That’s right, the word was right there in the law.

Church run schools try to make the students into good church goers (for their church).  Government run schools try to make the children into cooperative citizens (for their country).  When the young people reach puberty, and start to think for themselves, and especially now that they go online, churches lose members (attendance was 54% in 1950 compared to 16% on a Sunday today.  2% in most of Europe), and governments must resort to handing out more and more free cash to try to keep people from turning to crime.  The kids who make it and find (with or without the name) God’s direction for their lives, go to college, where professors present great thoughts and make students wrestle with them by themselves, or they teach themselves, and they are the ones who end up leading society,because they realize that new problems require new solutions.

Maybe in the 1830’s, mandatory public education was justifiable.  We needed a homogeneous citizenry if the country was to grow.  Not that it worked even then, from what history tells us about the desperado gangs and later the crime syndicates.  But not today.  The minute you turn your modem on, you are a citizen of the world, that very non-homogeneous place with all the variety God can create.  And the early claims that schools would teach everyone to read is a joke.  Even the ancient Egyptians knew that one person can read medical terms, and another can read mathematics, and they cannot read each other’s languages (you know “press or say one for English, dos por Espanol……”). What we call “reading” is really the ability to communicate in graphic notation with a small group of people who interest us.

And Americans are some of the worst global citizens of all.  Australians and Britishers know our laws and politics as well as we do, but how many of us can tell the advantages of a parliament, or even what it means to “waltz Matilda” or why it’s funny for a “Bobby” to be named “Nick”?  Everywhere, except America, the nightly news covers all the countries.  I watch Bollywood and Nollywood, commercial free, on youtube,  while Americans sit through 20 minutes of mindless ads per hour, and complain about sex and violence of Hollywood, but probably don’t even know where those other places are.

I hate school.  No matter how you add it up, it is not working.  The brightest children are diagnosed ADHD, and given drugs so they don’t pester the teacher while she teaches those at the very middle of the spectrum.  I have spent 30 years teaching seventh grade math to grown adults for the fifth time, since 70% of adults who apply to college test in math at below high school levels.  Most people are in debt, take one kind of drug or another, and we spend our time arguing over whether a man can think he’s a woman, and which bathroom he should go to.  We argue over whether a Christian should be forced to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, but discontinue serving pork in prisons because it offends Moslems when it’s in the same room. We divide the world over theories of when the earth was created, knowing full well there was no scientist around to watch, and none of us read Hebrew well enough to be certain what the Bible we are reading is even telling us.  These are just a few of the fruits of what happens when the government runs the school system, and just about half of us don’t bother thinking for ourselves, because we trust the “teachers” they hire, and the answers we have been taught.

The truth is that we all learn from God, by the talents He has placed in our genes, and by the opportunities the world around us gives us to share the love He has shown us.   Education is like a mirror.  We must find ourselves in the thoughts of others.  You cannot force someone to learn, you can only make the environment give him what he needs in order to hear what God has made him to absorb.

So what can we do?  How do we create a structure that will make this happen?

Until the 1830’s, individuals ran schools in their homes with a couple dozen students, and parents paid them to help educate their children in the things the parents were not experts in and thought were important. But, in the absence of experts,  the parents taught the children at home, just like we still do up until age 5.  This is how it was in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and the Renaissance.  No massive organized programs.  Just parents and specialists helping and getting paid to do so.  And students grew up to build and run civilizations we still marvel at thousands of years later.

This is working today.  We call it home schools, and cooperative efforts of home school groups to make specialized training available, letting each child try to find his gifts, and training each to the limits of his capacity.  All we need to do, is to make the mandatory schools voluntary, and let each parent realize that they must make a choice, and we will have the old system back again. Once parents are free of the mandatory school tax, and the government school system must compete for tuition dollars, they will be forced actually to discover and work with the potential of each student, instead of trying to force students to grow in conformity with whatever is best for the prevailing attitudes of the country’s leadership.

Critics will tell me we are the best educated mankind has ever been.  But this is not so.  We are instead the most wordy and babbling humans that have ever been, largely due to the inventions of a few people like Edison and Alexander Graham-Bell, both of whom are school dropouts by the way, and other founders of technology that we have inherited, but scarcely understand ourselves.

We talk like we know.  And then we are so upset with our lives, we take drugs (legal or illegal) almost every day, and go and shoot up churches, schools and shopping malls.  The leaders of our country are almost a joke.  We can’t communicate honestly enough to maintain half our marriages, and our kids learn “reality” by roleplaying on the internet.

I love education.  Education is learning to think.  Better yet, it’s learning to be.  It’s encountering the greatest thoughts people have ever had, and working with guidance of those who have walked the road before to see how they apply to each individual.

School is mainstreaming the masses, so they won’t think too much, and are easier to manage.

That’s why I hate school.

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About Ken Behrens

Ken Behrens is partially retired. In addition to being a visiting professor of mathematics for DeVry University online, and sharing the organist position at Houston UMC in southern Delaware, he volunteers time tutoring math to students in third world countries via the internet, does statistical… Full author bio

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