“The fact that my daughter is now homeschooled should tell you something”

Tom Knighton:

I’m not a big fan of public education. 

It’s not that I’m not a fan of education itself. I just think the government is, generally, the worst entity imaginable to deliver a quality product. That was before everything got ridiculously stupid.

Yet I have a bit of a reputation for having negative feelings toward public education, even though both of my kids have attended public school.

The fact that my daughter is now homeschooled should tell you something.

Anyway, as bad as the schools here are, they could be worse. After all, a psychologist at Boston College has some harsher words about public education than even I do.

More families may be flocking to homeschoolingand other schooling alternatives over the past two years, but Peter Gray has been urging families to flee coercive schooling since long before the pandemic began. The Boston College psychology professor wrote in his 2013 book Free To Learn: “The more oppressive the school system becomes, the more it is driving people away, and that is good.”

In our conversation, Gray explains that standard schooling today is a key factor in the continuous rise in rates of childhood and adolescent anxiety, depression, and suicide. Its imposed, one-size-fits all curriculum, reliance on reward and punishment as external motivators, and dismissal of natural childhood curiosity and creativity erode learners’ powerful drives for learning and discovery. Stripped of these drives, and increasingly deprived of opportunities to play, explore, and pursue individual interests outside of school without the constant hovering of adults, children and adolescents become more melancholic and morose.

“We adults are constraining children’s lives, in school and out of school,” says Gray in our podcast discussion. “School has become a toxic place for children, and we refuse to say that publicly. The research can show it but it almost never gets picked up in the popular press,” he adds.