Today’s Lesson

A student who has been reading a lot lately informs me of her latest book, a popular American novel called Wonder, “about a boy with a birth defect on his face. He goes to school, where some children are mean to him.” This story, she explains, reminds her of a cruel trick she played on another girl as a child, and of the guilt she felt about it later.

I have not read Wonder, which I assume is one of those “lesson” stories full of predictable vectors of bullying, bonding, and discoveries of so-called “inner beauty.” I have, however, been “a boy with a birth defect on his face,” and therefore probably understand the real experience of the book’s premise better than its author does.

In any case, my student’s brief description, and my general distaste for late modern morality tales, evokes the following thought.

All children are mean when you stick them together in a big crowd, day after day for years, with little or no adult supervision. They are all insecure, afraid, and therefore trying to survive by earning their way into the safety of the “strong” group, rather than being cast out to the heightened vulnerability of the “weak” group. That is one of the ways our schooling model is so harmful – not to the children who are mistreated, but to all the children, who are learning every day that fear and the struggle for self-preservation at all costs are the meaning of life. 

If you want the best chance for your child to be treated well, keep him at home. If you want the best chance for your child to develop a good moral character and learn to respect others — and himself — keep him at home. School is the brightly lit, finger-painted nightmare world where all children learn to torture and be tortured. 

“But they have to learn about the real world, don’t they?”

They are not learning about the real world at school. They are learning to create the real world — today’s ugly and amoral world of crowd-think, vulgar climbing, backstabbing gossip, and lives lived completely in reaction to unfathomable depths of incommensurable fear, rather than with the pride and principle of confident adults. In short, modern schooling teaches slavishness.

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