What got me thinking about that experience was a book I just finished reading called "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto. He was a public school teacher in Manhattan for 30 years, who won multiple "Teacher of the Year" awards, and he wrote this book as sort of a whistleblower to the public school system about what really goes on in a classroom. He says that he teaches children emotional dependency:
"By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestinated chain of command."and intellectual dependency:
"Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do. It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people, better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives. The expert makes all the important choices..."As I read these descriptions, my mind instantly went back to my memory of this event. Thinking back on it from my current point of view as a parent, I am appalled at that teacher's behavior. I understand that in order to manage a room of 30 children, there has to be order and routine, but a person's biological needs can't always fit into a prescribed schedule. To berate and terrorize little kids for needing to use the bathroom at an inconvenient time for her - well, shame on her. I asked my mom about it the other day. I said, "What did you do? Were you livid? Did you give them an earful or what?" and she said she had no idea about the cause of my accident. Maybe I was too ashamed, or maybe I just didn't know how to put it into the right words at the time, but she didn't know about it until now.
I refuse to hand over control of my kids' education to the "experts." I choose to let my kids learn in an environment where they may attend to their bodily functions whenever their bodies dictate. I'm not saying that all teachers are bad, and I know they have an incredibly hard job... but not all of them are great. In the 12 years I spent in the public school system (I was moved up a grade in elementary school and therefore graduated a year early) I can count the "great" teachers I had on one hand. And whether a given teacher is good or bad, the deeply flawed system they must work under is unacceptable to me. Here's another illustration: at my local Barnes & Noble, there is a wonderful section of educational materials. There is also one shelf of books for school teachers, and one shelf of books for homeschoolers. There is a stark contrast between the two - the overwhelming majority of titles for school teachers are about managing children and keeping order in the classroom, and the ones for homeschoolers are actually about how to facilitate learning. Do I want my kids to be trained automatons who can mindlessly obey orders, or do I want them to actually use and expand their minds and enjoy doing so? For me, there's really no question.