Problem of Schooling

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For years I have focused on the idea of self-directed learning. I love learning with SuperMemo. I have long forgotten my 22 long years of schooling. Each time someone asked me about the perfect modern educational system, I would say I have no idea. I like self-learning. However, I have reached a breaking point. I know dozens of kids and teens. Some of them are users of SuperMemo, some are kids of my friends or family, others I know from a football field. They almost universally hate school. The older they are, the more intense the feeling. To me, learning is one of the most enjoyable things in the world. Why would school be such torture. In late August 2016, the heat of the summer was unbearable. I love the optimism that comes with the sun. It stood in stark contrast with those long faces of kids who knew that in a few days, they would have to go to school again.

Then I vowed "I would never send my kids to school".

I decided to investigate, and collected a lot of material. I see that we fail our kids dismally. Education is based on wrong principles and wrong design. This article tries to explain the problem and suggest some solutions.


Chapters that are missing in the printable version are marked with "*"

Brain science

The system


Information science







Missing pages

This article is being uploaded and wikified incrementally. Some pages might still be missing.

Your contributions

If you see errors, distortions, inaccuracies or would like to contribute to this article, write to me

Colorful inserts

Important notes: the most important ideas are marked in yellow. Those are snippets I want you to remember most from my texts. If you do not have time for reading, reviewing those notes will tell you roughly what I have to say. If you disagree, you can dig deeper in the text to figure out my reasoning
Personal anecdote. Why use anecdotes?
Personal anecdotes: if you have an impression that my opinions about education are distorted by my own experience, you are right. I have spent all my professional life on self-directed learning, while my 22 years of formal schooling remained a distant memory. With each improvement to my own learning, I recall those early years with less and less respect to the old ways of learning. My personal notes are marked with this colored template. You can skip them without losing on the message, or dig into my own recall to see how my opinions have been shaped or biased

Metaphors: some ideas are best presented in a metaphoric pop-science fashion. If you fully understand the text, skip metaphors. If you don't or if you are skeptical, see if metaphoric approach is more convincing

SuperMemo insert. What is SuperMemo?
SuperMemo notes: are relevant only to those who know SuperMemo. You can skip those inserts without missing main points

Motto: is some witty idea or quote from some wise man, usually from ages ago. A quote that sets the theme for a chapter. Those witticisms often help us realize that we are re-learning history over and over again. The ancients knew things many people fail to see today

Tentative Table of Contents (as of Feb 2017)

Table of contents

Kool Kids

  1. Article
    1. Motto!
      1. Introduction
        1. My qualifications
          1. Autumn depression
            1. Goals of the article
            2. Brain science and education
              1. Baby brain
                1. Childhood amnesia
                  1. Measuring childhood amnesia
                  2. Perfect learning machines
                    1. How baby brain does not work
                    2. The push zone
                      1. Learn drive
                        1. Learn drive and entropy
                          1. Pleasure of learning
                            1. Accelerated development
                              1. Speech development acceleration
                                1. Introduction to mathematics
                                2. Reward and punishment
                                  1. Confusing creativity with ADHD
                                    1. SuperMemo does not work for kids
                                      1. Knowledge Crystallization
                                      2. Day care problem
                                        1. Chronic stress resistance is not trainable
                                          1. Myth: kindergarten accelerates speech development
                                          2. Daycare misery
                                            1. Infections
                                            2. School problem
                                              1. Why kids hate school?
                                                1. Early schooling
                                                  1. Learned helplessness vs. learn drive
                                                    1. Schools suppress the learn drive
                                                      1. Schools suppress creativity
                                                        1. Genius Checklist
                                                          1. Dangers of being a Straight A student
                                                            1. How schooling helped SuperMemo (not)
                                                            2. Anti-circadian schooling
                                                              1. Schools are useless in teaching English!
                                                                1. Tug of war: child passions
                                                                  1. Compulsion prevents learning
                                                                    1. Teacher's moral choices
                                                                      1. Does reading fiction make us better?
                                                                      2. The power of self-directed learning
                                                                        1. My knowledge of history
                                                                          1. I never paid attention
                                                                            1. History from the point of view of a high school graduate
                                                                              1. Tanya: Harfmul futility of schooling
                                                                              2. Impact of schooling on self-esteem
                                                                                1. Optimization of Education
                                                                                  1. Modern Schooling is like Soviet economy
                                                                                    1. A joke: Polish education reform
                                                                                      1. Free market vs. competition
                                                                                      2. Peer dependence
                                                                                        1. Puppy in prison
                                                                                          1. Fidgeting is good
                                                                                          2. Micromanagement with Dual CEOs
                                                                                            1. Standardized testing
                                                                                            2. Mindless cramming
                                                                                            3. Cannot skip a class?
                                                                                              1. Alcohol, smoking and drugs
                                                                                                1. Crime games
                                                                                                  1. How to become a bully?
                                                                                                    1. Schoolyard predators
                                                                                                    2. Homeschooling
                                                                                                      1. Democratic schools
                                                                                                        1. Parents beat teachers
                                                                                                          1. Who gives up on homeschooling?
                                                                                                            1. Socialization
                                                                                                            2. Bad days for learning
                                                                                                              1. Fostering genius
                                                                                                                1. Formula for genius
                                                                                                                  1. Talent or Practice
                                                                                                                  2. Parallel societies vs. Social contract
                                                                                                                    1. On freedom of education and freedom of information
                                                                                                                      1. Tribute to the Pioneers
                                                                                                                        1. Peter Gray on peers and deschooling
                                                                                                                          1. Marek Budajczak
                                                                                                                          2. European Outcasts: Sweden and Germany
                                                                                                                        2. Socialization
                                                                                                                          1. High and low social skills
                                                                                                                            1. Socialization pathologies inherent to schooling
                                                                                                                              1. Bullying is Game Theoretic!
                                                                                                                              2. Schools
                                                                                                                                1. When schools are a blessing
                                                                                                                                  1. Teachers
                                                                                                                                    1. Fantastic teachers
                                                                                                                                      1. Teacher sentiments
                                                                                                                                        1. My worst teacher
                                                                                                                                        2. Great teachers change the world
                                                                                                                                          1. The system changes teachers
                                                                                                                                            1. I am a great teacher
                                                                                                                                              1. Mixing up peers
                                                                                                                                                1. Physical education: good or bad?
                                                                                                                                                  1. Murderous instincts
                                                                                                                                                    1. Summary: Why schools fail, and how to remedy the problem
                                                                                                                                                    2. The reform
                                                                                                                                                      1. Action points
                                                                                                                                                        1. Read more
                                                                                                                                                          1. Summary