Why kids hate school?

From supermemo.guru
(Redirected from Hate of school)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This text is part of: "I would never send my kids to school" by Piotr Wozniak (2017)

Children do not like school

Children do not like school and they know exactly why. Adults find it hard to empathize and insist that "school is good" therefore "school needs to be endured". In their difference of opinion, children are right, and adults are wrong. School is not good (I explain that in Problem of schooling). This text is intended for parents to outline the reasons for which kids cannot possibly like school.

Children often hate school and they have well justified reasons

Experts confirm: kids don't like school

It was back in 1964 when rebellious educator John Holt, in his book "How Children Fail", noticed that the school system negatively affects intelligence, and makes children lose the love of learning. Since then, relatively little has changed. Homeschooling is now more popular in the US. Parental rights in reference to schooling have improved in many legislations. However, there are also major setbacks. Most of them are a side effect of the accelerated drive for "better" education across the world. The industrial manufacture of educated masses has grown in scale.

Psychologist Daniel Willingham wrote a book "Why Don't Students Like School". In the book, he criticized teaching methods, which do not account for cognitive needs and abilities of children. Another notable psychologist Peter Gray was quite upset with the fact that the book did not get to the core of the problem. According to Dr Gray, kids hate school for it limits child freedoms. Gray does not hesitate to say "school is prison".

My own investigation

Obviously, both Willingham and Gray are right. However, I decided to do a bit of research of my own. I decided to list all the most prominent school pains. Interviewing kids seemed like the best way to go. Before writing this book, in summer 2016, I talked to some two hundred kids of all ages (and a thousand more in the following years). This painted for me a pretty solid picture. Kids dislike or hate school almost universally. The older they are, the stronger the feeling.

My impression does not agree entirely with what researchers report. Depending on the methodology and the country, the findings claim that "only" 20-80% kids dislike school.

In the process of collecting opinions, I also spoke to adults. Amazingly, an entirely different picture emerges there (see: Never trust parents nor teachers). Most parents claim "my kid loves kindergarten" or "my kids love school". Wherefrom this dissonance? This is complex and goes beyond the scope of this book. The dissonance comes from a combination of poor communication, sense of guilt, distorted memories of schooling, as well as maturity, where only after years we appreciate the value of the time spent at school heavily whitewashed with the brightness of youth. Most of all, child's brain has no good system to send messages to the future self: "I am different. I work differently. Can't you understand?". This is why adults will never understand kid brains via empathy alone. They can only rationalize and attempt to empathize via the findings of neuroscience.

As for distorted memories, this is my field of expertise. Therefore I made an honest evaluation of my own feelings about my own experience at schools. The verdict is simple: school memories are a constellation of love and hate and all shades in between. Anyone who says "I loved school" or "I hated school" must be making a gross generalization that is largely justified by the distortive and generalizing power of the human brain. This is why live interviews with kids about their feeling "at the moment" are so precious. Interview honesty is vital. This is why I picked kids mostly from a circle of friends. Those who I approached as a stranger were hesitant or literally afraid to admit they dislike school! As if it was a thing we should not say loud. Kids are pressured and conditioned to say loudly that "school is good". Disliking school is supposed to be a reason to be ashamed or condemned. Only when kids find me as their ally, they admit the truth: "school is prison".

For a visceral first person insight see: 1984 is today (for teens).

Top 11: What kids hate most about school

I put primary kid gripes into the following categories prioritized from the worst to the least significant. Every kid has his or her own list. My bullets should be considered an "average". This is what kids hate most about school:

  1. Getting up in the morning (see: School start time)
  2. Boredom
  3. Stress (grades, exams, overload)
  4. Excess hours (tiredness, whole day lost, etc.)
  5. Homework
  6. Bullies
  7. Self-esteem issues
  8. People they don't like (forced social groups, mean teachers, jocks, popular girls, teacher's pets, etc.)
  9. Rules and regulations (no phones, no bathroom, dress code, mute button, raise a hand ban, cannot open the window, etc.)
  10. Lack of freedom to choose (e.g. courses, subjects, sport teams, etc.)
  11. Pointless learning (teachers may try to explain, but children still do not sense the reason for which they need to learn some things)

In the duel of the psychologists, Gray vs. Willingham, the list confirms they are both right. However, Gray's view is universal. While Willingham limits his considerations to the cognitive core, assuming tacitly school is unavoidable, Gray strikes the nail on the head. Kids hate schools for the sense of imprisonment. Little wonder then that Gray is upset with Willingham's book which speak of hating schools without touching the issue of freedom.

Cognition science could remedy the hate of schooling to a degree and with serious difficulties.

Early waking can be tackled with chronotherapy. Homework, boredom, and stress can be solved by using the right cognitive approach (esp. self-directed learning). Long hours and regulations are a matter of good administration. As for bad people in the system, this is a pretty universal phenomenon. All social groups suffer from frictions. However, there are inherent design flaws in the current educational system model (see: 50 bad habits learned at school). Only free homeschooling, democratic schooling, or unschooling make it possible to fully resolve all issues above, incl. the problem of socialization.

See also: I wish I had dropped out

School makes me wanna die

Figure: An article at Free Thought Project revealed a Google autocomplete propositions for "school makes me". I know that kids hate school, but the list in the search box was still striking. The school makes kids feel, I quote literally: "depressed", "suicidal", "anxious", "stupid", "sick", "tired", "sad", and "stressed". The negative vibe of that list defies belief, so I repeated the search myself and found only minor differences: "wanna die", "wanna cry", "wanna cut", and "wanna give up". There wasn't a single positive proposition like "school makes me learn with pleasure", "school makes me smart/educated", or "school helps me meet nice people", or so. In case you think that people google only for solutions to problems, you will notice that the same experiment for "jogging" or "exercise" will likely produce suggestions such as "jogging makes me happy" or "exercise raises my endorphins"

Why kids like school?

For balance, let's consider why kids like school. Nearly all teens hate school, but some would say they like school conditionally. For example "I hate school, but I love to meet my friends there". Or, "I hate school, but I love physical education". Or "I love English, but I hate German".

Back in 2016, I included in this text two cases of kids who truly liked school. In 2019, I had to drop both cases. Those kids no longer like school. For details see: Some kids like school

Did I like school?

Personal anecdote. Why use anecdotes?
My own feelings about school

My feelings about school evolved from enthusiasm (first grade), to lack of interest, to dislike (high school), to high appreciation (last year of college), to harsh criticism (today).

I suffer from a sort of "documentation OCD". From early childhood, I obsessively documented all experiences of my young life. In high school, I started writing diaries with precise notes, dates, facts and figures. I also embarked onto a comprehensive project: "retrospective diary" where I tried to document all my memories dating back to the first impressions of daycare. This exercise helped me understand how unreliable human memory is when it comes to picturing one's own childhood. All in all, my top of the head answer about my childhood feelings about schools would be "I hated school". However, this would be just a convenient recall in the context of this article. In a different context, I might say "I liked schools" or "I loved learning". When I dig into details, I can bring back hundreds of moments ranging from fear to elation or euphoria. For this project, I pulled out lots of dusty details from my past using my precise record of notes. However, when it comes to figuring out why kids hate school, I decided to rely on face-to-face interviews most of all.

I keep few live emotions associated with schooling. Somehow, all the period of schooling seems largely neutral. However, the dislike of schooling comes back to life when I recall how I cheated my mom by touching a light bulb with a thermometer to convince her I got a fever. I recall that I loved being sick! I could stay at home in bed, read books, paint pictures, drink cocoa, etc. That was nirvana. I was not bothered by rhinitis. I loved rhinitis. I had a few cheating methods with the thermometer. I probably started from rubbing, but this took time and was painful. I advanced to touching the light bulb, but that was blown one day when I failed to shake off the mercury column and my fever went off the scale. I also recalled some severe bouts of sleepiness in class in high school. It was not long before I declared in all seriousness: "I will not wake up early for school because a sleepy person is not a good member of society". That might have been an onset of teen DSPS that set me on the life-long boycott of alarm clocks and getting up early. I would rather miss the class and suffer the consequences

Instant solution

Compulsory schooling must end. See: Declaration of Educational Emancipation

Summary: Why kids hate school

  • loss of freedom and excess work are a frequent reason for school hate
  • lack of motivation and low learn drive make school an unpleasant experience for most kids
  • early school start is one of the main reasons teens dislike school
  • homeschooling, unschooling and democratic schooling resolve nearly all causes of school hate
  • most often mentioned reasons for liking school are: friends, physical education, good grades, and very rarely, actual progress in learning
  • catching a cold was a joyous moment in my young life: I did not have to go to school!

For more texts on memory, learning, sleep, creativity, and problem solving, see Super Memory Guru