Quotations from Notable Persons Who Saw Problems in Schooling

Copyright © 2013 Karl M. Bunday, all rights reserved.

From my grandfather's father, [I learned] to dispense with attendance at public schools, and to enjoy good teachers at home, and to recognize that on such things money should be eagerly spent.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Roman Emperor from March 7, A.D. 161 to March 17, A.D. 180), Meditations Book I, verse 4

School has been a waste of time for a long time, and the world's best learners have long known that. Here is what some of them say:

I believe that school makes complete fools of our young men, because they see and hear nothing of ordinary life there.
Petronius, Satyricon

I have not the least doubt that school developed in me nothing but what was evil and left the good untouched.
Edward Grieg,
quoted in Henry T. Fink, Grieg and His Music (1929), page 8

I remember that I was never able to get along at school. I was always at the foot of the class.
Thomas Edison,
quoted in Matthew Josephson, Edison: A Biography (1959), page 20

School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence.
H.L. Mencken

[Schools:] vast factories for the manufacture of robots.
Robert Lindner (1914-1956)

Show me the man who has enjoyed his schooldays and I will show you a bully and a bore.
Robert Morley, Robert Morley: Responsible Gentleman (1966)

Education, the great mumbo jumbo and fraud of the age purports to equip us to live and is prescribed as a universal remedy for everything from juvenile delinquency to premature senility.
Malcolm Muggeridge,
quoted in The Observer (1966)

No wonder that biographers have discovered that hundreds of thoughtful, creative, diligent human beings who later became famous hated school:

Rejection of the classroom is an international phenomenon and has little to do with whether the schools are public or private, secular or clerical, or with the philosophy of teaching employed in the various schools.
Victor Goertzel and Mildred George Goertzel Cradles of Eminence (1962)

So it's no wonder at all that perceptive teachers are among those most skeptical about the effects of school:

Together we have come to realize that for most men the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school.
Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (1971) (In saying "we," Illich is referring to his fellow teacher, Everett Reimer, author of School Is Dead (1974).)

Teaching means different things in different places, but seven lessons are universally taught from Harlem to Hollywood Hills. They constitute a national curriculum you pay for in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what it is. . . . 1. Confusion. 2. Class Position. 3. Indifference. 4. Emotional Dependency. 5. Intellectual Dependency. 6. Provisional Self-Esteem. 7. One Can't Hide. . . . It is the great triumph of compulsory government monopoly mass-schooling that among even the best of my fellow teachers, and among even the best of my students' parents, only a small number can imagine a different way to do things.
John Taylor Gatto, speech on accepting 1991 New York State teacher of the year award, reprinted in Gatto's Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992), pages 1-12.

[Last revision 9 March 2013]

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A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.
John Stuart Mill On Liberty (1859)
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