Boy writingSchools are supposed to prepare children to become members of society.

What sort of society does a traditional school prepare children for? Presumably a society in which everyone’s day is broken into arbitrary fragments by a compulsory timetable and morality is reduced to a set of rules, one of which is that you must obey your superiors without question.

This does not correspond to any modern society, even under a dictatorship. Traditional schools, instead of modelling an ideal society, model a society that is worse than most, a divided society with a defined, dominated underclass from which it is impossible to escape.

The truth that traditional educators have overlooked is that children are actually members of society already.

Though children are inexperienced, they are not stupid. Two of the ways of reacting to discipline in schools are to submit to it and to rebel against it. If we want society to consist of citizens who are either submissive or rebellious, traditional schools are on the right track.

Many young people at school follow a third way – they conform only for the sake of convenience, make their own decisions, form their own opinions and learn more about social behaviour from their friends than from their teachers.

Ideally schools should offer a model of a better society where, regardless of age, everyone has an equal voice, everyone’s interests are taken into account and, barring accidents or trouble at home, everyone is happy.

I have seen evidence of the possibility of this in many places of education all over the world, in wealthy backgrounds and among the poorest of the poor, in the east and in the west, in inner cities and in the country. There is a list of such places at, giving links to many of their web sites, and my books about them are listed here on this site.

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