Jails Called Schools: Return to School II

Returning to School II

by Owen Fourie

Education Quotes: Part One

A mother feels it acutely. The day comes when she sends her first child to school. Deep within, she knows there is something wrong. And the child senses it too.

This is not the way it ought to be, for all it accomplishes is the perpetuation of a system of bondage. In this way of life, we talk a lot about freedom, but for many it remains an elusive thing.

I often told my students that when they were four years old they were geniuses and then they were sent to school… It was not necessary to conclude that statement, for they realized, then, what had been done to them.

The following quotes reveal that education, as we know it, is a problem.

What is the purpose of institutionalized education?

Good citizenship

  • “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. School days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, and brutal violations of common sense and common decency.” ~ H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American journalist, essayist, and critic;
  • “And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.” ~ H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American journalist, essayist, and critic;
  • “We have a cultural notion that if children were not engineered, if we did not manipulate them, they would grow up as beasts in the field. This is the wildest fallacy in the world.” ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce (b. 1926) American author;
  • “School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.” ~ Ivan Illich (1926-2002) Austrian philosopher.

No individuality

  • “The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.” ~ G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) British journalist, novelist, essayist;
  • “As far as I have seen, at school … they aimed at blotting out one’s individuality.” ~ Franz Kafka (1883-1924) Austro-Hungarian novelist and short story writer;
  • “Children are born passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of things around them. If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process … the independent scientist in the child disappears.” ~ John Holt (1923-1985) American author and educator;
  • “The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.” ~ Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) American linguist and philosopher.

“Jails called schools”

  • “The founding fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on parents. So they provided jails called schools, equipped with tortures called education. School is where you go between when your parents can’t take you and industry can’t take you.” ~ The character George Caldwell in the 1963 novel The Centaur by John Updike (1932-2009) American novelist, short story writer, poet, and literary critic.

We’ll continue with further quotes in the next article in which we’ll consider the effects of institutionalized education, a better form of education, and the time for the change in education being overdue.


If you can identify with the issues addressed in this post, your comments, observations, and questions would be most welcome. Which one of the above quotes has the greatest impact on your thinking about education? Do you have a relevant quote that could be included here?

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