We think of learning as a basic freedom. We are free to learn, learning is free, and learning gives us freedom.
So, why are so many schools constructed like prisons? Often large imposing buildings, sometimes windowless, usually institutional.
And why are students sentenced like prisoners? They are incarcerated for six to eight hours a day, five days a week, from the ages of five to sixteen as a minimum sentence. Parents often add one to five pre-k years and colleges -- a.k.a. "the big house" -- , in general, require an additional two.
The meals at prisons and schools, so I hear, are sometimes comparable. And there is always a time limit on lunch. However good or bad the food is: choke it down fast! Students and prisoners alike are told how they can dress, how they can fix their hair, and their seats/beds are assigned. Bullying occurs in both the prison yard and the school yard, students sometimes the meaner combatants.
Schools, like prisons, can be locked down in emergency situations, no one in or out. Security checks are ritual, the search of book bags and lockers not unusual. Physical contact is limited. No fraternization with the guards/teachers is allowed. Policemen wander both sets of halls. Both students and inmates long to get outside, to stretch, to roam free.
And what freedom does a child have to learn in this environment? He is told when and where and what to read, when and how to hold a pencil, what to think, and when to start and stop learning. He learns about math for 38 minutes, no more, no less. He spends a similar amount on English grammar. The art class he longs for comes once a week and the music he learns is scripted at best.
I appreciate the freedom of homeschooling. To vacation when we please. To stop and review at the moment of need. To wear pajamas when we want. To think for ourselves. To not learn today, but to soak in yesterday. To take field trips that apply to our learning. To hug and to love my children all day long.
But, I must be careful to preserve those freedoms. To not get caught up in "schooling" and "what the state wants" and "what colleges want" so much that I turn my own home into a prison, where we are held against our wills for six to eight hours or more a day. It isn't easy to stay free. When will I learn?