Why Schools Fail


The trouble is, a ten-year old doesn’t just get swept away to these imagined worlds and then saunter back into his regular life. He can’t just cleanly bracket the fantasy. A ten year-old who reads about Hogwarts wants to go there, badly, and believes somewhere in the happy shadows of his mind that he one day will. That wonderful prospect might brew in his unconscious for years.

Entertainment for children is the crack cocaine of distraction but also the fragile nucleus of imagination.

So when a kid is all hepped-up in an imaginary world, trying to adjust back to the real world of school is not something easily accomplished.

As an adult, I understand now how mathematics underpins everything. And, also now, how having an interest in electronics is something that can lead to riches.

But how the world of adults connects to the world of children is never made in school. School is where everything else in a child’s life doesn’t exist.

And that’s just wrong.

Trying to break through that entertainment illusion can’t be done by brute force. The kid will just go home and turn on the TV or play a video game.

Education should make a connection to what the child is interested in.

Because getting a child interested in something is most of the damn battle right there.

Too much popular culture has escaped my grasp for me to cite examples other than from own childhood. But perhaps the example of Batman is universal enough for everyone to grasp, since it has spanned the 1960s to the 21st century.

So much could be explained to a child just using that series as a hook.

How writers created the characters and therefore being able to write well is important.

How Batman relies on science in so many ways and therefore being fluent in scientific fundamentals is important.

How Batman solves crimes by thinking and therefore stopping to first think about something is just as important as doing something.

Even elementary physics could pertain to Batman. The speed of a falling body, the tolerances of human strength, the Batmobile’s braking speed, the aerodynamics of the Batarang or Batwing, so many things.

Instead, schools ignore the world of the child and the child winds up ignoring the school.

And that’s why schools fail.

Someone will devise a way to stop that. As distasteful as it might sound to adults, imagine iBooks Author — or another such program — being used to create textbooks such as “Learn Physics with Batman” or “Creative English via Hogwarts Spells.”

It seems like indoctrinating children into licensed characters, holding them upside-down and shaking change out of their pockets to enrich evil adults preying on their naiveté.

But that’s where children already live. Those licensed characters are real to them.

Most of them will outgrow that (do you believe in Santa Claus? have a collection of non-seasonal Santa merch in your house? gone to the North Pole?).

And they’ll outgrow it having been better educated too.


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3 responses to “Why Schools Fail

  1. Totally brilliant post. Fully agree. It was Star Trek got me to read physics and science books, and reading SF, of course. But my contention is that education should NEVER be compulsory. For a start it wouldn’t need to be if what you’ve said above was put into practise. I was talking about this today on my blog, typically taking it into he realms of hyperbole:

    But you’ve got it right. I can’t understand why educators don’t get it. Seems obvious to me that you enter the child’s world and slip that ole learnin’ in.

  2. Geoff-UK

    Where have you BEEN, man?!

    Using fantasy and toys to TEACH?

    Sesame Street has been doing this for YEARS. For example, Elmo talks about “Families”…then the totally predictable families show up in turn: one with a single mother and her bastard (or three), two lesbians and their son who they dress up in androgynous clothes on odd days, a couple of gay guys and their daughter they dress up as Lady Gaga on Halloween, a cowboy and his horse raising an orphan armadillo, etc.

    • mikecane

      The fact that illiteracy is so damn high should finally kill the stupid idea that Sesame Street and its ilk EVER did ANY good whatsoever.

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