People talk a lot about how to fix our educational system—but the only real answer is to get rid of it, or at least its traditional components, writes research professor Peter Gray on Salon. Gray, an expert on psychology and how children learn, points out that schools today retain the basic blueprint developed during the Protestant Reformation, when the purpose of schooling was to turn out students who would obey without question. "The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else," Gray writes. It's no surprise that many of history's greatest minds hated school.
School should be a place that nurtures "critical thought, creativity, self-initiative, ability to learn on one’s own." Instead, evidence shows most students are "burnt out" by the time they reach high school or even middle school, and many of them feel increasingly negative about the subjects they're being taught. But it doesn't have to be this way. If children were allowed to learn the way they naturally do—remember that before reaching school age, they've taught themselves to walk and talk, among other things—then school could be joyful rather than punishing. What's the answer? Gray recommends home-based schooling or "democratic schools," where students direct their own learning. Both types of schooling have been found to produce highly successful young adults, Gray writes. His full column is worth a read. (Read more home schooling stories.)