“Artificial Segments”

Psychologist Robert Epstein used the term “artificial segments” in an interview called Trashing Teens in Psychology Today.  Artificial segments is a term  that I like, in describing the incessant labeling of individual children along with various pieces and parts of their life.  Mr. Epstein also wrote a book The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen which would be considered provocative by most in society. 

I think many of his premises would likely be considered an observed given for homeschoolers’ kids, in watching them learn and grow.  I haven’t read the book yet, but have read a couple of his interviews about his research and views.  In HEM’s News and Commentary, Mary Nix noted his Education Week commentary in her post Education Week Article: “Let’s Abolish High school”.  Mary says this about the progression of more artificial segments:

In this day and time of Zero to Three programs that are said to assure that children are ready to learn, Universal Preschool and pressures from the Federal Department of Education via NCLB, I hope that The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen becomes a best seller.

And as Dr.Epstein is thinking outside the box, he found Home Education Magazine’s blog and commented on Mary’s post:

Wow! Thanks for that wonderful endorsement! My new book (http://thecaseagainstadolescence.com) says very positive things about home schooling, but I think that even home schooling doesn’t go far enough: we need to give young people incentives and opportunities to join the adult world and to escape from the absurd world of teen culture, and education needs to be spread out over our entire lives, not crammed into the early years. The cramming idea is a leftover from the “mass production” concept of the early years of industrialization.

His goal seems to be getting rid of the factory worker induced school system and freeing up teens for lifelong learning with their energy and creativity.  And he noticed this first hand.  From Education Week [registration required]:

I’m a father of four children, and about 10 years ago I noticed—I couldn’t help but notice—that my 15-year-old son was remarkably mature. He balanced work and play far better than I did, and he seemed quite ready to live on his own. Why, I wondered, was he not allowed to drive or vote, and why did he have so few options? Simply because of his age, he couldn’t own property or do any interesting or fulfilling work, and he had no choice but to attend high school for several more years before getting on with his “real” life.

I’d like to see both ends of the compulsory attendance age demands let loose.  (What the heck, let’s get rid of compulsory attendance.)

Dr. Epstein based many of his suggestions on the premise that the school system is “cursed by at least four fatal legacies of the Industrial Revolution”.  
His first point was concerning the absurdity of trying to “teach people when they’re not ready to learn“.  And he mentioned Dr. Hahn, Outward Bound founder, who in one 1958 speech, pointed out that “education has failed to satisfy the thirst for action, the thirst for mastery which is the birthright of every healthy boy” [and girl].  Look at what happened with singer Mika to know the possibilities:

Mika in Wikipedia

Mika was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He is the middle child of the five children born to a Lebanese mother and an American father. When he was one year old his family was forced to leave war-torn Lebanon and moved to Paris. He wrote his first song, which he describes as an “awful” piano instrumental called “Angry”, at age seven. The family moved to London when he was nine years old. In London he then attended the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle where he experienced more severe bullying at school and had problems with dyslexia, so he was home-schooled by his mother for close to a year.[3] He then attended Westminster School and the Royal College of Music, which he later left to record his first album.[4]

Another educator, Mr. John Holt, Growing Without Schooling founder, has a lot to say about the subject.  What a great treasure linked here; Studs Terkel interviewing John Holt in 1970;  about How children fail, Education, School Promotion, Underachievers, Failure, Dropouts.  (Scroll down past other interesting interviews about midway down)
Things have NOT changed much, except that the system is more entrenched and much expanded. John Holt said in the interview that he “believes in freedom”, but ‘not too many people here understand it or believe in it’.  No kidding. He’s right; despite those who talk the talk, but are not walking the walk.

“Limited Power” “Less Government” is a joke in Illinois

Terkel and Holt talked about the “totalitarian” state of mind created in school based on assorted con jobs.  He agrees that “children aren’t always going to be able to do what they want to do”, but John Holt stated that the ‘blurring of doing things because you really want to as opposed to when you really have to’ via “brainwashing’ is wrong.  Many people in the public school realm, (administrators come immediately to mind) have that down to a crafty art.
He continued in saying that generations should be raised so that when someone moves in on their freedoms that “red lights and sirens should go off.”….otherwise children grow up “ripe for slavery”.  Ripe we are.  Many even in the Illinois homeschooling community don’t oppose compulsory attendance age changes or universal preschool as “it doesn’t affect homeschoolers”.  Wrong, in too many different ways.
Part of the 1970 Holt/Terkel conversation was about a piece from How Children Fail and a parent’s view in how the teachers should prepare the children.  The mother was upset because the kids were enjoying what JH was teaching. She “accepted the slave state” and wanted her children to be “accustomed to the drudgery”.
I’ve heard that before…or that our kids would benefit the school system, so they should be sacrificed for the greater good.  Or the resentment that our kids aren’t in the drudge wagon too, but instead have it WAY too easy.
Our kids work hard on their chosen projects.  But Tae Kwon Do, speech club, string lessons and practice, 4-H, hitting the bike trail, yadayada are of their choosing; that is true.
Radical as this seems in writing it down, the popular mindset seems to be that people (particularly children) shouldn’t have that freedom to enjoy their learning or educational process.  One example is the nerve of homeschooled kids wanting to participate in public school sports/activities.  Besides homeschoolers paying taxes, they should also suffer through (at least) a half day in the school (via IHSA rules here in IL).

Homeschoolers wouldn’t suffer enough unless they were to endure a good part of what public schooled kids endure to do something fun. That’s the mindset; not even delving into the funding and oversight piece of it.

I have NO desire for my kids to do such, but the attitude is exactly as described in the Terkel/Holt conversation.  We don’t want to play that game anymore anyway.

And Dr. Epstein pointed out the usual discrepancies to a natural state of mind and logic in using artificial extensions:

This trend [artificial extensions] is continuing. Just last year, Reg Weaver, the second-term president of the National Education Association, while lamenting the fact that 30 percent or more of our young people never complete high school, called for extending the minimum age of school leaving to 21.

I will also continue to point out the lack of reason and logic (in serving the kids anyway)

Senator Raoul again; Lowering Compulsory Attendance again

As Mary also pointed out, our country’s policies are also heading straight for our littlest ones.   Even with their constantly changing, always unique maturation levels of various parts of their brain, there are endeavors (well funded, lobbied hard by ‘experts’ and legislators), to standardize the smallest and most helpless of our society.  The (Voices for IL Children….) predators and the vultures (teacher’s unions looking for a larger mandated age range up and down).

Letter Opposing “Government Knows Best Variety”

Epstein’s second point was that mass education doesn’t serve most well.  That’s one big reason why it works for homeschoolers, even as school students (and their teachers) cannot use a unique style for each unique student.   I’m amazed at what some wonderful teachers are able to do in a classroom.  The other big reason is homeschooling parents want this to work for their loved ones and there is often a higher degree of care involved in the learning project(s).

Third point made was that the schooling technique makes many kids hate school.  Part of Epstein’s solution is this:

In today’s fast-paced world, education needs to be spread out over a lifetime, and the main thing we need to teach our young people is to love the process of learning.

I quit feeling guilty because we haven’t memorized the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence, et al, like another homeschooling family, but were wrapped up in this or that instead. We can’t do and learn everything anymore than any other homeschooling family.  But we do all right.  The best thing that our kids have learned is to stay curious and asking questions.  We didn’t particularly intend to teach our kids that, but have noticed the natural inclination where many schooled kids want to run (fast) away from anything that smells of education (school/classroom).   Can’t blame ’em. Been there, done that and it generally stunk; despite some wonderful individual educators within the system.

In Larry and Susan Kaseman’s Taking Charge article from HEM in the March/April issue, they wrote:
The Economy, Public Schools, and Homeschooling

Why should homeschoolers spend time thinking about what’s happening to public schools? After all, didn’t a lot of us choose homeschooling so we wouldn’t have to deal with public schools? True enough. But it’s helpful for us to be aware of what’s happening because most people, including many homeschoolers, assume that we are doing something roughly equivalent to what the public schools are doing. Or, if we aren’t, we ought to be. In addition, some homeschoolers plan to have their children enter or re-enter public schools while others participate part-time in public schools.
This column will focus on three aspects of current issues surrounding public schools. First, how are changes in the US economy likely to affect schools? Second, have schools improved as a result of reforms of the last few decades? Third, how can we homeschoolers use recent developments to our advantage and minimize the chances we will be negatively affected by what’s happening to public schools?

In their detailed and researched illustration in the article of the various concerns in our general society via the fundamental education spectrum and with the use of a report called Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, they pointed this out in conclusion:

Recent reports indicate that public schools are not improving despite increases in taxpayers’ money spent per pupil, smaller class sizes, and increased education for teachers. Another report suggests that a new system of public education is needed. As homeschoolers, we can use such reports to strengthen our independence of the public schools and be alert for possible problems they may raise such as universal preschool and increased use of standardized testing.

We can do that as homeschoolers to also help prevent the “drudge” mentality that young people exiting schools (whether they are graduated or dropouts) often have to withdraw from (or deschool in their brains) to find their true passion and love of their life. And to protect our wonderful freedoms and independence for our homeschooled children and loved ones, we try to find that something that works for all our children and our society that mostly has to do with freedom.  I think Dr. Robert Epstein is on the right track.


“Artificial Segments” — 3 Comments

  1. I just wanted to thank you for this thoughtful essay – and for your supportive and considerate comments. I explore these issues in great detail in The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen. It includes a foreword by renowned psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who calls it “one of the most revolutionary books I have ever read.” Dr. Joyce Brothers calls it “profoundly important.” If you’re interested in teens, I hope you’ll check it out. For further information, please see: http://thecaseagainstadolescence.com.

  2. How radical to think we can create a learning regimen for children and young adults that caters to their interests, Mom! How homogenized does society need to become before folks realize that the real world/lives/interests are different from one individual to the next, and perhaps doesn’t fit into this standardized environment of K-12 that most kids continue to endure? Dr. Robert Epstein’s point that we need to teach our kids to love learning seems like it should be an obvious one. So why isn’t it?

    I plan to read this book as soon as I get the chance.

  3. Thank you, Dr. Epstein for commenting here and as you can see, our family is very intrigued. It’s nice to see an advocate of families and kids seeing the amazing potentials, energies and intelligence of our young people.

    Hope you liked those pictures at Giant City, Bridget. Your dad and I sure liked watching you at work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *