Why Homeschool? (Drs. Ben J. Mettes)

Abstract: This is one of a series of articles in which people give their reasons for homeschooling. This article was written by Drs. Ben J. Mettes, who has degrees in psychology and communications, and looks at the way in which school enforces a specific psychological mindset onto children. The article looks critically at the education system, including University, and argues that it does not prepare for future jobs. School destroys intelligence, by focusing on the left hemisphere and silencing the right hemisphere of the brain.

A. The Authority to speak

In this article, I do not wish to enter into the debate about the word home-schooling. That has already been covered at length in earlier articles in this series. I support most of the arguments put forward in earlier articles and I do not want to repeat them here, as I feel that it is more important to discuss the way parents relate to their children and the activities they undertake with their children.

It is important to reject the argument that schools were offering a 'complete' education. One must understand why this argument is false, as it is so often used by people who reject home-schooling. Advocates of school argue that parents alone cannot offer their children the 'broad' education that school is supposedly offering; they claim that parents are not qualified, not specialized and not competent to educate their children and that only school has the facilities and resources to do so.

With degrees in both psychology and communications, I can speak on some of the aspects of education with some authority - in the eyes of the academic world I am qualified to speak on such issues as child development and communications. And, as I will describe, one fundamental problem of school is of a psychological and communicative nature. Had I not completed a university study and not put a title in front of my name, I would have lacked credibility among many people. But do not conclude that I am writing this article for discussion among academics. The very conclusion of this article implies that anyone carrying such degrees is in fact less fit to speak on these matters.

The reason why I have added these aspects of my background is that people generally look up to university. If someone without degrees rejects university, they may believe it is just jealousy or ignorance. In fact, I never have had a high regard for the education system. The significance of the entire education I had at university pales in comparison with the wisdom expressed in the articles in this magazine. In most cases, I believe children are better off not going to university and I can say that as someone who has been there.

B. School is pretty useless

The argument that school offered a 'complete' education has three components. School claims to enable children to enter further education, the job market and to otherwise develop to their full (complete) potential. But as (some) universities become more and more commercial, people without specific earlier education are equally welcome. In industrialized countries such as the US, Germany, France and Japan, more than three quarters of people aged 25 to 34 will have a tertiary qualification by 2001. University qualifications devalue rapidly, it also raises the question whether there will be work for all these 'researchers'.

One may need diplomas to get into further education or into 'protected' professions, but this is a mere procedural matter. Such qualifications can be obtained without - as in my own case - spending much time reading and paying attention to what teachers and professors say is important. Diplomas are more a reflection of attendance, than of accomplishment or quality.

What school teaches is pretty useless. The 'skills' now being taught at school are already outdated in today's business world. By the time children who are now at school will have grown up and start looking for work, what they have learned at school is likely to be totally irrelevant.

C. School is not 'complete'

The argument that school offered a 'complete' education is also false because what school teaches is very narrow. School emphasizes the importance of verbal language, in particular reading and writing skills. Under pressure from conservative elements who are afraid their children will be unable to read the bible, governments all over Australia are going 'back to basics', i.e. the three 'R's - reading, writing and arithmetic. Maths is glorified at school, even though it is clear that few children will ever need to use the complex calculations they did at school in their later life. School claims that one needs these 'basic skills' to analyze and access information objectively and to build up knowledge using the scientific method of law, exception, experiment and proof and the linear method of subsequent steps of logic.

Few people realize that all the things that are made to look important at school - literacy, numeracy, rules, logic, order and discipline - are dealt with in the left hemisphere of the human brain. I am not the first to make such an observation. More than two decades ago, Roger Sperry said that the main conclusion from his studies was that there appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres, respectively, and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere (in: Lateral Specialization of Cerebral Function in the Surgically Separated Hemispheres, Sperry, 1973). Many others have drawn similar conclusions.

D. Why this narrow focus?

The reason why school has such a narrow focus is that the Government uses school to transform children into robots that do not think, as deeper thought would bring them to the inevitable conclusion that the Government as a concept is evil. Children who do not go to school intuitively feel there is something wrong with the way the Government operates, its coercion, the dishonesty of politics, the economic waste and the inconsistency between what the Government pretends to accomplish and the outcome. This insight is exactly what school aims to beat out of children in a way that constitutes mental abuse with a magnitude that dwarfs all the physical abuse against children that is so often reported in the media.

E. Government's Downfall

As regular readers of this magazine have been able to read in the articles based on the ideas of DonParagon, the Government is rapidly becoming an antiquated concept that is still struggling with changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution, but that is unable to cope with the accelerating progress in information technology, communications and multimedia. (see DonParagon's Vision of the Future, ed.)

In the old days, people with too many questions were either silenced or locked away in universities. Only a selected few were allowed to 'sharpen' their brain, to reason, to apply logic, yes, to think. They were only allowed to do this after they had been completed basic schooling and as long as they used analytical methods to objectively research the mysteries of nature in isolation from society. Never were they to doubt the virtues of government itself. School made it looks as if logic and reason were a privilege for the educated few.

In the old days, schooling meant learning a trade, practising skills through training schemes such as apprenticeship. In most cases, parents passed on their skills to their children who followed them in their footsteps to become a farmer, blacksmith, cobbler, housewife, carpenter, etc. But, as the Industrial Revolution gradually phased out manual labor, work opportunities have shifted to the services sector, which demands a different background. The education system has now virtually abolished the apprenticeship model in which children used to be taught skills by means of practical training under supervision of a 'master'. Only in certain education (e.g. the TAFE-colleges in Australia) are such practical (i.e., manual) skills still being taught and only for children who have completed basic school. School itself now focuses on the three 'R's, as if these were the 'basic skills' one needed today.

F. No right hemisphere

In the old days, the Government restricted access to the university, fearing that too much logic would lead to the inevitable conclusion that the Government as a concept is evil. Today, the Government applies an even more devious method to rule out logic and common sense; using one's mind, yes, thought itself is discouraged throughout the entire education system by an ever tightening grip of the Government over educational methods, funding and content.

The Government silences most of the brain at school, in particular the right hemisphere, in order to create robots that follow orders without asking questions. This is a method that has been used throughout history to enslave people. A typical way to keep people under control is by making them perform manual activities. Dictators typically force people to dig trenches, to participate in military drills, there is a lot of yelling by superiors who constantly abuse these 'workers'. Muscle control also resides pre-dominantly in the left hemisphere. Most people are right handed, but the right hand is controlled by the left side of the brain. As long as people do not use their right hemisphere, they follow the rules of the dictator, as moral values predominantly reside in the right hemisphere.

In the old days, children who were left-handed were forced to write with their right hands at school; one argument was that a left-handed child would wipe out the ink when writing a line from left to right on a piece of paper; more generally, left-handed children were regarded to be unfit to function in a society in which most work required manual skills. School claimed that without right-hand dominance, one would become mentally crippled. Today, the claim is that without school one also becomes an illiterate misfit.

As the Industrial Revolution made more and more manual work redundant, school was less interested in passing on manual skills that were the norm in the agricultural society of the past. Instead, school introduced compulsory teaching in literacy and numeracy to ensure children would not develop their right hemisphere. Forcing children to write with their right hand was still part of the old manual skill mentality of the past, but numeracy, logic, reasoning and analytical skills were the keywords to discipline children in the new society with less emphasis on manual skills.

Language, maths, science, a methodological approach that analyzes a problem and reasons along linear steps to draw a conclusion, this is all put on a pedestal by school. Furthermore, the fixed times at which subjects are given, fixed places where pupils sit in the classroom, the general discipline adds to the silencing of the right hemisphere. Children who do not submit to this discipline are called stupid, disorderly and are pictured as if they are inferior.

Those 'inferior' kids are told they are not allowed into university, they will not get a decent job and they are better off 'learning a trade'. Learning a trade (i.e. manual skills) is regarded as something inferior by school, but for those who are too 'stupid' to participate in school, it is seen as an adequate solution, as such manual activities at least keep those kids from using their right hemisphere.

G. The wrong Teachings

Today, the advances in computers, communications, multimedia and other facets of information technology are rapidly making the very skills focused on by school, obsolete. Who needs reading and writing when computers feature hand-writing recognition, spelling checkers, voice recognition and grammatical tools. Just like the pocket calculator made any fool a wizard in maths, the computer is making literacy a joke.

Today, people are not allowed to do mental arithmetic at work; they have to use cash registers and spreadsheets to make calculations, in order to leave a record of how they arrived at their results. Similarly, journalists have to use word-processing facilities, shorthand is made obsolete by the introduction of dictation machines.

Most skills taught at school are already obsolete in today's business environment. Meanwhile, digital technologies are embracing audiovisual information in the same way as they have already transformed the shape of the written word and earlier on, the analysis of data associated with scientific research, market research or accountancy. Multimedia looks set to make literacy as outdated as the typewriter is compared to a wordprocessor. Schools have not even caught up with the typewriter yet; they are still teaching children handwriting derived from the pen and ink, as if ballpens have not yet been invented. Teachers themselves are even more archaic, they still use chalk and blackboard.

H. Tbe Jobs in tbe Future

Similarly, the so-called analytical skills, the logic and reasoning, the rational thinking, that school claims to be teaching, this is not where employment opportunities will be in the future. One may be required to display such skills when attending specific universities, but a degree is no longer a guarantee for a well-paid, respectable job in the future. The education system is spitting out an abundance of people whose approach is to collect information, to analyze and subsequently judge it using set standards. But there will be little need for such nerds of the past.

The opportunities in future will be for people who can use their imagination, their creativity, their intuition and feeling. The future is for people who have ideas and know how to express them. Instead of people competent in written language and with disciplined behavior, the future asks for people who can communicate, complete with the necessary gestures and facial expressions, a sense of fashion and spontaneity. Communication is no longer reading out a text that has been prepared in advance. In future, people need to communicate live (not from paper), they need to be creative enough to respond instantaneously, they need to listen, observe and relate to new situations, they need to be able to show their emotion - not hide behind a mask of disciplined behaviour.

The future demands people who can think independently, act and react without conforming to a pre-defined standard approach, without falling back to behavioral patterns they have been forced to adopt, but expressing themselves in the way they are. The future is for people who have developed their right hemisphere.

I. What is Intelligence?

School forces children to use their left hemisphere, but prevents them from developing their right hemisphere. The argument that school offers a 'complete' education is thus false. Some advocates of school try to make it look as if what occurs in the right hemisphere is not valuable, not intelligent.

People who have developed their right hemisphere are creative and artistic. Society calls those people talented, gifted, as if they have been born with a gene not present in 'normal' people, as if they obtained their creativity for free, by chance, without apparent effort. To society, it appears as if these 'talented' people accomplish things seemingly effortless, compared with the embarrassing failures of 'normal' people.

The education system takes great efforts to make it look as if intelligence is something one gets by attending school. The Government standardizes tests to measure intelligence and, in doing so, ensures that the use of logic and mathematical tricks prevails in such tests.

Few people realize that intelligence requires creativity. The ability to observe objects and situations with feeling but without prejudice is a quality that normally resides in the right hemisphere. Imagination, visualisation, independent thinking, feeling and intuition, school is comfortable with none of them. School silences the right hemisphere and in doing so deliberately creates mental cripples, nerds and robots.

Faced with studies that show that school hardly contributes to children's intelligence, even under the biased measures of intelligence developed by the education system itself, advocates of school fall back to the same attitude they take regarding creative and artistic people. They say, intelligent people are specially gifted people, talented, advantaged by the family and social environment they were born in. Differences in intelligence are then explained as if they are genetic, caused by chance or by better nutrition.

Is it any wonder that the most intelligent children are often the ones that fit in least in the education system? School simply destroys their personality, their creativity and self esteem.

J. The Lie about the Lie

If you confront schoolteachers with this bias for language, maths and the left hemisphere in general, you will find that they are unable or unwilling to understand you. This is a clear example how the education system has suppressed the capability of people to have an intelligent conversation. And these are the people that are supposed to teach our children!

The standard response is that school is less authoritarian than it used to be, that children are encouraged to engage in physical exercise, rather than that they are forced to make dull maths exercises all the time.

They will say that art, craft, music and similar 'creative' subjects are part and parcel of today's curriculum and that children are given ample opportunity to 'play' and be children.

A closer look reveals, however, that such subjects are prevalent in the lower years. The older kids get, the more they are supposed to shake off this 'useless' play, as if it is something inferior they have to grow out of.

And just look at the way such subjects are given if they are included in the curriculum at all. Children sit in rows all trying to imitate the teacher, make the same object, the 'example' the teacher has selected. Children are taught manual skills, how to handle the paint brush or the scissors (in the right hand of course).

At music lessons, the children are not able to be creative at all, they have to play a piece written by someone else. Often they hardly get any music to hear or play at all, but the time is spent entirely on how to handle a musical instrument or how to read notes and other musical theory. Reading notes not only makes that the audio part of the brain is not used, it is also a process similar to literacy which requires the analytical and rational processes of the left hemisphere. As a result, children's feeling for rhythm, sound combinations and music in general is neglected, if not destroyed.

This is not 'playing', there is no creativity at all. Similarly, at physical exercises, children are trained and disciplined, have to learn rules and develop motor skills. At the playground, children are bullied and disciplined again. A child engaging in creative activities is quickly teased by other children throwing verbal abuse at such a 'show-off'. The list goes on and on.

K. How does one Learn?

It seems obvious to school that children learn because of school and that children subsequently do not learn if they stay at home. This is the basic argument when teachers are confronted with home-schooling. To add insult to this false argument, home-schoolers are also accused of isolating children from the world, preventing them to socialize with other children. School-teachers will try to portray this disgusting 'playing' that takes place at the schoolyard, the physical exercise, the sheer presence of other kids, as somehow necessary for children to develop into 'complete human beings'.

As this article has shown, the opposite is true. School prevents children to develop into a 'complete human being' - to use this ugly piece of school jargon once more - school does not know the meaning of the word humanity, it silences the right hemisphere and destroys intelligence.

School is not even competent in assisting children in developing their left hemisphere either. Just take the example of speech, which is mostly concentrated in the left hemisphere. How do children learn how to speak? They certainly do not learn it at school. They learn it as they grow up, assisted mainly by their parents. By the time they go to school, they can talk and undestand quite a bit. They did not need school to establish this level of competence!

What happens then is that school prevents them from further developing these linguistic capabilities by making them sit down and shut up most of the time. They are told to read and write, but are not allowed to communicate and they also do not learn how to deal with people and society in general.

At school, children are taught to use their right hemisphere to some extent, but this is only done to suppress its potential in order to prevent children from using this right hemisphere in a more appropriate or sensible way. Visualisation, an important process taking place in the right hemisphere, is neglected as the children are given as little visual stimuli as possible. What the children are presented with are all kinds of lines and dots, called letters, numbers and symbols. Otherwise incomprehensible scribbling is presented as the most important things they will ever get in front of their eyes. School tries to fill the capacity of the 'Corpus Callosum' that links the two hemispheres in the brain with associations between script and symbols on the one hand and language, maths and law on the other hand.

Right-hemisphere processes, such as design, imagination and contemplation, take place mostly in silence, not when put under stress by a teacher. The classroom is one of the worst environments to practise such processes. Considering or thinking is consequently regarded as a non-academic activity. At school, those engaging in deeper thought are quickly disciplined: Hey, dreamer, it's time to get on with your work!

L. Don't use one part only!

It may seem as if the only thing I want to tell people is that school focuses entirely on the left hemisphere and neglects the creativity associated with the right hemisphere. People may believe that my reason for homeschooling is that this allows parents to create an environment in which children can develop their right hemisphere. Some may conclude that who wants their children to grow up as an artist may be better off with homeschooling. But for us, they think, formal school is better, because we want our children to go to university.

That is not the conclusion I want people to draw. I do not claim that a given subject is locked up in a specific part of the brain that operates in isolation from the rest of the brain. I believe that, if one performs any task, whether writing an article, playing music or doing craftwork, it is nonsense to use only a small part of the brain and switch off the rest. This is exactly the robot behavior school tries to enforce upon us.

In real life, one constantly uses both hemispheres, as well as multiple parts within one of the hemispheres simultaneously. In all cases, one needs to do things consciously and be aware of one's responsibilities. It is school that silences the right hemisphere and teaches children to use only one part of their brain for a given subject.

M. Conscience destroyed

The worst thing of school is that it makes it look normal that people perform tasks as robots, using only a small part of the brain. The specialization into subjects is something forced upon us by school. The division between arts and science is something totally artificial. The elevation of maths as a subject in itself, is simply a method by school to discipline children and select the most gullible of them for 'higher' levels of indoctrination. The worst thing about school is that it makes all these subjects look like sterile tasks to be performed without personality, without much thought and, indeed, without conscience.

School deliberately destroys children's intelligence and conscience and replaces this by concepts such as coercion, legality, monopoly, privilege and authority. Few people realize that the whole system is out to destroy children's entire personality, individuality, thinking, creativity and conscience, to replace this with the robot mentality the Government prefers people to have. What school calls learning is focusing on specific subjects and performing 'tasks' in a sterile way; without feelings or emotion, thus suppressing common sense and reflection on what is going on.

N. How do I teach Children?

There are a few questions that often come up in discussions about home-schooling. Such questions are: Can one homeschool without being trained as a teacher?, What about socialization? and What can children do without qualifications? I have stopped answering those questions. In many cases these are not questions asked by people interested in homeschooling; people feel attacked in their choice to send their children to school. Are you a teacher yourself? So it is not legal what you are doing? is the next question and, as a smile develops, you can see them think: I have nothing further to ask to this criminal!

Few people have thought about what school does to children. They take school for granted, just like they believe the myth that children have to be among their peers all day. In many cases, parents are happy to send their children to school as they have to work or have other activities they prefer above 'minding the children'.

Most people believe that the only way a child can learn is when disciplined by a teacher specialized in a given subject. But most learning takes place in solitude, rather than in a social environment. When I tell people that school is a form of mental abuse, they ask: What subjects do you teach your children? and there is someone with this smile again, who thinks: This guy probably does a bit of craft and gardening with his children. And both of us think of each other's attitude: How Pathetic!

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