I’m always shocked at the occasional person I meet who says they loved school as a child and at those who are impartial to their experience.
I used to attend pre-school as a kid. I hated that. I wanted to be home. When it was time for Kindergarten, my parents sent me to a private catholic school. (I’m not sure why. They’re not religious.) I don’t remember despising Kindergarten. My only memory of it is playing bingo and how I would always lose. When I told my mom that, she said, “Then tell yourself you’re going to win next time!” And I miraculously did. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
I don’t know why, but I don’t really remember 1st grade. Then my mom asked me if I wanted to attend public school for my second grade year. She believed I would be a lot happier, so naturally I was enthusiastic about it. But it sucked. My teacher was Mrs. Olsen. She was one of those stern old ladies who encouraged good posture. One time she grabbed my arm, and I got pissed off. I told my mom, and she got pissed off and told Mrs. Olsen never to touch me again.
I did not like being told what to do. That’s not to say I was a rebellious kid. I just did not like being told what to do.
I hated my fourth grade year so much that I had dreams of being locked in my teacher’s basement. She was such an authoritarian. I hated the feeling of being around her. I hated that year of my life. I felt so trapped and controlled. I remember just dreading going to school every morning. I envied my dog so much. He got to stay home all day.
No one told the birds what to do. Why couldn’t humans be free like that?, I wondered. Weekends were a blink of my eye. Why did we have to spend more time doing what we didn’t want to do than doing what we did want to do?
The other years passed as I became more numb to it. My other teachers weren’t as deplorable as Mrs. Hovdett, my 4th grade teacher.
The first half of my 10th grade year was actually really, really fun. My high school was pretty laid back, and I loved socializing with the wide variety of students.
But then my parents moved me to Florida in the middle of that tenth grade year. No words can describe how putrid that experience was to me. The realtors hailed this school as the best thing in the world. I woke up way too early for any human being to awake and boarded a bus a half hour before it was even light outside to arrive at a school made from big blocks that were painted the most depressing light gray you’ve ever seen. The floors were blue. The few small windows were always closed so that you could never see out of your prison into the outside world. They kept the air conditioning blasting so that we “wouldn’t fall asleep.” A guard drove around the parking lot on a golf cart to catch any potential escapees. I died inside. Since all the other kids were transplants like me, they were zombified. I was bored to absolute tears. I barely graduated.
When it came time to think about college, all I thought of was fuck no.
Looking back, I don’t even know how I got through all that. It’s soul crushing. The school system wore me down, and it took me a long time to find freedom. And that was the ’80s and ’90s. I can’t even imagine what public school is like now.
The propaganda warned us about how difficult our lives would be if we dropped out. We would forever be a loser doomed to work at McDonald’s with “High School Dropout” stamped on our forehead in big red letters. I was so programmed that dropping out never even entered my mind. But I never had to show one job I had that I graduated from high school. Now I work for myself.
I think about all the trauma I could have saved myself if I had just stopped going. Yes, trauma. I’m using that word. When you’re forced to do something you absolutely hate every day, it has a traumatic impact on your psyche. That high school stole away two and a half valuable years of my life. I learned nothing in those two years except that life is a boring chore, and you have no control over it. You just do what you have to do along with all the other miserable people. I could have saved myself from inner frustration and anger and confusion that it took me many years to overcome.
I look at all the home schooled and unschooled kids around me. Their spirits amaze me. They’re full of life. Their eyes are bright. They’ve never had their freedom taken from them. What will their lives be like as they grow older? Imagine all the things they’ll learn with the whole world’s information right at their fingertips, all the life experiences they’ll get to have! I envy them.
If I have kids they will never step foot into a public school.
This article “Why I Would Never Send My Kids to Public School / Why I Wish I Had Dropped Out” is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Brittany Forrester and emancipatedhuman.com.