The purpose of school is to help children learn and help them become smart, successful adults.
Why is the school process and institution so eager to use fear and intimidation to reach its goals? Perhaps with the exception of the military and prisons, few other services that aim to benefit its participants use fear or intimidation. Think of a consumer product company, a restaurant, a hotel, a barber, a gym, etc., none of these services use fear or intimidation to deliver benefits to its customers.
School, though, is loaded with fear and intimidation.
Considering school’s purpose in its largest scope, the primary fear for parents and students is that they won’t make it through it to graduation with good enough grades to graduate, get a diploma and be accepted to college to declare a major. No college means the child will have no identity, which means the child is a nobody and a failure. No college diploma and the student is done for and damned forever to menial work, subsistence living and economic dependence.
This is the primal fear that pushes the student to complete the hundreds or thousands of individual daily tasks that are inflicted on a day-to-day basis. For many students and parents, there isn’t a single one of the assigned tasks (assignment, essay, test, homework, worksheet, etc.,) that isn’t deemed essential to completing the entire track. With this in mind, it is fear of failure and grades that drive every subtask.
Think about this: never is one teacher-assigned task ever questioned or safely ignored. There is not a single assignment that can be determined irrelevant or not useful to the student. Every single task is necessary and mandatory. All of them must be done. Or else.
Same goes essentially for showing up, showing up on time and staying until one is given permission to leave. Dare to make your own schedule and there are consequences. Tardies are collected and tracked. Go for too long and the truancy officer is notified.
The students are expected to fear the consequences of any non-school approved behavior. Sometimes the student is shamed, sent to the principles office or handed out a detention. Sometimes the student is suspended. In some schools they still hit children. The ultimate punishment, though, is expulsion. And that’s it. The student is then doomed to be sad and pathetic forever.
Then between students there is fear of humiliation. Fear of not performing. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of being exposed. Fear of being one’s self.
If school were about providing valuable benefits to students and parents, it would not need fear.
How could children learn without fear? Well, if you made it to this last paragraph, you’ve just demonstrated how learning can happen without coercion or intimidation.