Homeschooling: Views from Nobel Prize Winners

Written by Scott

Topics: Archives, Uncategorized

Ok, so the below quotes may not be directly speaking to homeschooling, but against compulsory public education. That being said, those same thoughts and ideas are the reason to homeschool…

Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in literature:
“[School] forcibly snatches away children from a world full of the mystery of God’s own handiwork, full of the suggestiveness of personality. It is a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual. It is a manufactory specially designed for grinding out uniform results. It follows an imaginary straight line of the average in digging its channel of education. But life’s line is not the straight line, for it is fond of playing the see-saw with the line of the average, bringing upon its head the rebuke of the school. For according to the school life is perfect when it allows itself to be treated as dead, to be cut into symmetrical conveniences. And this was the cause of my suffering when I was sent to school. . . . I was not a creation of the schoolmaster,–the Government Board of Education was not consulted when I took birth in the world. But was that any reason why they should wreak vengeance upon me for this oversight of my creator? . . . So my mind had to accept the tight-fitting encasement of the school which, being like the shoes of a mandarin woman, pinched and bruised my nature on all sides and at every movement. I was fortunate enough in extricating myself before insensibility set in.”

George Bernard Shaw, winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize in literature:
“. . . and there is, on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school. To begin with, it is a prison. But it is in some respects more cruel than a prison. In a prison, for instance, you are not forced to read books written by the warders (who of course would not be warders and governors if they could write readable books), and beaten or otherwise tormented if you cannot remember their utterly unmemorable contents. In the prison you are not forced to sit listening to the turnkeys discoursing without charm or interest on subjects that they don’t understand and don’t care about, and are therefore incapable of making you understand or care about. In a prison they may torture your body; but they do not torture your brains; and they protect you against violence and outrage from your fellow-prisoners. In a school you have none of these advantages. With the world’s bookshelves loaded with fascinating and inspired books, the very manna sent down from Heaven to feed your souls, you are forced to read a hideous imposture called a school book, written by a man who cannot write: A book from which no human can learn anything: a book which, though you may decipher it, you cannot in any fruitful sense read, though the enforced attempt will make you loathe the sight of a book all the rest of your life.”

Bertrand Russell, winner of the 1950 Nobel Prize in literature:
“The question of home versus school is difficult to argue in the abstract. If ideal homes are contrasted with actual schools, the balance tips one way; if ideal schools are contrasted with actual homes, the balance tips the other way. I have no doubt in my own mind that the ideal school is better than the ideal home, at any rate the ideal urban home, because it allows more light and air, more freedom of movement, and more companionship of contemporaries. But it by no means follows that the actual school will be better than the actual home. The majority of parents feel affection for their children, and this sets limits to the harm they do them. But education authorities have no affection for the children concerned; at best, they are actuated by public spirit, which is directed towards the community as a whole, and not merely towards the children; at worst, they are politicians engaged in squabbles for plums. At present, the home plays an important part in forming the mentality of the young, a part which is by no means wholly good, but perhaps better than that which would be played by the State if it were in sole control of children. Home gives the child experience of affection, and of a small community in which he is important; also of relations with people of both sexes and of different ages, and of the multifarious business of adult life. In this way it is useful as a corrective of the artificial simplification of school.

Another merit of home is that it preserves the diversity between individuals. If we were all alike, it might be convenient for the bureaucrat and the statistician, but it would be very dull, and would lead to a very unprogressive society. At present, the differences between individuals are greatly accentuated by the differences between their homes. Too much difference is a barrier to social solidarity, but some difference is essential to the best form of co-operation. An orchestra requires men with different talents and, within limits, different tastes; if all men insisted upon playing the trombone, orchestral music would be impossible. Social co-operation, in like manner, requires differences of taste and aptitude, which are less likely to exist if all children are exposed to the same influences than if parental differences are allowed to affect them. This is to my mind an important argument against the Platonic doctrine that children should be wholly reared by the State.”

1 Comment For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Jan, San Francisco, says:

    Popped over to your blog, Scott, from old posts on Pioneer Woman. Heard you also are a former Montanan! Appreciate your posting these quotes on education, as I'm a big follower of John Taylor Gatto's ideas on public ed. Thanks.