Schooling that children are forced to endure—in which the subject matter is imposed by others and the “learning” is motivated by extrinsic rewards and punishments rather than by the children’s true interests—turns learning from a joyful activity into a chore, to be avoided whenever possible. Coercive schooling, which tragically is the norm in our society, suppresses curiosity and overrides children’s natural ways of learning. It also promotes anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness that all too often reach pathological levels.
The belief that young people are incapable of making reasonable decisions is a cornerstone of our system of compulsory, closely monitored education.
In this day and age, nobody can learn more than a sliver of all there is to know. Why force everyone to learn the same sliver?
People naturally want to make sense of their world. That, to Greenberg, is the essence of human curiosity. As they strive to answer questions that truly interest them, people are automatically motivated to use any resources that help them to address those questions. But the questions that interest one person do not necessarily interest another, and the resources that are helpful to one are not necessarily helpful to another.
Once compulsory systems of state-run schools were established, they became increasingly standardized, both in content and in method. For the sake of efficiency, children were divided into separate classrooms by age and passed along, from grade to grade, like products on an assembly line. The task of each teacher was to add bits of officially approved knowledge to the product, in accordance with a preplanned schedule, and then to test that product before passing it on to the next station.