One Education System to Rule Them All

We were recently camping near the border between Georgia and Florida, the kids were getting ready for bed when they ran into our room, scared. “Thor swallowed a ring,” they screamed.

Thor, our youngest, looked more nervous than the others. He explained that he had placed a toy ring in his mouth and inadvertently swallowed it. We gave him water and a piece of bread to ensure it wasn’t stuck in his throat, and we all went to sleep. 

The following day I took him for an x-ray to find out where the ring was. We wanted to know if it was stuck in the stomach or had already passed to the intestines.

A few seconds after the exam, the resulting image appeared on a monitor beside me. I took a picture of the computer screen with my cellphone and sent it to Beta to send to her cousin, a doctor. I thanked the nurse and left the room.

In the hallway, one of the hospital doctors stopped us to tell us that we couldn’t leave until I received an envelope with the x-ray plate. I explained that I didn’t need to, that I had already taken a picture of the screen, and for me, it was enough; I thanked him and left. He insisted, saying that he would prefer for me to wait, and I said that I chose not to and continued walking. But Thor immediately grabbed my hand and said I couldn’t go because the doctor told us to stay.

In 1961, Stanley Milgram designed a study to investigate how people behave when authority figures tell them to do something they would rather not. He reported that when instructed to do so, 65% of study participants repeatedly administered what they believed to be increasingly painful electrical shocks to someone who showed pain just because someone in a lab coat told them to. It meant that 65% of the population would kill someone if an authority told them to. Many good individuals turned the dial to 450 volts that day when their courage to disobey was weaker than the risk of killing someone. That’s how we’ve been primed to obey since kindergarten. 

I remembered Milgram’s experience and told my son that we didn’t have to obey the doctor. I explained to him that because of how we were all raised, sometimes we might believe we should do something just because someone else told us to, but that often each of us knows better about what we should and shouldn’t do.

I believe that the short time Thor spent at school was enough for him to think that he always needed to do what some authority figure said. This is the actual function of schools. And not to teach about names of hills where battles were fought, useless math formulas, names of kings, the tongue taste map, or any content that today is readily available on the internet. 

Our school’s objective is to create obedient and consuming citizens. Behind the arbitrary rules, there is a hidden curriculum of submission.  

So the biggest problem is that those who spend 12 years in a school being trained to obey, in many cases, learn to spend the rest of their life just knowing how to obey. Be it the bosses, the customers, their fears, or the economy – and not their own true desires.

Thor and I left the hospital with him looking back, thinking that we would be chased or that he would end up being sent to the principal’s office. I pulled and told him that our problem today is not people breaking the rules but blindingly following them. It’s people who obey orders that bomb other countries, lend money with interest, and pay minimum wages.

A couple of years ago, I left my house, business, and city to live with my wife and five children, traveling in a motorhome.

I still don’t know where we will arrive – and I’m slowly learning to be ok with it.

Click here if you want to read from the beginning.