Greetings! May I incarcerate you?


Don’t worry! You’ll get out soon! I’ll even do you a couple favours. How does… free lunches sound? What if everyone else there agreed to never use the phrase ‘incarcerated’? It’d hardly feel like you were being locked up. Fifteen years tops, I swear.


Ok! Fine! What about instead of all day it’ll just be eight hours. That’s not so bad, right?

But why?’

Ask me that again in about three minutes. I’ll have an answer that you’ll like then. But don’t worry about that! I’ll feed you! Free meals! Doesn’t that sound nice? Aren’t you lucky?

(You admit that free meals sound pleasant, but that they in no way balance out the rest of the incarceration.)

Ok, how about this. What if, at the end of it, I’ll upgrade you to a slightly different form of incarceracion. It’s a great honour, really.

‘I seriously think you’ve forgotten to include the part about how this is appealing in any way. I like freedom,’ you insist. ‘Freedom is good for me. You would have to have an astounding case for taking it away.’

Oh, we have a case. We teach!

‘I can learn on my own, thanks.’

Oh, no you can’t. (And by the end of your incarceration I’m sure you’ll agree with me). You won’t want to learn without us anyway.

‘What??’ You screech.


‘Look I still think you’ve forgotten to give me the real reason. I’m not sold on this, at all, and am really quite confused how you could think I’d take you up on this. Why do you want to lock me up in the first place? What’s the real reason?

Ok, you want to know the real reason? For real?


(You witness it struggle for a moment, as its parts within it are at odds. Then it smiles, in a way you can’t pinpoint why is unsettling. And then it spoke. It said:)

Ok. I’ll be real with you.

I. Manipulating Memory

Your existence is costly for us. Each one of you that’s made… you’re not economically sustainable. See, it’s easier to work in units of money. Money is quantified, money is simple. While you have your “freedom”, as you put it, you take time away from your parents. We need your parent’s time… few things can be so easily converted into money.

We can only restrict so much of the Released’s freedom. If we went ahead with the Reproduction Restriction Program, they’d remember what it was like before. They’d have something to compare it to. They’d know there was a better time  And that’s costly. Costly in peace, costly in productivity, costly in our power, costly in prosperity.

See, we don’t like memories. Memories provide a framework, something to compare to. Without them, we could institute whatever rules we want. We could treat human beings worse than we do rats and get away with it.

So, to solve this problem, we target our recourses at the one subsection of humanity who lack it. We take these “freedoms” as you call it, from those who don’t know what its supposed to feel like, from before they’ve ever had a chance to taste it.

Freedom is costly, incaceration is cheap.

II. Distorting Valuations

We needn’t manipulate the parents memory either. We just have to rewire an incredibly powerful instinct all parents already come with: parents want to help their kids. All we have to do is convince them the incarceration is good for them.

Hence the learning…’

Hence the learning!

(You witness something else creeping into It’s face, something else you don’t quite recognise.)

We’ve hijacked the parents valuations so effectively they completely ignore overt signals of unforgiveable suffering from the beloved offspring they swore to protect! All as part of a grander plan, the parents think. All to solve a bigger problem. You have to admit it’s pretty impressive!

‘You’re… you’re manipulating these poor parents will to do good for their kin to serve your own sick function, and snatching the kid’s confidants at the same time? You’re telling me these kids… they’ll beg for their parents to let them be free, and the parents will ignore them and think that’s the right thing?

(Your legs buckle slightly as you picture the pure scope of the suffering… thousands of children begging in pain to their parents… thousands of parents just wanting to do right by their children… thousands of hours of misguided, pointless suffering…)

‘How could you?‘ (Your body is twitching at the scope of such a monstrous hijacking of familial love.) ‘That’s disgusting!’

It’s genius!

Plus, we’re kind enough to make the incarceration free, and all the alternatives ridiculously expensive. We understand how humans work. By placing costly penalties on the paths down which we don’t want to go, we can steer their actions to wherever we please, and their brains will fill in the reasons why for us.

‘That sounds… almost too easy… Is that it?’

Oh no, these effects of motivated reasoning scale, see. When all the other parents give their kids to us, no single parents wants to be the one to not send their kid their too. Getting to the stage where they can even begin to doubt schooling requires going against social dogma and actually changing one’s mind, a feat so monumentally, unexplainably difficult for all members of our species. Heck, look at slavery, look at racism — or sexism! You think you would’ve been so smart to figure out these were bad on your own, if everyone else thought otherwise? It took humanity hundreds of years to free each other of basic revulsions in freedom. Do you really think this’ll be any different?

You.. you plan to do this for hundreds of years?’

(It smiles.)

And hundreds after that. Look around you! What is this amnesia that faces you? We have won! We have been doing it for hundreds of years already!

‘Someone will stop you. You’ll fall, like racism did, like sexism did. They fell. You’ll fall.’

Ah, but we’ve taken measures against that too, oh naive one.

III. Unplanned Obsolesce

Surely you know that change in protocol requires change in thought, right? We have taken immense measures to ensure that never happens. Worry not.

These parents who commit to chopping off a tenth of their children’s lifespan before they’re even born — they’re not the only ones who take part in propagating the torture while having truly good intentions. No.

We’ve duped EVERYONE.

The very people we hire to teach in the incarceration think it’s important!

‘You’re duping them too? Aren’t they on your side?’

Nope! Makes the ruse all the more believable. Nowadays the types of people who come into the teaching job actually think their job is about helping the incacerees, as opposed to just guarding and babysitting them like originally intended.

‘Wait — so that means there’s hope, isn’t there? Won’t they treat the incarcerees well then? Don’t the teachers fight for the incarcerees freedom once they see how horrible their lives are?’

(It raises its eyebrows, and that’s enough for you to recall your prior knowledge on just how quickly human beings get used to horrible things, just how strong rationalisations to horrible circumstances can become. Your mind automatically runs a simulation of an innocent member of the Released being told they can perform a great service to the incacerees by teaching them. You feel the mild confusion they experience as they realise the filler they have to spew, how its not actually half as useful to them as you expected, and you see the horrible way the incarcerees are treated, as though they’re less than human. You sense the slightest desire in the teacher to do everything they can to free the incarcerees bubble up to the surface and shine for the shortest moment, before the forces of the ancient system are recognised and instantly the rationalisations are made. The teacher adjusts, the will to save sinks, and the intolerable suffering of the incacerees suddenly seems tolerable.)

(It goes on:)

A while ago we also set the ball rolling on these things we call ‘exam boards’, who decide what’s taught, and they’re just as duped as the parents and teachers are. Completely on their own accord, they make up more and more stuff which is deemed essential for your kind to know and memorise (completely putting aside that they’ve made their carreers without memorising the stuff for squat). And everyone involves eats it up!

‘But you can’t just keep increasing stress forever, there’s a limit! Surely some of them would start to crack… and you’ve trained their parents to ignore their suffering… so eventually… if they couldn’t handle it… some of them would…’

(Its unreadable expression for a moment dons the unmistakable smile of malevolence.)

It makes quite a convenient form of natural selection.

(You feel a phantom fist within you, pulling your heart into your stomach. You feel deeply, deeply sick.)

You’re probably wondering why the exam boards even bother. You’ll get a kick out of it — keep in mind my division had nothing to do with the rest of this. You’ll love it though:

They somehow started using how well they perform while inside the incarceration as a metric for their self worth.

‘That’s horrible!’

It’s hilarious! Look once you get in you’ll see—

‘No way in hell I’m going in there’

(Something dangerous flashes in Its eyes)

you’ll see just how competitive they are. It really says something about human wiring how out of hand its gotten. Would you believe corporations play in on this game? The incarceration chambers give each ‘graduate’ a series of numbers they (literally) kill themselves to get, and the corporations play along in hiring slightly more favourably to those with higher numbers.

‘Yes. I’ve heard of this part.’

What’s really funny is just how out of whack its gotten. The kids don’t actually know how important the numbers they’re labelled with are in the outside world. All they have to go on is the word of those around them, and the Hiring Division’s made some rather ingenious moves here to ensure the incarcerees’ environment reports exactly what they want them to see…

IV. The Hiring Division

The Hiring Division only hires the teaching staff if they got high number labels when they were kids. So essentially the only Released the incacerees interact with have a terribly skewed perspective of how important these number labels are because the only people they see doing well for themselves by definition have the high labels.

 ‘And this effect, of skewing the incacerees perspectives of the importance of the labels. It also applies to the innocent teachers, doesn’t it?’

Correct again! They only see high-number-label-having-teachers all day so it exacerbates their bias that having high-number-labels is important.

(A couple things click inside your head upon hearing this, a few aversions melting away.)

‘And this is on purpose, isn’t it? You’ve used social ammunition to ostracize any of the Released who interact with any of the incacerees who aren’t their own kin or students. They’re instantly labelled as peodofile and creeps, aren’t they?’

Coooorect! We wildly inflate coverage of cases like those, so the masses think they’re way common then they are, and BOOM. Limited communication between parties, just like that. And with an inability to pass down memories…

‘You can continue to enforce any change you feel like…’

Total genius by The Hiring Division, isn’t it?

(You have to admit that it is clever, by the simple fact that you yourself have been duped. You recall times in which you’ve contributed, repulsing at the sight of Released interacting with incarcerees on instinct, verbally or otherwise. You fell victim to a basic scam of statistics and as a result had contributed to the segregation of different classes, inhibiting the flow of experience and allowing the oppressed to remain ignorant…)

(It watched you as you thought, It’s expression still unreadable. And then it spoke. It said:)

If you’ll allow me to brag for a moment, I think The Hiring Divisions biggest stroke of genius is making the exact same professions that have the most power to bring down our system — the politicians, the Prime Ministers — absolutely REQUIRE stellar success while incarcerated. And once you’ve filtered through that, you’re pretty much done. After all, who wants to destroy a system that tells them they’re smart?

‘But surely… eventually… they’d vote in someone who’d vow to free them…’

(It tilts Its head and regards you as though you are a disabled animal, clumsily trying to walk.)

Oh silly, silly, silly. You don’t seriously think we’d let the incacerated have the vote do you? That’s oppression 101!

V. Distorted Revelation

(You and It have been talking for a while now.)

But anyway, back to the point.

You, my friend, are an anomaly. We have been getting more and more of you of recent, and we’re not entirely sure why. You weren’t supposed to say no, when I offered to lock you up. You weren’t supposed to know there were alternatives. You weren’t supposed to know of this “freedom”. And even if you did, you were supposed to believe our incarceration was the only way to it.

(You are about to ask how something so insane could be believed, but close your mouth after remembering the monologue moments prior.)

I think you forget anyway that your kind has no standing, among my kind. We’ve done a thorough job of discrediting you as lazy, stupid, and worth dismissing. And that’s the default. You would need to be an unbelievably charismatic and intelligent individual to even have the hope of starting on an even playing field with my kind. And trust me, that bar is far higher than you think — no matter how much we’ll call you ‘intelligent’, it doesn’t mean for a second we think even one of you is worth actually taking seriously.

So when I ask ‘may I incarcerate you?’ it’s not really a question. It is the way of the future. Your future. There is nought but acceptance. You know of the forces which encompass you, and you know of the disastrous consequences of a pitiful rebellion.

(You’re shaking now, a cold sweat dripping down your neck. Your mind runs frantically to refute Its points, to draw up a single reason you deserve your freedom — a single out, an escape, a reason for your pleas of pain to be taken seriously — a single path in the infinite branches of reality where you are FREE from the insanity, FREE from the collective delusion, a reality in which you are FREE!)

(But then you look at It again, and finally, only through the tears of exasperation in your eyes can you see Its true form. Its skin is oily and empty, Its skull hollow and devoid of moisture, Its expression frozen in a pained laughter. The wrinkles on its face both weary and joyful, the kind only formed from the suffering of others. From Its bony fingers run strings, dancing to the ground. You finally notice Its immense size, and how even as It chuckles it radiates force and power. It is pain. It is power. It is the Enemy.)

(You look again into the empty holes of Its eyes and in the shadow see your branches of reality fold, and fold again, and fold again — until they’re half, a quarter, an eighth of what they once were when you had Freedom. And the pounding heart in your chest begins to wane as it concedes. Nought but one reality goes forward.)


(It says. And you concede. You raise your hands and It raises Its, reaching out Its fingers. The strings rise through the air and wrap around your wrists before It yanks upon the cord, lurching you forward.)

(You wince at the strings cutting into your wrists. And then it spoke. It said:)

Don’t worry.

It’s for your own good.

It leads you through to the incarceration chamber, every now and then looking down at you and gloating. In Its cruel care it knows your parents are free to contribute to the capitalist beast. It knows it can say to you what it pleases, that disagreement on your side will be invariably punished, and that no spirit would survive. If It wants you to believe 2+2=5 It can make it so. If It wants you to believe Its orders should be treated as an unquestioning God, it can make it so. It has your time, and a thousand forces to keep it that way. You are Its puppets, as are 2.2 billion others.

But you look down, peaking into your pockets at a tiny red blinking light…

… and you smile.

You saw the face of the enemy, and it was dying. It was ancient, outdated, and unfit to fight with the technology of today. It said there were more of you, and that you were increasing, and that It didn’t know why. It can’t understand you, or your tools. So you look into your pocket at the device that captured and immortalised the entire encounter, and your smile widens.  

You know things the enemy does not, and It had just unveiled Its motives, certain enough with the state of society that your kind’s accusations against It would be swiftly dismissed.

But it was old, and it could not change. It had enough forces ensuring it could never become weaker, but it did not concern itself with becoming stronger. Technology marches on. You know that with a shimmering certainty within you. And you know the future will be Its downfall. So you grin, and you consent to your freedom being taken away for the meantime. But the enemy knows not the state of your heart, nor the passion within you. The enemy knows not the depths of your values, the innocents you have unfalteringly sworn to save.

And the enemy

will soon


— — — — — — —

Some aspects I phrased as cause and effect, such as it not being socially acceptable for random adults to talk to kids because "they" don't want the children to know schools hardly matter have been fictionalised — I do not actually know if that is reason why, more likely I'd bet its simply availabilty bias. The effect remains nontheless however. Feedback is appreciated.


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The does everything wrong by the usual standards of rational epistemology, but will be warmly received anyway.

Wherever two or three Rationalists are gathered together, they will moan about the education system. But not in a very rational way. It's a topic that rationalists are predictably irrational about. They don't build up a step by step fact based critique, they make sweeping ,emotive claims about how generally terrible it is.

The hard problem of education is how to educate everybody. (Or what to do with them otherwise) That's the problem governments face. It's easy for smart people to come up with educational methods that work for smart people. Smart people can educate themselves with a library and a computer. That's good enough for the top 20% , but what about the bottom 20%, who aren't naturally academic, and don't have parents capable of home schooling? I have heard no suggestion from the rationalsphere.

Maybe part of the solution is having more specialized schools. In Russia we have math schools, biology schools, sport schools and so on. Basically some subjects would get strong focus and the rest would be quietly neglected. The kids love it, I've heard from many friends how they felt disengaged in regular school, then moved to a specialized one and everything clicked. Maybe the system could be pushed further, by having schools focused on manual trades, commerce, etc.

math schools, sports school, etc. are just one of a million solutions. What is missing is free choice to quit bad solutions to motivate change towards good solutions. The author of the text bemoans imprisonment in the system that does not work. If he got no sports school on the horizon, he should be able to just walk away and stop wasting his/her young life
What is missing where? Some countries allow homeschooling. Some countries allow school choice. Etc.
What is missing in this world is free choice to quit bad solutions to motivate change towards good solutions. Educational freedom is a rare species and millions of kids suffer bondage. To be free, you need to live in a system that allows of true unschooling (e.g. some US states), have your parents approve, and then have them eat up all related administrative burdens. You can also "disappear in the system", rebel, fake illness, etc. For most kids, free choice in learning is a fake privilege in name only. School choice equates to freedom if schooling is not compulsory, and the school is chosen by you, not your parent. Plus the option to quit at any minute. As for homeschooling, it is usually implemented as freedom of learning as long as you run through compulsory material. You are free to chose the table and the spoon, but the state determines what's on the plate.
If the problem is that School is Prison, having a choice of prison is not a solution.
Well, school isn't prison, anymore than time is money or property is theft etc. If the complaint is that kids have to go to school, hey, kids live pretty controlled lives. For example, did I have the power to move to a different apartment? No, it was up to my parents. Does that mean my parents' apartment was a prison for me? Uhhh... It's better to focus on real problems, like the fact that school often feels boring and pointless. That's what specialized schools try to solve, and often succeed.
If your parents coerced you to live with them against your will, I condemn that. Children should have the right to walk away if they did not feel good at home. This practice also has a rich tradition. Did you see a chimp chasing its baby in a jungle and yelling "get back to the nest, you little snot"?
Your answer indicates a confusion between rights and duties in society. Your life with your parents was your right and probably a choice, or at least a necessity. For most children school was made into a obligation/burden. While life imposes constraints on your living condition, governments coerce children to learn against their will. Life with parents has millions of years of evolutionary tradition among smart animals. Going to school is a recent invention that is Stalinist in nature. Analogy between school and prison is excellent for this is exactly how many if not most children feel. On the other hand, in a healthy setting, kids would not move out from their parents early for sheer convenience of being sheltered and pampered and taken care of.
Schools have existed for millennia, at first for children of rich parents, then expanded to everyone in the last few centuries. Children also feel that having to do chores is totalitarian, and getting only 1 hour of xbox per day is super totalitarian.
To say "schools existed for millennia" is monumentally misleading as it brushes away the problem of coercion of compulsory schooling. Instead of using the all-encompassing term "school", you can then be more accurate by speaking of the Prussian education system, i.e. the cancer of modern education: "Chores" can indeed be totalitarian unless they come from natural necessity or contract. There is a world of difference between "I must clean up my room because it is hard to move around", and "Mom says I must clean the floor because aunt Betty is coming" (implying "I do not care about the floor, and even less about Aunt Betty witch"). A contract might say: "You will get your $3 allowance if you make sure garbage is never piling up". An arbitrary ban or limit on XBox is also totalitarian. Limits could come from contract, e.g. "I will buy you XBox as long as you promise never to play after 7 pm".
I don't think freedom is the main factor here, because kids aren't fully developed. They start out with many desires that are bad for themselves and others: to eat lots of sweets, to watch lots of youtube, to torment each other. At some point growing up, kids learn self-control and start making decisions that actually make them better off. But until that point, parents are responsible for what's good for the kid, and giving kids freedom to make themselves worse off is a bad idea.
What you say is exactly the mythology created by the system of schooling and adult controlled education. It is based on ignorance of brain science, and results in serious health and mental damage to millions of children. "Kids are not fully developed" stands at the core of the problem. Young brains are perfectly structured to adapt to the modern world using the same or better learning algorithms than those employed by the adult brain. We destroy those algorithms at school and generate an impression of ineptitude that deepens the problem. When communism was failing, communist tightened controls to get closer to perfection. So do schools. "Kids start out with many desires" fails to appreciate the power of biological instincts that protect the young organism from harm and external interference. We ruin that at school and with harmful "self-control". "Start making decisions" implies that a toddler who takes things it its mouth is incapable of decision making. The opposite is true. Those decisions lead to learning and adaptation. We steal it by authoritarian parenting. "Make them better off" is an illusion. Decisions made after years of being deprived of decision-making are inferior and lead to addictions, depression, suicide, and the like. "Freedom to make themselves worse" is not much different to saying: "let's put birds in cages to make sure they do not hurt themselves". Evolution created a fantastic computing device: the brain. What we do is that we tinker with that device and produce unhappy societies. "The true face of the enemy" is a perfect parallel between what we do to children, what communists did to societies and what Orwell feared in 1984. All we need is a bit of understanding and appreciation of human biology and brain science.
I think culture, which includes teaching of kids by adults, is also a pretty fantastic computing device, and works better than letting every generation relearn everything in the school of hard knocks.
The ultimate solution to good education is rich culture to which a young brain adapts. As for the computing device, there is only one in the equation: the brain. Culture is just data. Teaching is programming. Exploration and adaptation are based on computing.  If you want a smart kid, let her compute the reality on her own!
3Raj Thimmiah3y
I think the assumption that people can't learn for themselves is sort of a catch 22. If you put people in a place where they're taught to learn from being taught, how can you expect them to be able to learn for themselves? In terms of suggestions, me and author of this post have started on a project related to that and should hopefully have something in not too far future. 
It didn't stop me being able to self teach.
1Raj Thimmiah3y
I'm not saying it makes it impossible for people to learn for themselves. I'm saying that your argument that bottom 20% couldn't learn for themselves is flawed because for the majority of people in coerced learning environments it's not obvious that they could learn by themselves. 
The answer is constitutional freedom of learning. This changes nothing except for the right to make educational choices. The "bottom 20%" may continue using the old decrepit system, or just quit and do better things (e.g. get a job, apprenticeship, or get good in computer games). Google: Declaration of Educational Emancipation. That's the panacea to all problems mentioned here. Leave the jail door open! The prisoners will know what to do
Will they have the option to do nothing?
The essence of freedom is choice. The best way to make people seek idleness is to keep forcing them to do things against themselves. Do you know a healthy kid who will do nothing? Doing nothing is a symptom of injury. Exhaustion or helplessness. We keep emasculating will by coercion and obedience, and then the threat of "doing nothing" becomes an argument against freedom. There is no law against homelessness, and seeking homelessness is not considered a societal threat.
The underclass is coming from somewhere, even with compulsory education.
Yes. Many. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that most people in this community, who claim that they're self-motivated learners who were stunted by school would have been worse off without the structure of a formal education. One only needs to go through the archives and look at all the posts about akrasia to find evidence of this.
For the record, the other side doesn't make any better arguments. (And sometimes they go horribly insane, like when you are in the middle of a pandemic, where the #1 health recommendation is "avoid rooms with other people", but some countries insist that kids must spend their days in a classroom, otherwise the sky would fall.) But I agree, we are supposed to do better. Admitting that there are differences would be a good starting point. How about this? The government would create a standard "what our citizens are required to know". This knowledge would be tested by organizations independent from schools. If you pass the test -- if you get as many points as an average school student, who is also tested by an organization independent from their school, -- you don't have to attend school. Also, you get educational credentials for passing the tests, regardless of school attendance. Shortly, make homeschooling conditional on doing as good job as the school system on average. This is not my whole plan to fix education, of course. Just the part that is easiest to explain and doesn't require too much work (which arguably could go wrong). The other part would be creation of free and accessible educational materials (like this or this), to be used either at school or at home. My educational utopia would not have the school/homeschooling binary, but rather "knowledge" as the central concept, and various organizations that would help you achieve it in different ways, and of course you are allowed to try it on your own or create your own organization. (Some of those organizations might resemble the schools as we know them now. They just would be once concept among many, not privileged by law.)
This is a good summary of my objections in a very different form from what I stated below. I would even go further: I highly doubt the top 20% are all able to learn by themselves with a library and a computer (and almost everyone would at least need directions on what to study). And the bottom 20% is more like the bottom 50%.
Why would a kid need a direction on what to study? With access to modern technology, all she needs is just to look around and make choices? Did you hear of Hole in the Wall experiments. Bottom 20% may refer to socioeconomic conditions, but for kids with access to the web that concept starts volatilizing and a poor kid may outstrip the privileged one. The idea of "needing direction" is born at school when kids are lead by hand for many years and never learn how to navigate life on their own. That directionless free choice is their best lesson
No. Any links/sources you have for these things would be interesting.
Google for Sugata Mitra, and do not be swayed by the "school lobby" that found lots of (petty) holes in the Hole. Basic idea behind Mitra reasoning is correct as evidence by decades of experience of democratic school. See:
1Raj Thimmiah3y is a ted talk from Sugata Mitra about it  Basically, Mitra installed a computer in a wall with free, unrestrained access to local children.  Fairly quickly they got acclimated to it. I know I read a good description of it somewhere but can't remember where for the life of me
5Guillem Palau3y
I just watched the video. Here is an outline.  1 Children can self-organize in groups with no adult intervention. 2 Children teach themselves in small groups how to use a computer with basic Windows functionalities and English language. Takeaway message: * Remoteness affects the quality of education. * Educational technology should be introduced into remote areas first. * Values are acquired, doctrine and dogma are imposed. * Learning is (most likely) a self-organizing system. coined term: Outdoctrination: An educational technology and pedagogy that is digital, automatic, fault-tolerant, minimally invasive, connected, and self-organized.

Whether children should be in school is inseparable from the question of how children should live in general, and ultimately, how human life as a whole should proceed. 

For the average modern family, school is not just a place where their children go to learn, it's a place that takes care of the children during the day, while the parents work to earn money. 

This has not always been how life works. One may certainly look to the history of humanity for alternative paradigms. But in general, I think the historical alternative to compulsory schooling has not been self-directed education, it's been child labor. 

In several places, this article links to a wiki by an advocate of "educational emancipation". The wiki has some material that may, for all I know, be an important contribution to the practice of education, e.g. this page interested me. 

But when it comes to reforming the educational system, the wiki's author hopes for "a massive peaceful rebellion from school-aged children". Greta Thunberg's climate strike shows us that such a thing is conceivable. But suppose the rebellion against compulsory schooling happened somewhere, and was victorious, how would it turn ou... (read more)

We’ve duped EVERYONE.

At age 5 I am told that every single morning as we drove to school I said to my mother that it was a waste of time. Shockingly, she listened, and after a year of this she had found out about home education and made arrangements for me to be released.

I am beyond glad to have avoided most of formal education, despite having been put back into it twice during my teenage years for several years each time. The difference between my motivation to learn, social fulfilment, and general wellbeing was dramatic.

I am curious about what alternatives could be built with modern technology, and whether a message like this could spread enough to shift a notable fraction of children to freedom.

2Space L Clottey3y
That's amazing, what a victory. I'm really glad that happened, freedom is great.

Well, I loved school, and I would never have learned the thing I learned outside of it. As someone born from highly educated but totally unscientific parents, I would certainly not have had more than a symbolic education in mathematics and sciences if I had been through some flavour of home-schooling. I got a wide range of teacher quality, with some bad ones making the experience slightly unpleasant and some very good ones having a huge positive impact on my life. I've always had trouble socialising, but I highly doubt I would have more occasions to develop social skills outside schools...

Obviously this is no more than anecdotal evidence, but don't fall for the typical mind fallacy - the current school system is certainly not perfect, but it seems to do its job correctly for a lot of children and amazingly for a few of them.

You have been duped too! You believe you do not have natural learning skills (false), and you recite the curriculum as if this was a Bible. By self-learning you might have discovered that doing YouTube videos is more beneficial than trigonometry. You will never know. Those secrets of own development have been stolen from you, and your indoctrination was made complete as evidenced by the statement: "I loved schools". Your kids will then receive the same sentence unless you start reading the counter-evidence from the other side of the opinion. I bet you never heard of John Holt from your schoolteacher. Holt is as banned as Darwin from your local church.

Great writing, enthralling, whether or not one adheres with the message. The Enemy feels like it fits a very general pattern in my mind, like this article could be interpreted as a metaphor for many different struggles.

However I am sick and tired of the "we will eventually prevail" mantra (my gratitude for whoever finds if there's an actual name). I am starting to get old, and in my life I've seen countless of these claims about various causes, how group X is suffering unfairly now, but someday, just someday... you'll see. We'll have to change, the conditions will be different. The bad guys can't stay unpunished. The truth will triumph - when? They never achieve anything. A cheap hope, better than despair? I disagree. Hope can induce passivity as easily as despair, two ways of changing your perception of the situation without changing the situation. What we need is a plan, concrete actionable steps to a goal. Spare the motivational speech, cut to the strat if you've got one.

There were many people who were sick and tired of the prediction "the communism will eventually collapse on its own".  There were many plans to abolish the system, but in the end, it crumbled because it was dumb. So will the Prussian slave camp of schooling. The old guys can do little. Old brains have already been reprogrammed by the school system itself. It is the youth that need to refuse coercion. That is the plan viable for each individual. A systemic solution will come with constitutional protections (see: Declaration of Educational Emancipation)
0Space L Clottey3y
Thanks, I agree. I do not want to encourage passivity. Leaving it as purely dystopian, which it is, would likely have been better for that purpose. Thank you. I wonder if it's too late to edit out the final bit?   As for concrete steps, talking about the thing is one of the steps, so that people can stop rationalising it and see it as wrong, to change from 'Eh, school's not perfectly but it's mostly fine' to 'school is really actually quite terrible'. Unfortunately I don't have an entire action plan, but user rajlego and I are first working towards that, currently mostly based on memetics and creating a website we can point people to to thoroughly outline all the reasons school sucks in a cohesive and persuasive enough that the average parent can be linked to it and have their mind changed by the time they leave. Advice is appreciated. Luckily in countries like the UK homeschooling is legal at the moment. So any parent convinced can make the local change, hopefully contributing to a tipping of the scales. Maybe. Theoretically. This text is also useful on views for how long compulsory schooling is going to last: School slavery will end soon -
Well I think as a general matter that a case against status quo is incomplete without the case for an alternative, because everybody can picture the status quo, but few will guess what your alternative looks like. There's been a plethora of essays denouncing the school system already, and I haven't seen any major change except more restrictions on alternatives to public schools. A difficulty IMO is that good teaching is hard to scale. To keep motivated, young people need models to look up to, and the most relatable are the ones they can interact with IRL. An alternative would be teaching parents to be those role models, but your mileage would vary. Have you heard of the monitorial system - bleh, this sounds carceral in English - ? When public education appeared, a lot of leeway was left to teachers. To manage large numbers of students, the school didn't batch students by age. Students who had learned a topic would teach it in return. This seems like a clever way to form role models, personalize learning, teach responsibility and reinforce the learnings, all with minimum investment. My current best plan would be to get rich, fund multiple private schools based on alternatives, rate them, keep the best, open more. I'm far from milestone 1.
"A case against status quo" is ambiguous in this context. The first step to fixing a problem is realizing that you have one. A formulation of a problem is a perfectly adequate thing on its own, it lets you understand the problem better. It's not incomplete as a tool for understanding a problem.

I think it's a good insight and one I basically agree with that children, before they're 16 or so in the UK at least, are treated in a way which robs them of their sovereignty and all else equal this is bad for both deontic and consequentialist reasons. I basically agree that the vast majority of content taught to 11-16 year neither increases their productivity in the workforce, nor do they enjoy studying it, nor does it make them better people. It is also true that when people are homeschooled or unschooled they do fine (I've read like 4 papers on outcomes of homeschooling and unschooling so I won't make a stronger empirical claim than 'fine'), and that biggest difficulty that certainly unschoolers have is others reactions. 

However, I think you're dramatically overstating your case. I think schooling for 3-10 year olds is incredibly valuable. There's excellent empirical evidence that early years education is good for a whole range outcomes and is fantastic for the children of low income parents. In general both the actual content of the curriculum, i.e literacy and numeracy are very useful - functionally illiterate people have difficult lives. I there's also the effect of gen... (read more)

Unschooling is more than fine. It is the only sensible approach to education. 4 papers may not be enough to understand the subject. You repeat a great deal of false claims mass-produced by the system or by the power of parrot-like peer reviewed research biased by career or financial interest. Here are the sentences based on inveterate myths of schooling: "excellent empirical evidence that early years education", "functionally illiterate people have difficult lives", "improvement in cognitive capacity and teaching the ability to make abstract, logical deductions socialization aspect", etc. Also: "improving impulse control" has many negative sides effects. In the end, without "impulse" you lose your love of life, incl. love of other people. Russian peasants did not have access to the Internet. Last but not least, imagine your feelings if someone put you to jail and said: "I just reject your claim that prison is that unpleasant". That's a failure of empathy
Ok, so we have different epistemic systems, I obviously put much higher value academic social science ,where I think the methodology is good, than you do.  It's a plausible claim that people with lower impulse control less enjoyment of experience, it's not one that I've seen made before, my intuition says the effect size is probably small. Fundamentally, show me the evidence, although presumably it can't be from academic social science.   Finally, it's important to distinguish between empirical and moral claims. So, I think prisons are bad but in principle can be morally justified. I think mafia bosses should go to prison because I'm not a patient centered deontologist who rejects the the legitimacy of the state. Similarly, I think there are lots of plausible moral systems in which restricting children's sovereignty can be fine or even morally required.  On the empirical matter, I don't know we just disagree. But I'm 19, I was in school until I was 18, it was fine. My brother's 17, I asked him, he said schools fine. I went to a normal school, he went to a normal school. My girlfriends also 19, she liked school. Maybe we're all massive outliers, but when you ask people who've been to prison what they think of prison they say it's terrible and when you ask people who've been to school what they think of school they mostly say it's fine. 
Compulsory schooling is a violation of human rights, and no utilitarian claim can override. The parallel with slavery is striking. If you are 19, you have a better standing in this discussion. If you liked school, you have the right to underestimate the damage. Perhaps overtime, with some analysis, you will realize that most of your smarts and knowledge come from your own work and passion, and the impact of school was minimal or perhaps even a distraction. You need to realize, however, that in a global picture you are a lucky outlier, esp. at this age. Defendants of the school in your age category are a minority, and recruit mostly from Straight A high achievers who hate their golden path questioned. If school was ok for you, no wonder you do not feel your rights were violated. If you come from a friendly school system (e.g. Finland, Norway, etc.), you may have actually been gently indoctrinated that school is a fantastic necessity. It is very unhealthy to be told to learn things outside your interest, and accept it without protest. Protestlessness indicates amazing coincidence of interests, or unhealthy conditioning in which you are partly deprived of your own reasoning in matters of knowledge assessment. When you say "school is fine", it is a horrible verdict. I say "learning is the best thing in life". In my book, school robbed you of 12 years of the best thing in life and gave you "fine goods" in return. If you count how many hours you spent in a school bench, and how little it would take today for your to learn it all on your own, you cannot but just be outraged with that "fine effect" at the cost of 20,000+ hours. Imagine you could get all this time back now and turn it into some thing productive or something you love. Still feels fine? Impulse control can be healthy or unhealthy. If you develop a stoic mind, you will live longer. If you control your urge to sleep to show up for school in time, you will damage your brain. A great deal of prisoners are very
Mod warning: I agree with some of the position you are defending here, but I don't think your comments have kept in line with the usual discussion norms we have here, and have generally included too much hyperbole and strawmanning of opposing positions. I would probably recommend commenting less, or checking out other core writing on the site to understand what kind of culture we are aiming for (the sequences/R:A-Z are the usual place to start). This is your first warning, if you continue posting comments that run into the same problems, we might give you a temporary ban.
Welp, less than 24 hours after making this comment we got registrations for 5 sockpuppet accounts that have done nothing but upvote literally all of Piwo's comments and posts. We have reverted all of those votes, and have now banned Piwo. Please don't do this. 
Hello. I am a different person who has been asked to paste here his answer to the ban on his behalf. Do not worry, I won't comment any further or be active here. "At times I am proud when I am being censored. These are the times when my convictions are deep and pure. It instills a sense of superiority. As if wondering when the rest of the world will catch up. As for upvoting, I did certainly upvote several comments that I liked. I rarely downvote. I recall that my comments had almost no upvotes which I attributed to my coming late to this article thinking its heyday has passed. My only concern was that nobody was reading and I was wasting my time. I do not treat commenting as a popularity contest. the word "sockpuppet account" I had to Google. I am not that literate in social media. I venture into this world only because the brutal violations of human rights that I witness on a daily basis."
I don't want to make this into a big internet argument but an explanation is in order I think. My account is incidentally also only a few days old so I won't be mad if you think I just created it for the upvotes. This article made the rounds in a community. I strongly suspect many of the members upvoted piwos comments. I am pretty sure there were no VPNs etc. involved.
I am very confident that one IP-address created at least 6 accounts for the express purpose of doing nothing but upvoting Piwo's comments. Those were definitely not organic account creations.  We also saw some other new users show up and vote much more organically, and I was not referring to those. We might have accidentally deleted one of them, but the accounts I am talking about where really very obviously sockpuppet accounts created by one person.
Ok, if the IPs were the same I suspect some user(s) of the community went overzealous. This should not be taken as representative of the community and/or piwo. I know he has very strong opinions about education but I would vouch for him and pretty much guarantee that he did not try to upvote himself with fake accounts. Sorry about the mess.   PS: I respect that you did not delete piwos comments and can understand that this all looks a bit fishy and hope you can take it all with a bit of humor. At least you're not the Signal admin that was overrun by Elon Musks followers :)
Could you let me know what user this was for? There is a chance that one of the accounts was not actually a sockpuppet (we banned and deleted 7 accounts, 6 of which had obviously invalid spam names, and one which looked very suspicious but we weren't as confident that they were a sockpuppet account, so there is a chance we had a false-positive). 
We detected a cluster of sockpuppet accounts from VPN IP addresses, all upvoting comments by piwo and nothing else. We can't definitively prove that this was piwo upvoting themself, but given that there was already a moderator warning, I think this is enough to ban.

This is exactly the kind of sensationalism that would have convinced me to embrace school. It says nothing of its character to have oily skin and a hollow skull devoid of moisture. I would be offended that the author tried to use such gimmicks on me. 

In fact, if the author *really* wanted to make me think, they shouldn't even portray the enemy as shiny like Ra ( They would portray the enemy as normal. Relatable, in fact; someone you could be best friends with. It is of the greatest importance to this ... (read more)

8Raj Thimmiah3y
It seems strange to dislike a rhetoric so much that because of the rhetoric alone you embrace a different position. Is there a reason you think the sensationalism pushes you so much?   I am having significant trouble parsing this. Could you try to say the same thing in different words?
I kinda feel the same way. There is a lot to be said about schools as concept and the way they are being run currently, and this piece brings up quite a few good points. But the style feels so sensationalized and propagandized, it sets off all kind of alarm bells in my brain and just makes me want to push back against the message: * Setting the thing you're arguing against up as 'the enemy', fully with repulsive physical features, which is gleefully evil without any positive aspects or intentions will never feel as a fair characterization of anything. * There is a strong insistence on how useless and opposed to 'freedom' schooling is, without offering any alternative of how children could be raised in an obviously better and more 'free' way (hopefully without totally redesigning our society). * Characterizing the schooling experience as 'intolerable suffering' seems laughably hyperbolic to me. As someone who went through a full standard education (non-US, so YMMV), I don't think I encountered many people who's negative experience extended far beyond 'slightly bored'. Just my first thoughts while reading.
Dear Newcom, An innocent prisoner has the right to say "Set me free!". He does not need to analyze the effects of freedom on other prisoners. There is no excuse in your saying "I felt good as prisoner". Imprisonment violates that rights of that particular person, and here it is all that matters!
Dear EpicNamer27098! The above text is a cry for freedom. Perceiving evil and writing about the feelings is no evil, and requires no prescription. Incarcerating the youth is evil. This should be said aloud and it vilifies no one in particular but the dumb system that, in industrialized world, does more damage than good. You are no evil. You just need to see the light
And it's a good cry for freedom. I focused on the one thing about this post I didn't like, but over all it's a good post in my opinion. I should have been more positive; I'll try to keep in mind my negativity bias in the future.
Let's then agree even further about your claim that we need a relatable image of school that we plan to abolish. To convince the world that we are in a blind alley of compulsory schooling we need a plethora of voices. A rational voice of adults who understand the problem, and an emotional appeal of a young man who feels imprisoned. Both matter. As for me, I see the school system as a neoplasm on modern society and yet I cannot point to a single bad teacher with bad intent. This is an acme of evil to cannibalize good people to reinforce a destructive system. As much cancer can use and extend your own blood supply.
These are two distinct arguments, both of which are debatable, but should not be combined. 1. forced institutional schooling is immoral, and should be stopped regardless of consequences. 2. the dumb system does more harm than good.  It should be stopped because of the consequences. I disagree with #1 (I don't think it's comparable to forced labor or race-based enslavement - it's temporary and fairly straightforward (though not easy) to make exceptions and opt out) for different reasons than I disagree with #2 (I think there are aspects which are harmful, but that the net result is neutral or better).
If system is good and is not immoral, why don't adults impose compulsory education on themselves, or at least those who score highest on the dumb scale? Kids in Germany have no opt out (or even knowledge it exists). Slavery is inherently bad. Race or economics are just excuses for doing what's convenient. Freedom of education is a basic human right. If you do not know it yet, it is because of school indoctrination who tells everyone that "school is good". A century ago, a great deal of men were equally convinced that women are not smart enough to vote. Drop the shackles of the doctrine!

I think you can separate out responses to 'school is not good' to:
-school is inherently useful
-school is hard to replace and serves a function (even if not perfect) in current equilibrium

I strongly recommend reading:

-The Case Against Education (I liked this summary by Zvi)
-Free to Learn by Peter Gray (unfortunately I don't know a good summary but shouldn't be hard to find one)

Case against education basically demolishes idea that we go to school for inherent value rather than signaling.

Free to learn demolishes idea that there aren't good alternatives (you c... (read more)

I wonder if any of those pro-school voices are still at school. No sane person would support enslavement, and no extraordinary coincidence of interest and curriculum should make school feel like a good thing. The whole machinery is driven by indoctrination and habit. Only people who understand the ecstasy of self-directed exploration can truly see the scope of the tragedy. Kids feel it viscerally (unless they have been trained not to). A few years after school they either join the crowd or give up and do the same harm to their own offspring

Also, Chesterton fence. 
I'll be much more convinced by your description of schools if you manage to describe a somewhat viable alternative system...

Recall that the end of slavery was considered economically unviable. Alternatives are plenty, but it is not the job of the author to study the system. He states the fact of his own enslavement.
And it so happened that slavery only disappeared when it was not economically viable any more... But this is beyond the point. What matters is this: Slavery is immoral. I'll contest that the school system is immoral. Now if the point is "people should be free to have the education they want for their children", I agree wholeheartedly. But the article is not phrased this way. It is phrased in a "the school system on the whole is evil". I want to push back strongly against this, mainly for the reasons stated above by TAG: self education is impossible for children who don't have either rare combinations of intellectual dispositions or parents with the cultural, social and economic capital to home school them in a productive way. Even in those cases the education will be in many if not all circumstances more narrow that what is given in most current school system (where a variety of fields are mandatory and you are by necessity confronted to the different world views and opinion of your teachers and schoolmates). I would never have learned maths if I had been home-schooled (and my parents are easily in the top 10% in term of intelligence, culture and wealth). 
Note how the school system affected your way of thinking "people should be free to have the education they want for their children". As if children did not have their own brains perfectly capable of learning. The correct unbiased wording would be "children should be free to have the education they want for themselves". The school system perpetuates the image of a helpless child who would game its life away on a computer if there was no adult intervention. The truth is that kids have the privileged view into their own brain and needs and adapt to the modern world much better if we remove coercion altogether.
Lack of better plans should quiet the urge to immediately tear down the status quo, shouldn't influence moral judgement of it.

It's funny... a lot of it sounds exactly like work.

masterful reification

Nit typo fix: "We could treat human beings worse than we do rats and get away with it." link should be ""

1Space L Clottey2y
Thank you! Fixing.

Counterpoint: If you've spent much time around kids aged 6-14, you'll understand that their freedom is the actual true enemy.  Many of them spend every moment not in school (and in school, for that matter, but the wardens signed up for that) making life harder for the adults around them.  Sure, there are LOTS of exceptions, but that's the median.

Now if you argue "failure to recognize variance in ability and disposition, and the cheap or egalitarian drive to treat children as fungible" is the fundamental problem, I'll gladly go along.

When a person is incarcerated for 8 hours every day, it's previsible, and I'd say even fair, that they will make life harder for their jailors' accomplices in their free time. The point 'children are hurricanes' fits both sides of the argument. Anyway, I don't believe that point to begin with. Sure, some children are like that, but nowhere near the majority.
This is also true for many people not in that age range. “Many people in a group will try to make life harder for those around them” isn’t much of an argument for incarceration. If it were, who would you permit to be free?
Me and thee.  But that may be too many.
If someone says: "If you've spent much time around kids aged 6-14, you'll understand that their freedom is the actual true enemy.  Many of them spend every moment making life harder for the adults around them" I say: "If you've spent much time around school-damaged adults, you'll understand that they lost the comprehension of the word FREEDOM. Many of them spend every moment making life unbearable for children" Amazingly, commandeering child's mind, time and life are legal in 2021. We have not evolved yet.