will more school make us better people?

I’m concerned about President Obama’s assertion that children should spend more time in school. I absolutely disagree; I think children should spend a lot of time learning – in fact, I think they should spend all day, every day, learning, as should adults – but that “school” is only one, and not always the most effective, path to learning.

I have lots of ideas about how the school system should change, and one of these days I’ll get into some of them. For now, though, I have a question. I’m particularly interested in parents’ views on this, but everyone will have ideas – not least because almost all of us have been to “school” in one form or another.

Is more school good for children? What is/are the most important skill(s) children and teenagers can learn in school? Will spending more time in school help them better develop that/those skill(s)?

How can we justify giving children longer school days and school years – will there really be a payoff in terms of their lifetime success and happiness?

I’m trying to organize my own thoughts on this, and I”m very interested in hearing yours. I respect President Obama tremendously; if he feels strongly about something that to me seems patently wrong, then I have to wonder if I’m missing something.


15 thoughts on “will more school make us better people?

  1. I got the impression from ‘Outliers’ that more time in school was in fact completely, and measurably, beneficial…

    While I agree with your assertion that school is only on venue for learning, the fact is that it is one of the ONLY venues for a lot of kids, whose other opportunities are limited by economic circumstances, parental issues, geographical limits, and so on.


  2. Maggie:
    That is an excellent point, and one that’s receiving a lot of discussion over at the OpenSalon blog (see link above.) It seems that the studies Obama based his remarks on mostly involved inner-city kids who may not have many opportunities for positive or self-directed learning in their homes or neighbourhoods, and longer school hours provide more structure, support and guidance in their lives.


  3. We home educate, and no I don’t feel more ‘school’ is good for children. Education and learning yes, but school is not the only place to do this! If we step out of the way we can see that humans learn naturally. Children don’t need our help to learn.

    >>What is/are the most important skill(s) children and teenagers can learn in school?

    How to believe in themselves, how to respect and love other people, how to preserve our environment and how to be self sufficient. None of this is taught in most schools (imho)

    >> Will spending more time in school help them better develop that/those skill(s)?

    No way! Get them OUT of school and into the community to learn how to relate to people and the environment

    >>How can we justify giving children longer school days and school years – will there really be a payoff in terms of their lifetime success and happiness?

    There will be an enormous payoff; it will be detrimental unless the school is a fabulous one 🙂

    Great questions! I found you from the problogger challenge btw 🙂


    1. Mrs. Green:
      Thanks for your comments! I’m glad that ProBlogger link led you here.

      I feel that schools can teach children certain things – over at my OpenSalon blog (see link above) there’s a lot of discussion of critical thinking skills and the need for children to learn those through careful help and guidance. At the same time, I’m inclined to agree that children need to be self-guided in a lot of their learning. The question is, is there a way for schools to help them be that way?

      Thanks again, and nice to meet you!


  4. Hello and YES! I totally agree. And I think everyone should check out Ken Robinson’s talk entitled ‘Are Schools Killing Creativity’ on youtube… Also, i think it’s Finland, where children don’t start school until 7, and have the most aggressive-free society on earth. Animals learn through play, children should learn through play – to bombard them with academic targets is to rob them of the chance to acquire emotional intelligence and social skills. If we want robots, then sure, send them to school early. I’m sorry – I haven’t worded this very well, but I feel passionately – beyond eloquence – about this subject.
    Rachel x


  5. I think there should be ‘free days’ at school, where kids can read, do art, surf on computers – at the end of the day coming up with a mini-project or even just a comment or suggestion. To concentrate a child on what’s already known and written isn’t allowing the child to advance in his own sphere, or the topic itself. More time at school – I wouldn’t want my children to undergo – but ‘less constructive’ times, absolutely.



  6. Well I’m a college student (Communications)and I agree with you. I respect Obama too! I think he’s really someone who can make a difference.
    Regarding your thoughts though, I do agree with you. Children are not always in school to really learn. Most feel forced to attend schools just to be normal or blend in, or simply because your parents won’t have it any other way. Also, in the world today, anyone without an education is usually cooped up in the “Loser” category (my parents are so old-fashioned)…
    However, I believe students learn only when they are happy about learning and when they are actually putting the effort to seek the knowledge. What we learn in math may help us add our money, but i am more than sure someone who’s never been to school can also count money and get by.
    There are alot of other things: like manners, for example. We all know the “magic” words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but you only use them if you want to use them, if it’s part of your personal moral code to be so polite.
    Skills that are taught in schools.. That is a good question. I am a person who believes in the uniqueness of everyone, so everything to me seems like talent, from the extroverted to the introverted. It takes real talent to remain quiet for long stretches of time 🙂 Perhaps if i have more ideas i will share them. It is quite interesting to read your Blog.
    Good luck in life 🙂
    Wishing you the Best,


  7. Thanks for your thoughts, Sara. I agree that the value of “school” can’t be calculated by a simple equation. If you’re interested in thinking further about this, you might want to check out the TEDTalks video that Rachel mentions, and I link to, in the comments above. He has a lot of interesting things to say about how school as we know it is not conducive to many types of learning.


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