David Farragut

While rereading John Taylor Gatto’s Weapons of Mass Instruction, I was reminded of David Farragut. Farragut was 12-years-old when during the War of 1812 he took command of a captured British ship and sailed it to Boston.

Let that sink in. Farragut fought in the War of 1812 and successfully brought a captured ship safely to port at the age of 12.

Over the last 100 years, most young people haven’t been given the ability to make decisions based upon what and how they’ll learn. Of course rows, rules, procedures, and routines have played their parts in treating students less maturely, but there are other forces at play that have hindered young people’s potential. Instead of adventure outside, there are immersive video games inside. Instead of paper routes, apprenticeships, and imagining ways to earn money, kids are expected to consume and spend their parents’ money. When I was young, most kids wanted to grow up and experience independence. I’m not sure how strongly this desire is felt by young people in 2015. Why would I want to be an adult? Ugh. 

Say what you will about technology (of course it’s not all good), it’s opened doors and allowed students to take the reins of their own educations. If Farragut can capture a ship and sail it to Boston when he was 12, young students can be given a large measure of responsibility during a school day. Further still, kids will act and think maturely if we expect them to do so. 1:1 deployments are seen in a whole different light with this perspective. Incessant assessment of students for nothing more than a grade might also be viewed differently.

There are probably many ways a school day would positively change if students in grades 4-12 were treated more like adults and less like children.