Childhood is a stage of life primarily defined by being a student in most developed nations. While the concept has at least three components — legal (i.e., being less than 21 years of age in most states in the US), biological (i.e., being at a stage when most of the body is still developing — until about age 26), and social (i.e., studentdom) — it’s social component is the one by which we think of most children.
Schoolteachers help me gain control of the minds of children not so much by what they teach the children as because of what they do not teach them. The entire public school system is so administered that it helps my cause by teaching children almost everything except how to use their own minds and think independently. I live in fear that someday some courageous person will reverse the present system of school teaching and deal my cause a death blow by allowing the students to become the instructors, using those who now serve as teachers only as guides to help the children establish ways and means of developing their own minds from within. When that time comes, the schoolteachers will no longer belong to my staff.
[Helping children to think] may be the purpose of schooling, but the system in most of the schools of the world does not carry out the purpose. School children are taught not to develop and use their own minds, but to adopt and use the thoughts of others. This sort of schooling destroys the capacity for independent thought, except in a few rare cases where children rely so definitely upon their own will power that they refuse to allow others to do their thinking. Accurate thought is the business of my opposition, not mine!
Outwitting The Devil, Napoleon Hill, pgs 81-82
Traditional schooling is unnatural, harmful, and stymies the social, intellectual, and cognitive development of young people. This is essentially the thesis of MIT Psychologist Peter Gray’s excellent 2013 work Free to Learn. Gray recounts his son telling him to “go to hell” after he and his wife try to keep him in a traditional school, where he is very clearly not meeting his fullest potential and acting out towards classmates and students. The book looks at anthropological and psychological work on the importance of play and the ways in which structured, top-down, administrator-to-teacher-to-student punitive schooling models* — like modern American public schools — fail to allow for the flourishing of these evolutionarily-imperative traits.