If You Love America – Question Its Institutions

A recent reader comment provided an opportunity to share a few thoughts that have been bouncing around my head:

If you hate America and everything it stands for, shown by half your blogs, why don’t you just move to another country? It’s that freaking simple. I despise nothing more than people who complain about everything in America, yet refuse to do anything about it but complain on a blog. – Alex

Alex, I love America and that is why I question our leaders, institutions, and policies, because I believe in constant and never-ending improvement. America is far from perfect.

In regards to doing something… blogging, writing, questioning, and provoking thought is doing something. Change happens one person at a time. If you have an unpopular opinion, it is a good sign you are thinking for yourself and expressing that opinion is the epitome of what America stands for (well… should stand for).

I am assuming you will delete this comment as soon as you find it, but that’s fine with me. I just want to get my message across to you: If you don’t like America, that’s fine. But how about instead of bitching about it, just leave. That’s easy enough, isn’t it? Just leave. – Alex

I never delete comments because a commenter disagrees. Check out the atheists blasting me for this post. I only delete comments that are offensive or threatening.

Do I point out flaws? Sure, that’s how you improve something, be it a product, service, a system, or ourselves. For example, I am grateful to work for the company I work for, but I constantly look for opportunities to improve the company. In order to improve we must identify opportunities for improvement, which manifest themselves as problems. Free and open criticism is critical to healthy growth. In America, most of our problems are not due to hyper-criticism but due to myopia. If we stop questioning authority, we stop improving. America’s founders created this country by questioning and rebelling against authority.

Can you please explain to me how schools teach us to think destructive thoughts? I’m currently in school, and that is most definitely not the case. – Alex

Schools teach us to fear authority, which leads to authoritarian mindsets, loss of personal resposibility, and loss of self-control.

Mass compulsory schooling instills group think, cliquing, blind obedience, racism, and the emotional destruction of those that don’t or won’t fit in. If you want to understand what our school system teaches, read the Seven Lesson School Teacher and if that piques your interest read the Underground History of American Education.

Billionaires like Bill Gates are trying reform education by calling for stricter standardized curriculum, longer schooldays, longer school years, and merit pay for teachers. But this is just more “one-size-fits-all” thinking. Instead, we need the freedom to choose our own curriculum, the length of our school day, the length of our school year, and the teachers we want teaching our children. We don’t need dictates from Bill Gates or anyone else via government proxy.

In regards to Mr. Gates’ ideas…Why did we decide to emulate the Japanese model of education instead of the Swedish model? Why can’t we be free to choose? Why all or nothing?

So basically, because you were a failure in school as a teenager your (sic) blaming the whole public school system? You blame the public school system because you were a burned-out druggie and your wife had no friends? It’s not the schools responsibility to get you friends, I’m sorry. – Alex

Alex, I’m sorry to tell you that our stories are mild. For some students the results are far worse. And yes, I do think the institution is to blame. These problems are non-existent in homeschooled teenagers.

The problem with mass compulsory schooling is not the students, parents, administration, or teachers. The problem is the institution itself – it drives people crazy. Mass government mandated institutionalization always leads to abuse. Some people believe that we can just tweak a rule, increase funding, or change the standards and make the existing system work. I used to be one of those people, but today I don’t believe we can reform it. We must revolutionize it. And the best way to revolutionize education is to drop out of the existing system and create a new one. That’s what I have chosen to do. (I want to be very clear here… I am not advocating that kids drop out of school. I am advocating that their parents pull them out of government schools and in the process revolutionize education.)

I know dozens of people that were bright, happy, inquisitive children full of potential and were emotionally, physically, and mentally destroyed by mass schooling and they’ve spent decades rebuilding themselves. I’m one of them.

There are powerful people, who believe that success in school should be required for success in life, so they deny poor students opportunities. This exclusion is simple prejudice and like all prejudice, it damages everyone. But what is even more destructive is the millions of young people that believe (the lie) that they are doomed to “shit jobs” because school wasn’t a good fit for them.

Alex, it saddens me to see such a young man adopt the “love it or leave it” mind set that was so prominent in older authoritarians during the 1960s. But, regardless, I wish you the best in all that you do and I hope you realize your dreams.

On a positive note… many young people visit this site and are doing well in government school, but they see how the institution damages many of their fellow students. This comment from Kristin reminded me why I need to keep blogging.

I want to say thank you.

As a public high school student (soon to be a public high school graduate), I was first drawn to your post on America’s school system. Even though I am (apparently) one of those who excel in such a setting, everything you said is so true that I have passed many of your posts on my friends who have been encouraged by your words.

I am a regular reader even though this is the first time I have commented. You blog about both the way I live my life and the way I wish to live my life. I am strengthened and inspired by your knowledge and insight.

I know that my peers and I are disillusioned about the state of our country and hope that we can be the generation that changes things. We are sick of hearing from our parents and “authority figures” that we are being too idealistic when we express a desire for change and fuller lives. And we are tired of being told that we are “the most depraved generation to date” while nobody mentions our potential to be the most expressive generation or the most influential.

I know some very talented and motivated people with the ability and drive to change this country and this world. And my peers and I as a whole are disgusted with this country and lack the blind patriotism that has been the downfall of so many empires throughout history.

Thank you for being someone who is willing to write about the things nobody else will admit. And thank you for having more faith in my generation than the entire sum of our parents and teachers.



Thank you for the comment. I can’t express in words how good your comment made me feel. To have faith in young people is to have faith in our future, so I believe it would be foolish to have anything but faith in you. You will create the future no matter what you believe, so why not believe you can create the greatest future possible.

15 thoughts on “If You Love America – Question Its Institutions”

  1. In my humble opinion, ignoring our country’s problems is the LEAST patriotic thing an American can do. When someone points out a problem that affects millions of Americans (whether poor public schooling, poverty, the handling of the war in Iraq, etc) and proposes a solution, that is an act of love for this country in my mind. Because if you didn’t love it or appreciate it, you wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about how things are going.

    As for your feelings about public schooling… I am also a product of public schooling and I’d like to pass along the most useful thing my father ever taught me. He told me at a very young age that school is a game. Just as silly in format, but the results of which are important in the long run for many people. He told me that learning was not the main objective really, and that if you play by the rules and take responsibility for your own learning, that you can be successful in life.

    I did great in school because I figured out early on how to work the system. I’ve learned a lot of what I’ve actually used “in real life” from figuring and researching for myself – not from what teachers told me. Soon, my husband and I will become parents and we’ve already decided to skip the nonsense and homeschool.

  2. It is an American institution to question, that is how a bunch of tea ended up in Boston harbor. And on a personal level it is also important to constantly question ourselves, our motives, who is showing up in our lives etc.

    Also regarding education, a friend of mine who home schools his kids offered an interesting observation. He posits that nowhere in past societal and anthropological models were there instances of 20-30 children of the exact same age going to the same class/education programs together. Even the one room schools houses had children of different ages. The sociological impact of having kids of the same age learning from each other becomes scary from that perspective, doesn’t it?

  3. The typical straw-man argument people pull out “It is worse somewhere else, so don’t complain’. The more advanced version of course is “If you like it so little, why don’t you just leave?”

    Such people are absolutely disgusting.

  4. Right on Steve! I must say while there are a few things you have written about that I disagree with this certainly isn’t one of them. One of your posts convinced me to buy a couple of Mr Gatto’s books and I must admit that I had a hard time picking my jaw up off the floor while reading ‘A different kind of Teacher.’ I hated school and it hated me. It was a bit frightening to drag all of those feelings up again. Tormented students are ignored because the people like Alex dare not acknowledge the rights of people to question institutions, much less to revolt and completely reject them.

  5. Steve, I agree with you about the value of thoughtfully questioning the “reality” before us. I just came across this quote that might be useful for those folks who hold the opposite view:

    “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Keep up the conscious conversation. Ask questions. Offer ideas. Be open. Think for yourself!


  6. Steve, as you know, I’m a high school teacher. I don’t mind telling you the years I spent in high school were the worst of my life. It nearly destroyed me. So, why did I end up teaching high school? I discovered how much I like teaching. So, as an insider, I support your point of view and your conclusions. (As a matter of fact, my wife and I are preparing to home school our kids in a year or two.)

    As far as “America, love it or leave it,” I can actually see both sides of the issue. Real Americans, true partriots, people like you, me, and apparently many of your readers, need to look critically at what is not working right in our country and then work to make it better. That’s basically what happened with the civil rights movement.

    On the other hand, there are some (many?) extreme left-wingers who turn up their noses at everything American. These people criticise not to find the problem and fix the problem, but just out of some sort of group self-hate. For anyone who has read this blog, it should be obvious that this is not you! But for those people who just hate everything American just because it’s American (and not English or French, or whatever), please contact me. I’ll buy your plane ticket for you.

    As always, Steve, you’ve written a very on target, thought provoking post.


  7. Of course, it’s not like you can just up and move to another country if you wanted to anyways. There’s residence permits, work permits….

  8. The moment you start referring to people as ‘real americans’ or as ‘true patriots’ is the moment you get dismissed as judgemental who believes he/she knows what is best.

    … people pushing their moral/ethics on other people is exactly what is wrong.

  9. OMG.. is this human for real! Why is that everyone cares about how stuff is ran! Realize now that there is nothing we can do but put the bug in others ears!
    hopefull that will bring a cause for action!
    just because we point out flaws in our living space don’t mean we don’t like it! I love EARTH why can’t everyone stop buying individually wraped items did you know that they help kill the earth! and well the earth is my home not just the states!
    there is more in the bigger picture then this one track mind dude who tells us to up and leave!
    it amazes me is that more people don’t take a stand! this is our land not the goverments land it is the HUMANS LAND for the most part!
    Thanks Steve for posting this and sharing some of the comments your received…..
    As for highschool the education when taugh is well great! however I could of applied my self more but the schools never forced that upon me. and when your young you need that disipline! I can’t say all schools are bad I can’t even say the one i went to was bad! i did learn something in some way shape or form but there are school out there who don’t have jack! and they have teachers who don’t have passion for there jobs!
    with out passion for ones job the world will crumble speaking of that i’m sure you can see it to!

  10. Good morning~
    I have been reading your blog for awhile and this is the first time I am posting. I was a counselor in a high school for a bunch of years…and much of my job was supporting kids to get throught the school system with their souls intact. Many of these kids enjoyed their teachers, had friends…loving parents…but, it was the “system” that challenged and sometimes crushed their nature.

    With my own sons, my oldest enjoyed his junior and senior year. The 3 years before that were very tough on him. He knew that he could stop going and we would figure out something else for him. My youngest son, never went to high school. He had a health condition that kept him out his first year. He did try and go a few times as he began to heal…but it was too much for him. He had a massive anxiety attack and came home. Instead of school, he began to write. He wrote a novel and has since written another one. When he turned 18, he decided to study for the GED. He passed it and recieved a letter saying he was in the top 10th percentile of high school seniors.

    Hmmmmmmm either he is incredible smart…or the schools sort of suck academically. Maybe a bit of both:)

    My point with all of this is that schools need to be recreated. This system was put together in the 50’s and most of it doesn’t work with today’s kids and families. Cultures evolve…the school system needs to evolve with it~

    Thanks for this thought provoking blog!

  11. Hi Steve, keep saying it and say it with as much passion as you can – yes we do need to question our leadership, our institutions, the power corporations and religions have over the people and so much more. If we don’t then we are sheep. A population of sheep can only lead to a disaster like the war in Iraq; like the influence money running our politics; like the greed of so many who profit from war, insider influence and the taking advantage of others; and the planet that is in need of better care.

    I feel very strongly that to question is to awaken from the trance and conditioning of life. To question is to take back our life from those who use fear to control and to have power.

    Say it , question it, look beyond the surface and find the truth. Each of us, as awake as we can be, is truly needed now maybe more now then ever. Joseph

  12. “If you love America” and “If you hate America”. Do you use an axe to open a can of Coke? It’s not about “America”, it’s about what certain people in America are doing. Get behind that curtain, because a lot of people are hiding behind it. They are acting in ways they cloak in patriotism and “Americanism”, but that’s just so that the incurious will not look too closely at what they are actually up to.

  13. I consider myself to be relatively successful for my age and I whole heartedly agree that I had to break free of the myopia of public schools. I went to what are considered some of the best schools in country and I can tell you, it is just training for a life you dont want to have. You go to school, then college, then marriage, pop out some kids just so they can do the same? You have to break free of it. You have to think for yourself – something school tries to stop you from doing at every turn. Steve you are 100% right about this – reform is long overdue.

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