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Friday, August 13, 2010

Grouping students by the same age is just a bad idea

The education-industrial complex is structured around organizing children by age. This is a bad idea for so many reasons.

First, it is based on a false assumption - that young people of the same age have roughly the same skill level in subjects across the curriculum. Clearly, this is not the case. Even the maturity level between genders is a schism. And of course different students with different interest have wildly different abilities. But it remains an “objective” easy criterion, one whose inaccuracy has done nothing to minimize its use.

More importantly, putting children in groups of “peers,” organizing students to emphasize their social sameness, necessarily forces them to emphasize and exaggerate their differences. (Imagine the Kafka-esque nightmare of being part of a community that was organized because someone thought you all were inter-changeable. You would spend a lot of energy differentiating yourself through your actions, your dress, and ultimately through forming social cliques.)

Monocultures don’t work. They are the product of a dated manufacturing mentality of mass production, and seldom found in nature. That is why the waste from a deer in the wild enriches the soil, while sewage from a massive pig farm causes a health risk to the communities that live downstream.

In childhood learning, diversity of ages and experiences allows everyone to find their strengths in a vibrant ecosystem. Adults and kids should interact. Older people can mentor younger. Younger can use their strength and vitality. Each, wanting to contribute, find their role.


  1. I am a Montessori Teacher and I have children 3 - 6 years old in one classroom. They is a lot of diversity of experiences and yes the older mentor the younger. It is such a beautiful thing to see.

  2. Thanks, Jean. What a great comment.

  3. One of the many reasons I loathed school (15 years ago) was the feeling of being trapped in a ghetto where I was made an outcast if I couldn't relate to my 'peers'. The mob mentality and social pressure to fit in was a constant source of stress and, in my case, depression. Outside school, I enjoyed the company of adults as well as my younger neighbours' kids. Today, my closest friends range from age 26 to 65. Real life doesn't sort people by age but by affinities and complementary personalities. It's mind boggling that society insists on cramming its youth in such a hermetic, unnatural environment.

    I just found this blog, looking for ressources/info on unschooling. My husband and I intend to take up that challenge for our daughter's benefit. Looking forward to reading your book.

  4. Thanks, Celeste. That is so well said.