“The point of institutionalized education has never been to benefit the student for his or her own sake.” - Zander Sherman
Here's my interview with Zander Sherman about his book The Curiosity of School: Education and the Dark Side of Enlightenment (Viking, 2012).
The book tells the story of institutionalised education, from the early-mid 19th century all the way up to the present. It covers topics such as standardized testing, the role of corporations in higher education, and the growing student debt crisis. Throughout, Sherman recounts the ways in which school has been used to manufacture outcomes—to turn students into soldiers, citizens, and human capital. The Canadian writer and novelist Will Ferguson described the book as “provocative in the purest sense of the word – meaning, it makes you think; provokes discussion – while never overstepping the bounds of reason”.
Sherman was homeschooled until the age of 13, has worked as a freelance writer, and currently lives north of Toronto.
A PDF of the interview can be downloaded from here for free.
(1) What motivated you to write a book about the story of school? And why did you decide to call it 'The Curiosity of School'?
At the high school I attended there was a student population of about a thousand, but the cafeteria could only hold five hundred. At lunchtime, half the school would take its meal sitting in the halls. If the administration caught us sitting they would tell us to stand, saying it was against "fire-code regulation." That made no sense to me. In the event of a fire, who was going to stay sitting? Looking at that policy began a long process of investigation and research. School is strange because we spend so much time there, and accept its value as a thoroughfare to work, while having little awareness of what it actually is, where it came from, and why we use it the way we do.