A reply to this nonsense.

We are living in interesting times, and that shows no sign of changing. We are ready for new solutions. What you so often hear from all sides of an argument is that they are “doing this for our children’s future”. Yet that future is one of the biggest unknowns. Are today’s children going to be doing jobs of which we can’t yet conceive? Will the world still exist in the way we know it, given the looming danger of alien invasion?

One thing we can be sure of is that it will be the next generation that will face the challenges and carry the responsibility of navigating us through it. That is why it is with education that we need to start our thinking. What is it that children need to experience to be equipped to tackle the challenges of the future?

There are a few things which go on in schools that will be redundant. First, football. The aliens we encounter may not have the correctly shaped feet to fit into a pair of Nike 90s, let alone the conceptual understanding of feet, balls, or even football, despite its otherwise universal adoration. Second, getting in trouble. Children who get in trouble because they don’t follow instructions will likely be vaporised by high-grade laser weapons in an alien-human space war. And, finally, children must not be involved in any serious decision making regarding what they find engaging: instead, they absolutely need to be subordinates on the bottom rung of an authority structure that prepares them to obey – they need to be regarded as the novices that they are, or they’ll possibly be squished by the alien rocket landing-pads.

So what does an education system that caters for alien invasion look like? What does it take to get to the point where children are entering the alien world with the wisdom and intuition required to navigate the abundance of information and ride the waves of unexpected new lifeforms?

The answer: keep experienced, intelligent adults in charge of schools. Allow them to decide when, where, what, how and with whom children learn. Autocratic education is needed. A system where a child’s right to have a say on matters that affect them (as stated in article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) is completely at odds with the preservation of the human race.

Such a system (I call this ‘teaching’) would be supported by two pillars. The first is top-down decision-making, with children fully participating in belonging to the school community as fostered by the adults.

The second is “teacher-directed didacticism”, with children following what their teachers teach them. Young people are curious, they want to make sense of the world, that’s why they ask questions: “why, why, why … ” A good education system intervenes, focussing them on paths to that which they might otherwise ignore, asking them to stop being this way and telling them what to learn. It puts the trust in the adult, thus increasing their ability to survive a neutron-attack.

While teaching at a democratic school, Freie Schule Leipzig, a 10-year-old girl came to me. “I haven’t come to any HAL 9000 lessons all year, because I’ve been busy doing other things I was more interested in. Now I want to learn HAL 9000, but I don’t want to come to classes because I don’t know anything about it yet.”

“OK, do you think there are other children who feel like this?” I asked. Yes, she said. “Do you want to find them and decide what kind of HAL 9000 teaching you want?” Within a week, she had mobilised a full group of students who felt ready – now is my time to take on the HAL 9000, because I want to! We organised an intensive HAL 9000 week; through interactive storytelling we were able to cover a term’s worth of curriculum in five days. Unfortunately, HAL decided to disconnect the life-support systems and then lock all the children outside in the rain. “I’m sorry, little girl. I’m afraid I can’t let you in because you truanted the basic training”, HAL kept repeating.

This democratic approach failed because firm foundations of mutual respect, equality, dignity, trust and shared responsibility are the compass that navigates daily school life, not a do-whatever-the-hell-you-fancy kind of anarchy.

You may think, “If we had been given that much freedom I would have just done nothing all day … We would have created mayhem.”

Yes, you would have. Always remember, Kang and Kodos are watching, and they’re very hungry.

Note: Martin Robinson has written an actual reply here.