Schooling Beliefs

By Alex Bretas


The way we see the world and behave have been shaped over time by powerful influences: family, media, church, market, life, politics, groups of friends and even our habits.

What about school? Have you ever wondered how this institution has been shaping our living in the world, our perception of ourselves and others and how we see life and the universe? It is clear that the influences of schooling on our thinking, feeling and acting are mixed and combined with all other kinds of inputs. It would be impossible to draw a line separating the beliefs coming from school and the ones acquired somewhere else.

Still, school has the power to create a set of ideas that are supposed to be shared by all mankind (which is something that we may never be able to understand fully) AND, in addition to that, it can set the tone for which kind of narratives are “allowed” to be spread, and which are doomed to be forgotten.

The beliefs you will read next may be understood as the “hidden curriculum” in schools. That is what is being taught, implicitly, while the teaching happens. They are signals that we pick up through the environment, the context, the culture and the way of doing things.

These are the “chronic thoughts”1 that are constantly crossing our minds, most of the time unconsciously. When I refer to “school”, I don’t mean the school building itself, nor am I generalizing to all the schools around the world. What I mean is society’s schooling process2, not simply understood as the increasing number of children becoming students, but as a process of “colonization” of our bodies and minds, from a certain ideological point of view.

Since the 19th century, this process, in the way it is imposed on us, has been one of the main domestication tools used by the western culture. No wonder Foucault compared the structure of schools with prisons.

Would it be possible to break free?

I invite us to risk a resounding “yes”. When we start being aware of our learning process, we can deliberately and intentionally change our behaviour. Freedom turns into autonomy and, thus, breaking this loop becomes more possible and real, one day at a time.

By reading the set of beliefs gathered here, it is likely that you will remember even more patterns introduced to you during your schooling process. Maybe you will hear the voice of an old teacher, a strict principal or even your father – all shaped by the same system.

If that happens, I invite you to send them to me by clicking here. In time, I want to update this book and your contribution can be important. If your suggestions appear in future editions, you will be credited as a collaborator.

I wish this book provides some useful reflections in our search for free, self-directed and community-based learning. May each one of us discover the world more deeply, beyond the chronic thoughts inherited throughout the schooling process.

P.S: I am not against schools. I understand that they are a very important social and cultural equipment, especially in a country like Brazil (where I am from). I believe, though, that we must think critically about what kind of education we want for the future. There are thousands of schools and educational philosophies working for new ways to look at the world, much different from the ones you will read here. Change is possible, even from within the school.

1 I learned this from Monica Lan, who learned from Abraham via Esther Hicks.

2 The term was introduced by Ivan Illich in his work Deschooling Society.

See the full book in PDF format below.

Alex Bretas is a writer, speaker and a Self-Directed Learning Architect. He is a co-author of the book Core Skills: 10 Essential Skills for a changing world and partner of the Learning Sprint program, a self-directed learning method for companies.

After completing an independent research on adult learning and publishing two books in 2015 and 2016, Alex has founded several projects to support autonomous learning – among they, the Masters of Learning program (MoL), the largest self-directed learning community in Brazil. Along the way, he worked with different organizations and spoke at various events, including TEDx.

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