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March 15, 2011

The Forgotten Education

By George Porumbachanov

1. The education of children has a purpose.

First of all, we must ask ourselves: “What is the purpose of education?” The answer to this question is both complex and yet simple.

When the question “What is the purpose of education” is presented to my peers, invariably their answer is, “DUNNO!” “Then why do you go to school?” I ask. Their answer is, “BECAUSE THEY MAKE US GO!” The truth is that the education children receive in the public schools is indeed forced upon them. I personally have never felt any constraint to read or learn anything new.

It is a small fact for me to read two books a week aside from those books already included in my studying program. On the other hand, the young men of my age as well as those older than myself, have no interest in reading, not even those books which are required by their school programs. Do you think that it is a great success to develop in a child a desire NOT to read? The strange thing is that the desire not to read in my coequals is tolerated by both their parents and teachers.

This leads me to the conclusion that they neither progress in their knowledge of the world around them nor of themselves. As a result, the time they have spent at school will turn out to be a complete loss for them. This, which I understand now, they will realize after a decade, maybe later—maybe never. What they know best is the exact opposite of what I know best. I study to learn to become a good worker, and they study how to avoid work. The more I study, the more I want to learn; the more my peers study the less they want to know. In the end, I study so that I can govern myself well, they do not study for this end.

We live in an age where a man’s life depends a great deal on his knowledge and skills, and these cannot develop without an effort on our behalf. I see the efforts made by the children around me—to be “fashionable” and “cool.” I intentionally said “children,” because they are children. I am the same age as they are, but I do not consider myself to be a child. I think that the “childhood” of my coequals is artificial. The public’s expectation is that a 14 year old person is a child. My parents have taught me that a 14 year old is not a child, and so I feel myself a young man, not a child. History confirms this fact. Youth at my age and those a little older were captains of ships, wrote great masterpieces, built unique machines, had families and even went to war.

If you ask me, “What is the purpose of education?” I can give you an answer. I would answer the following: first, children should learn to learn. Second, they have to develop their knowledge, i.e. make the knowledge they have useful to the people around them, which will ultimately benefit themselves as well. Third, the training I receive throughout the years will help me to defend my positions and beliefs and accordingly I will be a person with my own opinions.

It is a pity that most boys and girls do not understand these points. If school children do not understand my first point, to learn to learn, then throughout their lives they will remain lacking in knowledge. As a result they will fail to take risks or carry burdens which will teach and build them up. If they do not understand my second point, they will never become qualified deliverers of services, and people need, search, and pay for good servants. To understand the wishes and satisfy the needs of the people is a way to prosperity. And finally, if children do not understand my third point, they will never become leaders because they will be fated to follow those who can better defend their position.

2. Today’s education does not achieve that goal

I want to tell you a little secret—I am not too young to understand that public school education is not giving children that which home education gives me. Many people would say that I am too young and not qualified to speak about these things, but I would like to share what I see even if it is not very sophisticated in form. What I have to say is too important to be bypassed. I have to share my thoughts so that it will not be too late for all those who hear me today.

I know that public school youth think that going to school is the only way to learn something—whatever that may be. This is also what their parents think. I am happy that my parents think differently. Yes, I am blessed because of this. When I see what 95% of youths in the public schools are interested in, I feel discouraged that the new generation will be too irresponsible to live with dignity and be helpful to our country. My encouragement is that I see all of you here today.

My parents have studied in the public schools and from them I know what little use they have had from their public school education over the years. I see the deficiency in their education through the following example: it used to be necessary for my parents to study with me to explain something to me. And now it is necessary for me to study with them to explain concepts to them. Also, the interests of my coequals are extremely superficial. I have the feeling that they stopped growing when they were seven. I can guess that their development stopped at the same time in which the development of their parents stopped. The example and encouragement of parents is key in forming the character of a child. I can say that what I see in my parents sometimes seems unreachable for me, but I try hard to learn how to talk like dad and to be tenacious in my work like mom.

I’m concerned by the fact that I cannot talk with other young men (going to the public schools) about anything except football or…well, football! That is the most sensible subject; the other things that interest them are too unbelievable or improper to be important. I cannot talk with them about literature because they have not read anything other than "The Adventures of the Little Onion" and some of the "Harry Potter" books. Everything is connected with the idea that these youth must become mature adults only after their 20th year, or maybe a little later, let us say about their 40th.

Having this in mind, I believe I can explain why our country finds itself in the situation it is in. For too long no one taught anybody how to study. I know very well that a man reaps what he has sowed. If the harvest today in Bulgaria is the crisis of which we witness, then the generation of my grandparents and that of my parents cannot lie to me that they have done well their work. I believe in causality and my wish is that my generation will do its work better. As much as it depends on me, I will do everything I can: I will learn more, live more fully and work harder. In everything I have been encouraged by my family.

The education of children will be successful only when educators agree with what Sir John Lubbock wrote: “The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.” This is the basis of every success. I like to learn at home, why do my coequals not like to go to school? Is no one in this country asking himself the questions, “Why do kids hate school?” and “Why don’t they like to learn?” Obviously the adults who are here have answered these questions for themselves. I can’t answer for my peers, because I always like to study, even when it is hard.

3. Back to the foundation

Many children today are educated in public schools. If we look back in history we will see that public schooling is a rather new form of education. I am concerned by the fact that public schools give their students far less responsibility than youth had in the medieval times or even in the 18th century. Even though this is the case, parents are constantly complaining that children are overloaded. Let’s say that during the eighteenth century, the 12 year old children in America and Europe hunted in the woods for days, worked in the fields, or oversaw the workers, yet no one saw that as unjust exploitation of child labour. If you think they were less educated than children today, you are mistaken. Most of the 10-11 year old children knew to read and write perfectly in Latin, without counting the high level of knowledge they had of their own language. At the same time they learned many other things connected with their everyday lives and work. Since there was no public school back then, everything was taught by parents, or by a private teacher hired by the parents, who taught their child individually, not in a group with 20 other children.

If you doubt that a home educated man can achieve great success in his life, hear the following examples of home educated men and their achievements:

Authors

  • Mark Twain—Never went to school, but nonetheless became a famous author, published numerous works and is the first man to use southern states English in his books, which was at that point a new, even revolutionary idea.
  • Charles Dickens—Never went to school, yet he too became a very famous and influential writer, in fact the most famous and influential writer of the Victorian period.
  • George Bernard Show—Went to school for 1 year, but after that he was stopped by his parents. In spite of that or perhaps thanks to it, he became one of the most famous playwrights in the world. He wrote numerous plays which were watched and applauded by people around the whole globe. He also was a journalist, who fearlessly told his opinion no matter whose interests he might offend.

Scientists

  • Blaise Pascal—Never went to school, but nonetheless he was a genius mathematician and jurist, and a counsellor in the royal palace. 16-year-old Pascal published his famous “Essay on Conics” in which he developed the “Theorem of Pascal.” From an early age he developed many classic ideas for mathematics and physics. At 17 he invented an original calculating machine, which he later refined and patented in 1649.
  • Thomas Edison, another famous American inventor best known for the invention of the light bulb, went to school for three months, but his endless curiosity quickly tired his teacher and he was expelled. After this, his mother homeschooled him. He made many other inventions, although the one that most intrigues me is an electric motor for a car, which he developed and successfully tested.

Artists and Architects

  • Leonardo de Vinci is one of the most famous persons in history. He was an artist, architect, inventor, and engineer and, that’s right, he never went to school. Leonardo de Vinci achieved astounding successes in each of the areas he worked. His paintings are the subject of constant comments, his inventions are innovative and the result of great insight and brave dreams, and his architectural findings are the base of today's architecture doctrine.
  • Nikola Fichev—better known as Kolyu Ficheto, he never went to school in his life, but studied craft from masters in Tryavna and Bratsigovo. He is the most famous Bulgarian National Revival architect; he was also a sculptor and builder. At 17, Kolyu Ficheto built bridges, church towers, church and government buildings.

Politicians and Military men

  • David Glasgow Farragut lived during the 19 century. As a youth, he never even smelled the inside of a school. When he was 9, David was already a cadet on a war ship, at 12 he was promoted to lieutenant. Under his command a British ship was captured and escorted to American soil, with the captured crew on board. David Glasgow Farragut became the first rear admiral, vice admiral, and full admiral of the American Navy.
  • George Washington, aside from being the first president of the United States, was a brilliant mathematician and geodesist. He began to earn his living at land-surveying at age 16. Washington was also commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the American War for Independence, and guess what? He is the one of the most famous homeschoolers in history.

This is one small part of all the people I can point out. My purpose is not to convince you how many people achieved success studying at home, because that fact is without a doubt—homeschoolers are successful in their vocations. Rather, I want to underline the fact that homeschooling is a major factor in the development of an independently thinking people who are very creative and helpful. If this truth is not understood, we all lose.

4. Challenges facing homeschoolers

Having in mind all the things I shared and the fact that it is clear even to me how unproductive the traditional public school is, I arrive at the conclusion that there is a huge challenge in front of Bulgarian homeschoolers. I constantly watch all the problems that our countrymen face: economical, political, and most of all, moral. I understand what a large amount of work there is to be done, so that Bulgaria can be the country it was in medieval times or before the wars of the 20th century. Even my coequals are constantly talking about emigration and running away from Bulgaria, demonstrating disgust for their country. I can’t change all that, but I can be different, because change begins with me, from my heart and mind.

I love to learn, that is the first thing I learned in my studies at home: I learned to study. Truly my studying is just in the beginning, but the more I know, the bigger is my appetite for new knowledge. My desire for studying has a concrete purpose. Mom told me how her father told her, “Learn so that you may not work” and that proved not to be true. My father tells me all the time, “Study as much as you can, so that you can work as much as possible” and that has proven to be true. That is my main goal—I want to know more so that I can work longer, harder, and more effectively. That is a challenge for all of us homeschoolers: if we want to change the world we have to be well-equipped. Our weapon is knowledge and our armoury is our home.

5. We must not forget

Finally I want to call my peers to remember what our parents and grandparents have forgotten: let’s remember the education that changed and changes the world.

A vast number of homeschoolers are showing the superiority of home education—if something is good it shouldn’t be forgotten, no matter what the motives and causes are. If we reject homeschooling we have to deny and cross out from human history everything it achieved from creation to the 18th century, when the Prussian socialists introduced the government form of education.

I am confident that homeschoolers in Bulgaria will someday make our country proud with our achievements. Because we know the direction in which we have to walk, we have the equipment, which we need, and we are ready to carry the burden, which almost all other youths of my generation throw aside. Homeschoolers will do their job in Bulgaria, and they will prove that our parents did not sacrifice all those years they trained and cared for us for nothing. We also know the secret of leadership. I learned it from my parents: “The man who serves leads.” I just want to be a perfect servant.

Thank you for your attention!

To read this report in Bulgarian, please click here.