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Never let school interfere with your education ~ Mark Twain

Education is an ongoing confrontation between those who want to help children learn how to think, and those who want to teach them what to think. While there are numerous variations on these themes, the contrast can most clearly be found in the distinctions between child-centered Montessori systems, and teacher- and test-centered schools. Government schools usually fall into the latter category. Homeschooling, religious schools, un-schooling, and other forms tend to emphasize either the "how" or the "what" in their efforts with children.

Those who focus on learning how to think have in mind helping children develop their own methods of questioning and analyzing the world around them; to control their own inquiries and opinions; to the end of helping children become independent, self-directed persons. The role of the teacher in such a setting is to provide new learning situations (e.g., open up new subjects of inquiry when the student is ready to do so) and to facilitate the processes of questioning so as to help the students get to deeper levels of understanding.

People who have developed the capacity for epistemological independence are not easy to control for purposes that do not serve their interests. Institutions – which have purposes of their own that transcend those of individuals – require a mass-minded population that has been conditioned to accept outer-imposed definitions of "reality." Any deviation from this systemic purpose – as would derive from students questioning how the arrangement would benefit them – would be fatal to all forms of institutionalism.