5 Ways Public Schools Prepare Us For Prison Life

It didn’t occur to me that the six-foot fence around the perimeter was meant to keep me in. That is, until the day I decided to leave.

Fed up with being kicked around the schoolyard, I decided to do what any intelligent human being would do: go home. I soon learned this wasn’t a viable option for a sixth grader.

Looking back, it’s not real clear who was surprised the most by the situation — the school authorities at my assumption that I would actually leave, or me, at the revelation I had no choice in the matter. Apparently there were laws. Huh, who knew?

The view of the playground fence from the jungle gym was never quite the same.


Parents strive to prepare their children for school. We teach them to recite the alphabet, to count, and learn their colors. Is that preparation really enough to survive the next twelve years of compulsory education?

In spite of its intended purpose, after you boil away the Friday-night lights, dances, and hook-ups, all you have left is a state-run institution, excreting the same social sludge as its cousin the prison system.

When you stop and think about how similar they are, you have to wonder: is the system designed to ready children for society, or to provide the mental skills for prison life?

What did you learn in the locker room shower?

Mandatory gym showers usually begin around 7th grade. The time in human development when boys and girls have no self-awareness or inhibitions — no wait, that’s a toddler.

Can you think of a better way to teach herd behavior than to strip naked an entire class of adolescents and corral them into open shower stalls? Sweat is not the only thing washed down those drains.

However, it is a good way to prepare kids for the other lessons you’ll need for prison life.

Lesson #5. Intimidation and Violence Make You Important.

Learning the basics...

The school system is a natural breeding ground for a parasitic social order and the playground is the perfect Petri dish to cultivate the dark side of human behavior.

Kids quickly learn to either dominate or stay off the radar. Both are highly useful skills when entering the prison yard.

Refining your social skills...

After mastering the necessary social skills to rise to the top, the leaders hold “the keys to the car.”

Lesson #4 Powerful Cliques Rule.

It pays to be a mean girl

Schools and prisons alike are artificial environments. Both institutions (however important the reason) hold their inhabitants captive for at least eight hours a day. For children, that’s the majority of their young lives.

It doesn’t take a psychologist, only an observer, to understand that the natural needs of family, along with the companionship and protection it provides, are still a paramount necessity — and nature finds a way. However distorted it becomes.

Family looks a little different.

Lesson #3: Violent Insurrection Is the Only Agent for Change.

Attending school in the late ’60s and early ’70s was quite different. In fact, one of the biggest lessons of my youth was that of insurrection. Believe it or not, there was another time I walked out of school. In fact, I led a revolution of eighth graders. At the appointed time, we all stood up in class and walked out the door and over to the local high school — where the real action was.

The issue of the day? The right for boys to wear their hair over their ears and for girls to be allowed to wear pants. I know, sounds ridiculous by today’s standards.

The principal of the school would walk around the classroom and take a piece of hair to see if it went past his ears. If it did, the student was hauled out of class and placed in “the hot box” for the remainder of the day. The offending male would then report to the teacher in charge of said room until such time as the student returned to school with the appropriate length hair.

Girls, on the other hand, could wear their hair as long as they liked and their dresses as short as possible — it was only pants that could buy them a ticket to the room of insurrection.

By the way, our protests worked.

State institutions from schools, post-offices to prisons are all subject to various forms of violence.

Lesson #2: Only the Government Can Keep You Safe.

Lesson #1 Accept Your Sentence.

Both state institutions, school and prison, operate under the false assumption that they can fix something broken within society.

The responsibility of the parents to educate their children has, for the majority of the citizenship, been abdicated to the state — which it eagerly accepts. Once taken out of the realm of parental responsibility, it falls to the lowest common denominator, and individuality is lost. The educational system then exists to perpetuate the system and fails to educate the children. This is not news to anyone. And yet we continue to support it by sending our children and tax dollars.

In at least one state I know of, the law states that children must “attend school.” It does not state that children must be educated. How you interpret the law depends on whether you are a parent or an administrator.

Either way you must do your time without question.

The state does have the responsibility to protect its citizens and administer justice. However, again it has taken on a role it cannot possibly fill, by incarcerating people for breaking social laws rather than violent crimes.

Pop quiz: Is this a school or prison fence?