Let's Abolish Schools And Teach Children With Video Games

For thousands of years, societies taught and trained their children through immersive gameplay and storytelling. Prospect Magazine's Julian Gough wonders why we ever stopped and ponders a fantasy world where the games of today form the children of tomorrow.

"How would I cut public spending by £100bn? Abolish schools-and have children learn through playing videogames all day." That's the lead-in to Gough's "If I ruled the world" column, which discusses the possibility to teaching children using the most reliable teaching tool of the modern age - the entertainment industry.

Compulsory schooling is a relatively new concept, in the grand scheme of things at least, introduced by the Prussians in 1763. Gough points out that back then, threatening children with violence was okay. Today? Not so much, and without the beatings, children simply don't have any compulsion to learn in school.

The answer is simple - we start beating children again.

Perhaps that wouldn't go over so well. Gough has another, less painful idea.

What will Britain's children do with no schools? They'll sit at home immersed in the internet (reading), texting (writing), and playing computer games (arithmetic, physics, geography, history). Learning is impossible if you are neither motivated nor focused; but it is unavoidable if you are both. Monitor the brain activity of a kid in a maths class-nothing going on. Now monitor it at home while he plays Bioshock at level 13: his brain is growing new neural pathways as though his life depended on it. Only the fear of either death or massive status loss can motivate a teenager to do anything, and computer games are optimised to do just that-even more effectively than a Victorian with a stick.

I'd say that Julian is discounting the power of a Victorian with a stick, but his point stands. Games and entertainment were once the normal way to teach children how to deal with the real world, a fact that Gough addresses with perhaps the most amazing analogy ever written.

Every society in history, until ours, trained and taught its youth through totally immersive gameplay and storytelling. Children (and adults) learn and grow by pursuing their individual obsessions passionately, at the ever-advancing frontline of their own ability, on a schedule of their choosing. Trying to turn children into literate, creative, flexible free thinkers by adding things to the national curriculum is like trying to transform witches into Christians by piling ever-heavier rocks on their chests.

I wholeheartedly agree, not simply because I like the idea of my future child, Professor Ignatius Fahey, playing video games all day long. I was the sort of child who slept through class, because it never was as engaging as the latest video game, book or movie. A child's attention needs to be grabbed and held, not gently lulled to sleep. Or, as Gough puts it:

School sucks because it's boring, not because it's too challenging. Don't make learning easier. Make it more difficult: set a clock running. And shoot at kids with lasers. We used to learn because a tiger would kill and eat us if we didn't. Abolish schools, and bring back tigers.

If I ruled the world [Prospect Magazine]


    Yes because screen media truly has no bas side effects on children such as low attention spans, and indeed it affects all children the same way as an engaging thing that teaches as all children learn best in the exact same way as everyone else.

    Thank god this idiot doesnt rule the world, schools have their flaws and need improvements but abolition of them is hardly what society needs.

    Well, I think his ideas are fantastic, and make a lot more sense than the modern methods currently in place. I'm 16 and currently in Year 12, and I can tell you from very current experience that no child or teenager wants to go to school, but all wish to learn.
    However, school goes about things in the wrong way. 'You must do this, read this, write this, etc. even if this subject does not interest you or have any relevant place in your life or education.'

    I would argue that I've learnt significantly more from entertainment mediums (books, films, games, the Internet, etc.) than from school e.g. Rome Total War gave me an indepth knowledge of a greater part of factual Roman history...whereas in Ancient History at school, we only cover 2 Roman towns (Pompeii and Herculaneum)and the Julio-Claudian Emperor's (Augustus' death, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero, and the Four Emperors).

    And to LordLeckie, I can tell you that I have quite a long attention span, and that the complaint you make (about how 'not everyone learns things the same way') significantly applies to school, where up to 30 kids are sat in a room and taught by one teacher, using only one 'teaching method'. The fact that children could be taught through media doesn't simply limit it to that which has a screen, but all forms (as I have stated above). And quite frankly, I've yet to meet a student who would not prefer a type of more self-determinate, media-based educational system.

    April Fools ... Noice one. :)

    I personally think that the media teaches you more useful and interesting stuff. I agree with ACCloud. I've learnt so much from videogames, the internet and TV. I think that the school environment is a very bad and bad place to learn.

    April Fools or not, I would have done 200% better in a school or place of learning like that.

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