(Excerpted from The Homeschooler's Handbook.)

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” That used to be considered sage advice to a parent or teacher. Well, my friend, if you believe that striking a child (physically or with words, pain is pain) will bear positive results in the child's outlook in life, or in his education – then you're very likely to disagree with any approach to education other than one utilizing threat and punishment.

The critical approach to education is for you. Put this book away.

And may God help your children escape your reach as quickly as possible.

There was a time in America when teachers carried a rod in the classroom, something constructed to be light weight, but painful when it was used to strike a child. A ruler worked well for the task. And why would a teacher, who is supposedly in the classroom to encourage and protect the best interest of the child – strike a child? This was common in the U.S. I myself, in the 1960s, had a 4th grade teacher who carried a ruler, particularly when teaching math. She struck me across the hand several times during the school year...supposedly because I failed to
get the correct answer to a math problem.

I eventually became decent at math – but not because of that teacher's tutelage, despite it. And I pretty much hate math and math studies to this day. (Which is largely why I don't provide a math study in my curriculum. Also, there are many fine math programs for homeschoolers.) She was from Germany, and I always suspected that she was a Nazi hiding out in America. I might have been wrong about that, but I also might have been right. I was very clearly Jewish, and she very clearly had decided to punish me. I do not believe she had as her intent to improve my math skills. Simply explaining math to me would have accomplished that, I'm a bright enough guy and have always been so.

I never learned a thing about addition subtraction multiplication division through pain or derision. Not one thing. No one learns that way, not in any lasting or real sense. Well, perhaps we do at least learn one lesson from the cruelty approach to education - how to find ways to
avoid future pain and derision, if we can. How to avoid school.

Abuse as an approach may work in the military (I would argue that it does not work, that they get the least from each soldier rather than the best with this approach), but it cannot and will not work when used against a child. The result will not be an education. The result, instead, will include a well-developed terror in that child of people who are big. Terror isn't what education should teach.  Punishment as an inducement to educational success is a ruinously failed policy. When I've seen it applied to children, I have often dreamed of the situation being reversed. Let's punish the teacher for his negligence and his failure (and he is certainly failing as a teacher if critique and punishment is the best he has to offer). Let's turn the tables. The teacher's punishment shall be hand raps with a rod, public tongue lashings, and refusing them permission to go to the bathroom. Let's pile that teacher with homework every night, and make certain it's in a subject he despises. And when he fails a test or a question, well, it's the rod again. Let's do that for a lengthy period of time, say 12 years, just as a child must endure in school. And when the teacher weeps for release, cries out that this is unfair, that his potential and life is being tossed aside or crushed, we'll just smile at him and whisper “spare the rod and spoil the teacher.”

Few adults if any would quietly tolerate, day after day, year after year, the sort of life that a student stuck in institutional education is expected to tolerate. The law protects adults from such treatment. But when treatment like this is directed at a child in the name of “schooling”, the law is mysteriously silent.

Look, folks, you are responsible for your children. They are your children. I'm going to climb out to the edge and take a risk, now. I'm going to assume that you want something better for your child than the critical approach to education. Allow me to go even farther and give you this benefit of a doubt – I will wager that if you saw or knew of someone striking your child, the repercussions against that person and the system he represented would be swift and furious.