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The English teacher said Mario is a troublemaker. I said, "Is he smart?" She said, "Yes."

The next week I asked the language lab teacher, "Who are your best students?" She said, "All of them." Then I said, "Who are the worst students?" She said, "Mario."

The day I met Mario, in a small town in Ecuador, when the teacher told me he was the worst in the class, I walked up to him and whispered in his ear, "I was just like you when I was in high school."

Since then Mario and I have been friends. He always says hello to me, shakes my hand, gives me five, tries to say something in English and tries to help out when I ask him to.

Yesterday I took three small groups of students outside to sit in a circle on the grass and have a conversation. Mario was in the second group. I paid special attention to him. He had a lot to say. He wanted and needed to constantly be talking, asking questions. At one point he said he liked the song "Where is the love?", by the Black Eye Peas. I had it on my laptop computer so I played it for him. He wanted to know how the chorus went. So I helped him with the words. The other students were also interested, as teenagers often are in the things that are most important until schools and society corrupt their instincts with adult values and adult beliefs. But as soon as I wasn't giving Mario direct attention he started talking to his friend or lost interest in what we were doing. Yet, if I would ask him a question he would quickly get interested again.

In another group there were five females and one male. I asked them each what they liked and didn't like about school. The male, Luis, said he liked the females. The females all said they didn't like the males. They said the males treat the females badly, they don't treat them with respect, they act superior, make fun of them, they think they know more, do things like lift the females' skirts, have sex with girls when they don't love them, get them pregnant and then don't want to be fathers, sleep with their girlfriend's best friends, kiss one girl one day and another the next day, etc. While they were talking Luis kept saying they were lying. A few times he admitted some things, but mostly he was defensive.

Later, it became more clear to me what is happening in the schools. Schools are not a place for males. They don't have a chance to feel good about themselves in schools. They are not using their talents, skills, abilities. They are being over-controlled. They are being judged on things they are not good at.

Their needs are not being met. Their needs for movement, building, exploring. They are not facing the kinds of challenges which they are naturally drawn to. On a primitive level males are wired to protect females. But they don't have a chance to do this inside schools. They are also wired to provide for females, but again they don't have a chance to do this inside schools. So we have more evidence that schools are unnatural, and are obstacles especially to the male's natural development. (And they are also obstacles to a female's natural development because females are wired to nurture males and children. But they don't get the chance to do this in schools. They are separated from the children. They are grouped in classes only with people of their own age. And they are mostly separated from the males. In Ecuador, in fact, there are many all female or all male schools. So they are totally separated from the males they are naturally wired to be attracted to.

Instead of using nature's power -- the power of love, attraction, sex, instinct -- schools are fighting nature's power, they are trying to teach and train and force people behave unnaturally. This is a basic problem with the entire education system.

So what happens?

Let's start with the males like Mario and Luis.

Their needs are not being met. So they are needy. Emotionally needy. They have enough to eat, a place to sleep. They have clothes to keep them warm. But they are emotionally starving. Their needs for freedom, challenge, admiration, success are not being met. They don't feel good about themselves in school environments. There is very little for them to do successfully which fits with their natural programming. So they become more and more needy. They need attention from the females. So they learn to do things like lift their skirts and tease them or have sex with them at every possible opportunity in an attempt to fill their needs for attention, love, nurturing etc.

But the females don't like this, so they reject the males. So now the males feel even more needy. Several females told me, by the way, that they felt even less respected by Mario than by Luis. So this makes Mario feel even more rejected and disapproved of. And even worse about himself and more needy. It will cause him to need to "show off" even more in whatever way he can. As the saying goes, any attention is better than no attention.

The bottom line is that there is no way the natural emotional needs of the males are going to be filled in traditional school environments. The males will grow up to be emotionally needy. And this will cause problems for them and society for the rest of their lives.

You see the neediness in violence, domestic abuse, drinking, smoking, competitiveness, aggressiveness, infidelity, crime, etc. You also see it in the males who have a need for power and control. The ones who become school administrators, priests, police officers, soldiers, politicians and presidents.

I don't know what is going to happen to Mario in the future. I hope we will stay in touch. I hope I have created a lasting bond so he will always respect me and listen to me, and always share things with me as openly and honestly as he has so far. Though I don't know what is going to happen to him and how the school system will affect him in the future, I know what I have seen so far. And it is not the best we can do to help him. We can do better.

This is my thought every time I visit a school: We can do better.

S. Hein
Ipiales, Columbia
June 9, 2004

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School is Prison