Stuart Chesner

Why kids hate school and what we can do about it?

Do you find yourself in a desperate daily fight to get your kids out to school?  Have you noticed how easy it is for kids to get up when they have something exciting planned as opposed to getting out of bed on a school day?  Have you noticed that most kids like nursery and kindergarten, but begin to become negative and resistant as they advance from grade to grade.  What makes this happen?

Schools as we know them are the result of 19th century society attempting to cope with the explosive population growth that accompanied the industrial revolution.  Urban centers crowded thousands of families together, as wage earners were sent to the assembly lines of the factory.  Schools were created to accommodate large numbers of children and were modeled after factory assembly lines. Parts of the whole were assembled separately; tasks were highly repetitive; the interest and personal growth of the individual were irrelevant and finally there was no inherent motivation in learning, but only extrinsic motivation in the form of either grades or a paycheck.

19th century factories were pretty dark places.  Thank goodness, twenty-first century, start-ups and corporate giants have recognized the importance of personal satisfaction and initiative.  Today large and small companies have come to understand that  success requires sensitive focus on the needs of the individual employee.

The same “revolution” that has permeated a great deal of industry, can happen in our schools.  Although many of the original reasons for introducing these de-humanizing institutions have faded, new reasons have emerged that preserve them.  First, school systems have created cumbersome bureaucracies that employee thousands. Ask any Minister of Education from the western world,as to what is the primary factor that prevents educational change and you will be told that rigid bureaucracy of a long-outdated system blocks educational initiative..  Secondly, because these systems are based on institutionalized  patterns of repetition and replication, they are relatively easy to operate in a mindless fashion.  It’s far easier to create a chain of McDonald’s than a chain of gourmet restaurants.

Herein lies the problem and the solution.  Most learning that occurs in school is artificial.  I believe that learning needs to reflect the healthy development of our selves. The self develops in three stages.  First, comes wonder and attention. Infants largely develop a sense of self from the huge amount of focus and amazement that they receive from adults. Secondly, is the stage of limitation. In this stage the toddler learns that she is not the most powerful living creature, but that parents set limits and that living within the limits is in one’s self interest. Finally, comes the stage of identification.  In this stage the child internalizes the values and behaviors of parents and lives in a similar fashion.

Healthy education must parallel the process of our natural development. First, learning must be presented in a manner that evokes curiosity and interest.  Secondly, in order to develop mastery, the student’s thinking must be guided in a manner that is consistent with scientific method. While the first step opens the window for creativity, the second step provides disciplined and in depth analysis.  Finally material must be taught in a manner that allows the child to identify with that which is learned so that it is relevant for his personal existence or for his ability to comprehend the wider society in which he lives.

The therapeutic model of education that I propose is the antithesis of the 19th century system of mass uniformed production.  Control of curricula must be handed over to the local community and to teachers.  Local control over teaching creates meaning, excitement and connection. The trend towards project based learning must be enhanced, however not at the expense of going through the grunt work of understanding fundamentals and basics.  Teachers must be empowered to teach according to their individual personalities and strengths, and teaching colleges must focus on teaching emotional connection more than transmitting sterile data..

Today, we live in a world where the benefits of natural living are quite evident and intuitively accepted. It’s time that we demand therapeutic natural learning for our children.  It is not a dream.  The model is available.  It is being piloted in Yeshivat Bnei Chayil-Tzvia Yersusalayim and it the Matara Jewish Therapeutic Boarding School. I know that other schools are working on similar models This is exciting, meaningful and authentic.  When mindful parents demand demand natural therapeutic education, schools will change in a revolutionary fashion and all of our children will benefit.

About the Author
Dr. Chesner is a clinical psychologist who has written three best selling books in Hebrew on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He has founded Bnei Chayil ( and Matara - a Jewish Therapeutic Boarding School for Teenagers ( and and setup programs in Israel for students with ADHD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Asperger's) and other neuropsychological issues. Most recently, he has founded a Pre-Military Academy for foreign students in Israel.