It absolutely blew my mind. During one of our first conversations over Skype, Skinner was telling me that dividing children by age in schools doesn’t make sense. After few seconds of skepticism, I took his argument seriously and I realized that the idea of grouping students by age was an assumption I had never challenged before.

2 years later that call with Skinner, I’m in Chile building Exosphere with him, and this morning while passing by a college here in Reñaca I couldn’t think of anything else than: why do they divide them by age? It doesn’t make sense!

Isn’t natural and obviously beneficial for children to be learning next to other children of approximately the same age?

What we take for granted and see as “how things are“, is often just “how things have been done lately“. The fact that we grow up doing things in a certain way tend to install in us the assumption that that’s the unique way to do them, and that humans have always been doing them that way.

It is, simply enough, how we build our map of the world when we grow up. As we update our maps of reality by new information, and as it’s very difficult and rare to have accurate information about the past, we usually go through life without recognizing many of our assumptions for what they are.

Further discussion and research about age-grading convinced me that what most people think as natural is actually a mistaken idea implemented by education bureaucrats at the beginning of the last century.

“It is constructed upon the assumption that a group of minds can be marshalled and controlled in growth in exactly the same manner that a military officer marshalls and directs the bodily movements of a company of soldiers. In solid, unbreakable phalanx the class is supposed to move through all the grades, keeping in locked step. This locked step is set by the ‘average’ pupil–an algebraic myth born of inanimate figures and an addled pedagogy. The class system does injury to the rapid and quick-thinking pupils, because these must shackle their stride to keep pace with the mythical average. But the class system does a greater injury to the large number who make slower progress than the rate of the mythical average pupil . . . They are foredoomed to failure before they begin.

Could any system be more stupid in its assumptions, more impossible in its conditions, and more juggernautic in its operation?”

This critic of age-grading was written in 1912 by Frederick Burk, first president of what became California State University at San Francisco, and quoted by Charles E. Silberman in his book Crisis in the Classroom. Many other authors agree upon the fact that out modern education system is the evolution of the prussian model, imported in the US and the taken as standard all over the world.

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