How the Industrial Revolution Changed Education

Believe it or not, the industrial revolution may have impacted our remarkable children!

The next time you feel frustrated with your child because of issues at school, stop and take a breath. Take a moment to remember that school is not necessarily a natural or easy state for them. As Seth Godin shows us, our economic systems have changed, and those changes affected our entire way of life.

Many Years Ago…

If you have a stack of 400 quarters, and each one represents 250 years of human culture, and the entire stack represents 100,000 years of organized civilization of some nature…

…remove only the top quarter…

…this one quarter represents how many years our culture has revolved the industrial revolution. Every other quarter represents a different way of life, including education and work. (1)

Before the industrial revolution, our world was very different. Most people lived in small villages, working either in agriculture or as skilled craftsmen. They lived and often worked as a family, doing everything by hand. Children began working as soon as they could manage a task.

Children usually learned a craft from their parents, or became apprentices to tradesmen. Children of the wealthy might have private tutors, and universities existed for the very few who could afford them. When public schools came into existence, most children only attended to the sixth grade.

As we entered into the Industrial Revolution, it was supposed to change our lives. Factories needed workers to build goods. Being a good worker meant following directions, showing up to work, do what your boss tells you, and keeping your mouth shut.

What about those kids who were fidgety or absentminded? Most likely, THEY WERE WORKING! They were NOT sitting in a classroom. The Industrial Revolution that changed the way children acquired knowledge and demonstrated mastery.

Life At School

Sitting in a classroom, or a factory, or an office, is NOT a natural state. It was never part of our human experience until 250 years ago.

For some kids, adapting to school is a successful transition. They love school, they perform well, and generally thrive. Fortunately, most children have this experience.

Other students have a very different experience at school, and it can be very frustrating for them.

In the book, Percy Jackson and the Olympians , the hero, Percy, is befuddled why anyone would want a boy with ADHD and a learning disorder to save the day! His mentor sums it up beautifully when he says,

“Of course you have ADHD and a learning disability! You were wired to be this way! Your brain was wired to read ancient languages and to be a warrior; constantly on the move.”

Warriors did not sit still and focus all day long. They scanned. They constantly moved. They worked. Life was very different once upon a time.

Using this analogy, we can begin to see difficulties experienced at school as challenges, not as a reason to admit defeat.

Every Child Has Challenges

Every single child has challenges at school. Some are subtle. Maybe a child has to learn to manage friendships. Maybe another child struggles with time management.

Some children have bigger giants to face. And that’s when it becomes so important to have open lines of communication with the school and teachers. School can be your greatest ally .

The next time you feel frustrated with your child because of issues at school, stop and take a breath. Take a moment to remember that school is not necessarily a natural or easy state for them. And, most importantly, try to see those challenges as strengths. They may not be strengths at school, but those qualities could serve them well later in life.

Your child may just be experiencing a delayed reaction to the Industrial Revolution!