“School as Prison” Perception: Arguments Against

The article written in 2013 by Peter Gray called “School is a prison – and damaging our kids” explores traditional schooling and its adverse effects on children’s and adolescents’ learning outcomes. The author argues that the school system is an inherently failing concept that is harmful to young-adults (Gray, 2013). The article claims that schools limit children’s freedom, which leads to a negative impact on their psychological state (Gray, 2013). Moreover, schools were not designed with the best intention in mind. Gray (2013) claims that initially, people in power created schools to limit an individual’s critical thinking abilities. Furthermore, the primary reason schools are not suitable for successful learning is “the top-down, teach-and-test method” that demotivated children to learn willingly (Gray, 2013, para. 5). Finally, he gives alternative examples of schooling methods, including learning at home and in progressive schools (Gray, 2013). He believes that libraries, the Internet, and knowledgeable adults can successfully guide pupils throughout their learning period. The article’s ideas and rhetorical choices are questionable as they are inconsistent, unrealistic, and one-sided.

First, the author’s ideas are discordant throughout the text. Gray starts his article by using provocative rhetoric, including phrases such as “school is a prison” (Gray, 2013, para. 1). The tone of the passage brings readers to the idea that the system cannot be fixed in any way, as the author asks a leading question “But what if the real problem is school itself?” (Gray, 2013, para. 2). He spends the first half of the article providing evidence for his claims, including the opinion that conventional learning is unpleasant and harmful. However, in the second part, the author examines the cases of Sudbury Valley School, claiming that graduates of this facility are successful and competent adults (Gray, 2013). This example contradicts the beginning of the article that presents school as helpless, implying it cannot be repaired or changed. Despite visible differences between traditional and progressive schools, both concepts are similar in their core. Both of them represent facilities that welcome children, provide them with a learning environment, and knowledgeable adults assisting them in the process. Therefore, one of the examples made by the author advocates for school-reformation instead of school abolishment. Thus, the rhetoric and arguments of the first part of the article that suggest that schooling is inherently detrimental are not supported, which makes the ideas of the material inconsistent.

Second, the author’s solutions to the issues are unrealistic, as he does not consider various essential factors in his analysis. One of Gray’s main criticism of the school system is the top-down approach to teaching and learning (Gray, 2013). Moreover, the article’s main explanation for such a method is that historically schools were designed to suppress children’s creativity and curiosity (Gray, 2013). However, in reality, this issue is primarily connected to educational facilities budget constraints. The classroom sizes are dependent upon the number of teachers available to prepare each subject. The author assumes that private progressive schools or homeschooling can resolve the problem; however, this is an unrealistic view, as most individuals cannot afford non-private education that is less top-down. Furthermore, Gray criticizes the entirety of school as a system based on the harmful effects of testing, which limits children’s desire to learn voluntarily (Gray, 2013). However, his conclusions on abolishing the entire system are not pragmatic, as he does not consider other vital parts of schooling, including sports, socializing, clubs, and more. Thus, Gray’s ideas are far from reality, as many other reasons behind specific teaching methods are not taken into account.

Third, the evidence of the article is one-sided, as it does not represent the issue comprehensively. Gray (2013) mainly focuses on the negative side of schooling, including historical examples, psychological studies, and personal research. However, the author does not explain the positive effect of traditional education, which is essential while arguing against a well-established institution that had existed for centuries. Gray (2013) assumes that the adverse impact of the issue is predominant in the society as he states, “people even think that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children” (para. 9). Thus, the article implies that each reader shares similar to the author’s view; however, the lack of representation of the other side makes the article’s arguments less convincing. While it is crucial to present the statistics for the main idea of the text, the reasons why most people choose to send their children to conventional schools are missing. Overall, to argue against the idea that is prominent in the culture without mentioning the supporting evidence makes the article one-sided, which leads to biased assumptions in the text.

The article’s claims and rhetoric supporting them are not convincing and compelling, as the issues are presented not consistently, nonsensically, and in a biased manner. The discussion about the role of traditional schools in society is meaningful because children are valuable members of the state. Their comfort and safety should always be a priority for both the parents and the government. Therefore, Gray’s article raises relevant questions about the system’s effectiveness by bringing in the adverse outcomes of traditional schooling. On the other hand, a fruitful dialogue, including criticism and praise within a realistic framework, should accompany the search for appropriate solutions. Overall, despite the relevance of the topic, the author failed to address the issue most effectively.


Gray, P. (2013). School is a prison – and damaging our kids. Salon. Web.

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""School as Prison" Perception: Arguments Against." ChalkyPapers, 12 Feb. 2022, chalkypapers.com/school-as-prison-perception-arguments-against/.


ChalkyPapers. (2022) '"School as Prison" Perception: Arguments Against'. 12 February.


ChalkyPapers. 2022. ""School as Prison" Perception: Arguments Against." February 12, 2022. https://chalkypapers.com/school-as-prison-perception-arguments-against/.

1. ChalkyPapers. ""School as Prison" Perception: Arguments Against." February 12, 2022. https://chalkypapers.com/school-as-prison-perception-arguments-against/.


ChalkyPapers. ""School as Prison" Perception: Arguments Against." February 12, 2022. https://chalkypapers.com/school-as-prison-perception-arguments-against/.