Hi, I was wondering what would happen to school in a "collapse" of the economy. Based on your experiences, would kids still be needing to go to school? Would I still need to worry about getting kids to school? And if they do need to go after a collapse, is it something you would recommend taking them to school? Or is it safer to keep them home?
Thank you for bringing up an interesting and very relevant topic that isn’t brought up often. Other than the time spent in our homes, our work place is the one were most adults spent most of their time. When it comes to children though, that place will be the school they attend.
School standards… not what they used to be
An economic collapse such as the one that took place in Argentina directly impacts schools. Public schools and many private ones depend on government money to support themselves. To some degree, this reality affected the education on most countries around the world after the global economic crisis of 2008. While some private schools can keep up their standards by increasing the fees, other private schools may not be able to do so because parents have a more limited income. These schools only offer standards that are marginally better than public ones. This creates one of the most noticeable and more enduring levels of inequality which will stick with the child for the rest of his life. In the case of Argentina, parents have two main priorities: Pay for medical health cover and pay for a good enough school for their kids. Other than a handful of exceptional cases, public schools simply aren’t an option if you expect your child to have any kind of future.
With less funds, teachers are less motivated. They make less and as time goes by becoming a teacher becomes less of a career option given the low wages and overall depressing experience of having to teach in a much more challenging environment. As the society becomes poorer, the infrastructure and supplies suffer as well. Maintenance is rarely kept up to date, even the kids clothes or school uniforms start showing their age. If this all sounds a bit depressing, its because that’s exactly how it feels.
School meals suffer as well. The quality of food is worse, there’s even LESS food in the children’s plate, and I’m not talking about Argentina here, I’m talking about reports of school meals in United Kingdom in the last couple years. Both in Argentina and UK, school personal would downright lie about how much a child has been eating or how many servings they’ve had. Many parents have reported being surprised by how hungry their supposedly well fed children were after class hours.
Safety in and around schools
One of the most concerning aspects of post-collapse schools is safety. In the case of Argentina, pupils that went to some of the more exclusive (and more expensive) private schools were told to stop using the school uniform given that many had been kidnaped for ransom. A kid walking down the street with a uniform of a 500 USd a month school was a dead giveaway.
Violence within school themselves was and still is a problem. Stress affects not only parents but children as well and the entire society becomes more violent. School fights become much worse, more brutal. In some of the worst public schools it is common for kids to beaten one another almost to death, stabbings occur practically every day and a good number of pupils attend classrooms armed with firearms. In many cases, they even do so for self-defense rather than looking for trouble. The economic polarization quickly becomes a social one as well. Since kids with money don’t attend schools where poor people go, others things to hate about one another are quickly found. Among girls, its been years now that reports of one girl being targeted, not just bullied but severely beaten or even disfigured or killed “because she was pretty”. Last week a boy almost beaten to death “because he was white”. In the case of Argentina, “being white” may be having a slightly clear colored skin compared to the group average rather than being a clear ethnic difference.
If all this sounds chaotic and dangerous, its because it is so. Even in some of the more exclusive private schools the level of violence is considerably higher than in most other developed countries, simply because it has become a more violent society. No one bats an eye because of some Facebook bullying. Getting bullied in that context means getting physically beaten not just once but recurrently.
What to do?
Do you send your kids to school? Of course you do, its important to do so and I’ll give you several reasons. Not only does your child need to have an education, he needs to learn to handle other peers as well. Regarding education you could argue that homeschooling is just as good or even better. I’m not trying to start a debate here but I do know some very well educated home schooled children but I probably know even more children that are home schooled that simply don’t have the education level found is good students attending good schools. It really depends on the parents, how well educated they are themselves and how much time they have to spend with their children. Not everyone is capable of objective self-criticism when it comes to these two.
But even more important than education, is the ability to get along and learn how to interact, even succeed and compete with others socially. If a child can’t handle other children like him, he wont be able to do so as an adult either, and believe me this will be more challenging in a post-collapse society.
What you should do is find a good, safe school for your children to attend. The best one you can provide. Sometimes its about paying for it, sometimes its moving to places where you have them. It takes a bit of work but in most developed countries parents cant find a good school for their children.
Besides sending your child to a good school, you need to give them the tools to defend themselves, both verbally and physically if needed. The right attitude, the right amount of self-confidence will go a long way in avoiding being targeted by bullies in the first place. When it comes to physical self-defense, I recommend teaching your child basic self-defense techniques. I specifically recommend Brazilian jiu-jitsu over all other martial arts for children. It’s one of the safest martial arts to practice for kids given the lack of punches, it focuses more on technique rather than strength (good for girls!), it is highly effective in the real-world (too much mumbo jumbo in the martial arts world) and it can be used without leaving visible wounds. Maybe your son is more than capable of putting a well-deserved beating on anyone that deserves it, but even if that’s the case he can get into trouble none the less. In places like Argentina there’ little tolerance for such nonsense and few school principals would bother a parent of a child that was clearly defending himself but in other countries this may not be the case and a “twisted arm” will get your child in a lot less trouble than a “broken nose” or even a simple bloody lip.
Schools have changed quite a bit in the last few years. I’m not yet forty and I remember a very different school environment. I would have the monthly Guns & Ammo magazine which I openly read in the classroom during breaks and by the time I was fifteen years old teachers knew that if they needed to cut something I was the kid to ask for help because I always had a folding knife with me… in the classroom.
Different times? My classroom was right next to the school’s air rifle shooting range. We had one in the school’s courtyard. You first learned to shoot air rifles in school, then you’d go to the Federal Shooting Club (TFLZ) and shoot 22LR and finally you learned to shoot a Mauser 1909 in 7,65 Argentino as part of the school’s curriculum.
Different times indeed.
Aiming with a Mauser 1909 Modelo Argentino
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.