Posted by: crudbasher | September 10, 2010

Why Do Formal Education?

I have noticed there are two kinds of education reformers.

1. Those who look at the existing system and focus on how to make it better.  Adding interactive white boards, 1-1 laptop programs, etc.

2. The other type are much fewer in number but take a step back and look at the education system as a whole.  On a systemic level they start to ask questions such as why is the system setup like it is, and what do we want the system to do.

I think if you are a teacher with a group of kids who come into your room everyday, you tend to fall into that first category.  There is nothing wrong with that of course. You take what you have and make the best of it. God bless you for that.

I tend to fall into that second category.  I like to look at children and ask how can we help them reach their full potential irregardless of the system.

There are a group of people in the second category called Unschoolers.  This isn’t homeschooling.  This is no schooling.  A year ago I would have immediately reacted to say that’s crazy talk, you have to go to school or else you won’t learn anything!  Well I started my PLN in January and my thinking has been supercharged.  There is just an explosion of ideas and thoughts happening online now. 30 years ago a person would have to write a book, have it published, promote it, and then gradually a new idea would make it’s way around.  Today an idea can circle the globe in a day.  This in turn sparks other ideas, much much faster then they would be several decades ago.

I am learning at a rapid pace and I’m not in school.

Back to Unschooling.  These are people who don’t do any sort of formal schooling for their kids.  They let the kids inquire about things, then help them learn about them.  The key is it’s completely self directed and self paced.  They learn what they want when they want.

It’s radical isn’t it?  But won’t civilization collapse if 8th graders don’t read “The Great Gatsby” ?  Well, tomorrow I am going to my 20th high school reunion.  I can’t hardly remember the names of my teachers much less what they were teaching.  Almost every skill I have, and everything I know and understand I didn’t learn in school.

I also don’t subscribe to the idea that school is where we go to learn how to think.  I think it’s where we go to learn how to conform, not think.  We are taught not to question authority.  We do not speak truth to power because we are not allowed to decide what is truth on our own.

I really enjoyed this article as it was thought provoking.  I really can’t find anything I disagree with.  I hope we can move past the myth that learning = school.

Any thoughts?

Annotations and link after the break

  • Wow. Quite a profound article about unschooling.

    tags: education unschooling nell profound

    • in my talk to you today, I
      will be trying to place schooling and unschooling in the larger
      context of our cultural history and that of our species as well.
    • Working on the kindergarten and first-grade
      programs, I observed something that I thought was truly remarkable.
      In these grades, children spend most of their time learning things
      that no one growing up in our culture could possibly avoid
      learning. For example, they learn the names of the primary colors.
      Wow, just imagine missing school on the day when they were learning blue.
      You’d spend the rest of your life wondering what color the sky is.
    • Instead of spending two or three years teaching children things they
      will inevitably learn anyway, why not teach them some things they
      will not inevitably learn and that they would actually enjoy
      learning at this age? How to navigate by the stars, for example. How
      to tan a hide. How to distinguish edible foods from inedible foods.
      How to build a shelter from scratch. How to make tools from scratch.
      How to make a canoe. How to track animals – all the forgotten but
      still valuable skills that our civilization is actually built on.
    • But above all else, of
      course, the citizen’s education – grades K to twelve – prepared
      children to be fully-functioning participants in this great
      civilization of ours. The day after their graduation exercises, they
      were ready to stride confidently toward any goal they might set
    • Of course, then, as now, everyone knew that the
      citizen’s education was doing no such thing. It was perceived then –
      as now – that there was something strangely wrong with the
      schools. They were failing – and failing miserably – at delivering
      on these enticing promises.
    • Suppose the schools aren’t failing?
      Suppose they’re doing exactly what we really want them to do
      – but don’t wish to examine and acknowledge?
    • Granted that the schools do a poor job of preparing
      children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization,
      but what things do they do excellently well? Well, to begin with,
      they do a superb job of keeping young people out of the job market.
      Instead of becoming wage-earners at age twelve or fourteen, they
      remain consumers only – and they consume billions of dollars worth
      of merchandise, using money that their parents earn.
    • two
      hundred years ago, when we were still a primarily agrarian society.
      Youngsters were expected and needed to become workers at age ten,
      eleven, and twelve.
    • as the character of our
      society changed
    • It was necessary
      to keep them off the streets – and where better than in schools?
    • Naturally, new material had to be inserted into the curriculum to
      fill up the time. It didn’t much matter what it was
    • No one wondered or ever troubled to find out if the
      material being added to the curriculum was retained.
    • During the Great Depression it became urgently important to keep
      young people off the job market for as long as possible, and so it
      came to be understood that a twelfth-grade education was essential
      for every citizen.
    • No one would have dreamed of testing
      young people five years after graduation to find out how much of it
      they’d retained. No one would have dreamed of asking them how useful
      it had been to them in realistic terms or how much it had
      contributed to their success and fulfillment as humans. What would
      be the point of asking them to evaluate their education? What
      did they know about it, after all? They were just high school
      graduates, not professional educators.
    • At the end of the Second World War, no one knew what
      the economic future was going to be like
    • The word began to go out that the citizen’s
      education should really include four years of college. Everyone
      should go to college.
    • No one was about to acknowledge that the program had been
      set up to keep young people off the job market – and that it had
      done a damn fine job of that at least.
    • the last thing we want our children to be able
      to do is to live independently of our society. We don’t want our
      graduates to have a survival value of 100%, because this would make
      them free to opt out of our carefully constructed economic system
      and do whatever they please.
    • We don’t want them to do whatever they
      please, we want them to have exactly two choices (assuming they’re
      not independently wealthy). Get a job or go to college.
    • And it should be noted that our high-school
      graduates are reliably entry-level workers. We want them to have
      to grab the lowest rung on the ladder.
    • So you see that our schools are not failing, they’re
      just succeeding in ways we prefer not to see. Turning out graduates
      with no skills, with no survival value, and with no choice but to
      work or starve are not flaws of the system, they are features
      of the system. These are the things the system must do to
      keep things going on as they are.
    • The need for schooling is bolstered by two
      well-entrenched pieces of cultural mythology. The first and most
      pernicious of these is that children will not learn unless
      they’re compelled to – in school.
    • anyone who has had a child knows what an
      absurd lie this is.
    • the desire to learn is hardwired
      into the human child just the way that the desire to reproduce is
      hardwired into the human adult. It’s genetic.
    • In the most general terms, the
      human biological clock is set for two alarms.
    • When the first alarm
      goes off, at birth, the clock chimes learn, learn, learn, learn,
      When the second alarm goes off, at the onset of puberty,
      the clock chimes mate, mate, mate, mate, mate.
    • We, of course, in our greater wisdom have decreed
      that the biological clock regulated by our genes must be ignored.
    • The people who are horrified by the idea of children
      learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it have not
      accepted the very elementary psychological fact that people (all
      people, of every age) remember the things that are important to them
      – the things they need to know – and forget the rest.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.



  1. Agree. School does not = learning. They are not synonymous. One can happen to the exclusion of the other. I literally just lol’d at the line “Wow, just imagine missing school on the day when they were learning blue.
    You’d spend the rest of your life wondering what color the sky is.”
    That pretty much sums it up right there!

  2. Mimi Rothschild Brings You “The Concept of Unschooling”…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: