Monday, January 07, 2008

Give them space to learn

Tim over at Assorted Stuff has a post that I have to comment on. He is talking about some reading he did over the break, especially the book What is Your Dangerous Idea?. He was especially talking about the dangerous idea of Roger Schank. Schank writes:

My dangerous idea is one that most people immediately reject without giving it serious thought: school is bad for kids — it makes them unhappy and as tests show — they don't learn much.

Schools need to be replaced by safe places where children can go to learn how to do things that they are interested in learning how to do. Their interests should guide their learning.

Tim says he finds himself wanting to argue but agreeing with a lot of Schank's reasoning.

I understand that well. I was a public school teacher when I pulled my children out of school to homeschool them. I was sure it was the right thing for my daughters, but it was hard to explain to my co-workers. Today, one of them is an RN with her Bachelor's degree in nursing and the other is an attorney.

My son, who was born while his sisters were being homeschooled, was the real test of this, though. He never went to school except for brief spurts when we lived overseas. His education was largely self-directed. He was, as a friend of mine pointed out, "unschooled", not homeschooled. And he is doing just fine as a young adult, thank you. He is fascinated by everything from ancient Japan to cooking. He hasn't found what he wants to pursue as a career yet, so we don't have any final answers on him, but I am not worried.

When children are allowed to pursue their interests, they learn. It does not match any state-mandated curriculum in terms of its sequence, and it may not be covering exactly the same material, but it is a valid education. And I believe it serves them better than what is forced on them by others.

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