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Saturday, August 28, 2010

How Unschooling will Save Education

Unschooling will save education.

Collectively, we eventually will figure out that the massive school industry, as currently structured: costs way too much; teaches irrelevant material; crowds out more beneficial activities; breaks up families; and even creates a long term effect similar to a mild post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, we, as a culture, are not at that point yet. We are still tinkering with schools. We still think we want schools to work. We are still holding conferences and issuing decrees that schools need more money, control, and influence in general. We still think that Gates and Buffet and Lucas are right. We have a President who is part of the one percent who owes everything to schools and has two daughters (just compare the number of male students on Ritalin compared to female).

The educational-industrial complex is also at its most powerful, not only compared to the past but also compared to the future. We might look back at this phase as "School doesn't work. We need more school."

Fair enough. This faith-in-industrial-schools will take about fifteen more lost years before it finally crashes. (The Tea-Party candidate, three elections from now, will run on cutting the national cost of education in half in order to save our economy.)

BUT there is something really exciting happening in parallel. At the same time billionaires and national leaders are propping up a failed system, there is actual progress being made.

I wrote in an earlier post about 15 Models that are Better for Childhood Learning than Schools'. These "better models" include camps, libraries, community theater, start-up businesses, and more. Historically, these models have existed in the shadow (and context) of schools. In fact, in many ways, the massive educational-industrial complex has treated these "better models" as cottage industries and helpers.

  • Camps are only open when school is out.
  • Libraries are expected to support school reading lists and other curricula.
  • Families can only go on trips together when school allows it.
  • Students can only schedule internships when it doesn't interfere with homework.
But what is just starting to happen is that these "better models" are reacting to and being evolved by home and unschoolers as well.

  • Local theater companies are looking to home and unschoolers for lead roles, rather than to industrial school children. This frees the theater up to rehearse more, but also to choose more relevant plays, not just retreads of safe nostalgia pieces.
  • Summer camps are opening new year-round programs, focused on developing leadership, stewardship, innovation, and other critical skills.
  • Libraries are hosting gatherings of home and unschoolers around issues of environmentalism, current affairs, internships, or starting their own businesses, not just tutoring sessions on homework help and test prep.
  • Distance masters programs are courting these new students.

The current educational-industrial complex is failing. But while no one is looking, the home and unschoolers are paving the way for a richer educational future.

Until the crash, schools will continue to get more and more money. That is inevitable. But more of the real learning of all school children will be through these "better models" as they are increasingly influenced and evolved by home and unschoolers.

And the result will be a diversity of educational options that: cost less; teach highly relevant material; encourage more beneficial activities; strengthens families; and even create a long term effect of empowered, skilled, and motivated citizens.

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