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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bill Gates following more, but not enough, of the Unschooling Rules

Bill Gates, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week (see summary here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/07/17/bill-gates-why-game-based-learning-is-the-future-of-education/), finally expressed his advocacy for some of the Unschooling Rules.  Specifically, he now supports Unschooling Rules:
#21. Is it better to be “A Great Reader” than “Addicted to Computer Games”? (Computer games are a more useful media model than books for many critical skills)
#9. Sitting through a classroom lecture is not just unnatural for most people, it is painful. 
#16. Embrace all technologies. 
#27. The ideal class size isn’t thirty, or even fifteen, but more like five. 
#24. Teaching is leadership. Most teaching is bad leadership. (Student directed learning is more powerful than institution directed learning). 
#33. In education, customization is important like air is important.
#42. Grouping students by the same age is just a bad idea. 
#26. Biologically, the necessary order of learning is: explore, then play, then add rigor.
This is exciting for me, of course.  I believe the adherence to any of the Unschooling Rules is local progress.  Following just one rule, and making changes based on it, improves the student experience.  

But it is also frustrating  Real, transformative change will only happen when at least 40% of The Rules are followed, and perhaps more like 60%,  And until transformative change happens, until we get off of the false peak of today's school model, changes won't last once the dollars stop flowing.  

While Bill Gates loudly proclaims his new found enthusiasm for some of the Unschooling Rules, he has decided to ignore so many of the others.  For example:
#3. Learn something because you need it or because you love it. 
#13. Include meaningful work. 
#32. Schools are designed to create both winners and losers.
#53. Parents care more than any institution about their children. (As opposed to the current school meme/self-fulfilling prophecy that parents are the enemy.) 
#43. Minimize “the drop-off.”
#50. Outdoors beats indoors. 
#55. The only sustainable answer to the global education challenge is a diversity of approaches. 
#12. Internships, apprenticeships, and interesting jobs beat term papers, textbooks, and tests.
And Unschooling Rules #49, College: the hardest no-win decision your family may ever make, surprisingly accepted by more and more families, he is resisting.  (As long as the ponzi scheme/ bought credentialism  of colleges exists, students and parents have to engage in their own version of Hunger Games every year.)

I am honored that some of my early positions (such as 'computer games are a great model for educational media') are becoming mainstream.  I am happy that more influential people are embracing more of the Unschooling Rules.  And I am impatient - but there is more than that.  I greatly worry that the picking and choosing of the more accepted of the Unschooling Rules is a recipe for failure more than pragmatism.  The current school system has developed an ever growing competency of getting grant money and attention.  If they can get plenty of both, while making only cosmetic changes, the effect is more 'inoculation' than 'path to cure.'  The systems, rather than improving, may be getting more entrenched, and harder to change for future generations.

The Unschooling Rules are spreading like wildfire. For examples of The Rules in public discourse, Go Here.


  1. As stated on twitter, you should develop a curriculum for video game simulation learning (ie Sims in the classroom).