Don’t wait your turn

This is a great article, by somebody named Mandy in xoJane. Here, where Mandy quotes Seth Godin, I paused. Seth says:

“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission, authority and safety that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, ‘I pick you.’

Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you … then you can actually get to work.”

Wherever do we get that idea — that we must wait to get picked, that somebody in authority must approve of us before we proceed? In school! For our entire childhood! From ages five (or earlier) to eighteen (or later)! And then some more in college. That is the very nature of school; that is exactly how it works, and anybody who does not eventually accept it and get with the program fails. Raise your hand and wait to be called on. Try out for the part and wait to get picked. To be sure, there’s no other way possible with 20 or more kids and only one teacher, or with just one team or one musical and only so many positions available. Or with so few companies hiring and only so many jobs available. Raise your hand, smile real big, and wait to be picked. Unless … you make your own musical. Start your own team. Make your own work.

How, in a “raise your hand and wait your turn” world, can we encourage young people to create their own way? How can we help them learn how to do that? To try and fail but learn something and then try again and fail again but maybe learn more this time and then try again, and then again, and thereby gradually learn how to try and succeed?

I don’t know. I’m asking. But I don’t see it happening in any traditional classroom. Where you have to raise your hand and wait to be picked, and where you’re told what to try and you maybe get a B on it (whatever the heck that means) and then you move on to the next thing, instead of honing your knowledge or skills on that thing, or better yet, on something — anything — that you’d actually like to learn.

– – –

P.S. I added this after conversing with somebody about this (quite astute) part, from Mandy’s article:

“But for anyone who lives in fear of being That Guy who’s too cocky or confident, you can rest assured: YOU WILL NEVER BE THAT GUY. Just the fact that you WORRY about being that guy is your built in stop-gap. Instead, move the dial far, far over to give yourself the fighting self-confidence chance you deserve.”

But it is something to consider, because for sure you don’t want to raise a generation of assholes.

Maybe the question is more like: “How, in a ‘raise your hand and wait your turn’ world, can we encourage young people to create their own way without being buttheads?”

But you know what. Even that (the buttheadedness), I think, is rooted in the ranking-and-sorting and waiting-your-turn system. In a competitive system (with grades and honor roll and percentiles and test-based assessments and winners and losers), there will be jockeying for position, and when that happens, somebody’s gonna get hurt. In a non-competitive system (whatever that would look like — people pursuing their own projects, together or individually, as they desire, with mentors to help and resources available), there is no jockeying for position. There’s only, “Hey, what are you doing? That’s cool! Wanna see my thing? It’s about half done. Say, you and Joe should get together; he’s doing something like that too; you two could trade ideas.”

(Imagine there’s no heaven …)

Posted in Education, Homeschool, Learning, Non-schooling, Parenting, Personal growth, Public school, School, Unschooling, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Technology in the classroom

Give students their own pencils, and you just don’t know WHAT they’ll draw!! Teach them to write, and next thing you know, they’re passing notes.

We don’t want any technology in the classroom, thank you.

Posted in Education, School, Technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bullying in the cage

This article at CNN (called “Could Your Child Be a Bully?“) illustrates yet another case, I think, of folks failing to take the next logical step and calling the phenomenon of full-time, age-sorted, compulsory school itself the problem:

“I look back and shake my head,” says Eva, who asked CNN not to use her last name because she plans to apply for graduate school. But “when you’re in elementary school and junior high, there’s nothing else. We don’t have responsibilities. We don’t have skills. We buy candy and do homework.”

“Part of the problem here is that kids are kind of stuck in a cage,” [Sociologist Robert] Faris agrees. “They don’t have formal roles and responsibilities. … They have to work status out for themselves.”

And if we put adults in a similar situation, he says, we’d see the same behavior.

So does anybody advocate changing school fundamentally? Maybe opening the cage? No. They advocate still more made-up “programs and activities”!

For that reason, Faris advocates programs and activities that de-emphasize social status and re-emphasize the qualities of a good friend.

Like what, for example? The article doesn’t say. The grown-up, former bully herself said “We don’t have responsibilities. We don’t have skills. We buy candy and do homework.” She recognized that homework doesn’t feel like a real responsibility; it does not contribute meaningfully to the world. Household chores, while important, don’t either; they’re usually just the things that the parents themselves don’t want to do. Why don’t kids have real things to do? Why don’t they spend their time with a variety of people who can work with them to do real things? Volunteering, making art, building things, who knows? But something more important than, as the young woman says, “buying candy and doing homework.” Something that they know matters, so they can know that they matter, so they won’t feel the need to jockey for position in (as the sociologist called it) the “cage” of school.

Posted in Adolescence, Bullying, Education, Freedom, Homework, Parenting, Public school, School, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alternate history

Padawan is reading a new series of Star Wars comics called “Infinities,” which is like a series of alternate histories. We also call them “what if” stories. What if Luke had not managed to blow up the Death Star? What if Luke had perished on frozen Hoth, so Leia had to complete the Jedi training with Yoda? What if Leia had joined the Empire? And so on.

In other news, we’ve read a little about the Spanish and French colonists and the native Timucua and the settlement of St. Augustine in la Florida and … what if the Spanish conquerors had prevailed in what is now the United States? Or the French? We’d all be speaking Spanish now. Or French, as in Quebec. What if the Timucua had revolted early and in great numbers and gotten the Spanish the heck off their peninsula?

Alternate history is great stuff.

Posted in Education, Good life, History, Homeschool, Learning, Pop Culture, Reading, Unschooling | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Standardized testing as logical outcome

Maybe national bubble-fill standardized testing is a logical outcome of an educational system that divides students by age, divides knowledge into discrete subjects, divides the subjects further into discrete courses, and divides the courses further into monthly and weekly and daily and hourly goals. Regardless of child, teacher, circumstance, anything: this is what all shall learn, this is when all shall learn it, this is how all shall learn it, and this is how long it shall take. By the time students are 18, they shall have learned all the necessary things, and they can get a certificate that proves they learned it all and allows them to stop learning now. (Unless a student spent fewer than 180 days per year learning it. That would yield an “incomplete” and require extra classes before they can get their certificate, even if the student learned the same things everybody else did. If they didn’t spend the right number of days learning it, it doesn’t count.) (In fact, if a student misses too many days, they don’t just get an “incomplete,” they or their parents can go to jail! To jail! For missing the part about what’s a circumference and what’s a diameter! Whoa.)

The system gives the illusion of controlled education — the illusion of control over educational inputs and outcomes, right down to the exact number of days it should take each and every student to learn each and every thing. Perhaps it makes sense that the results of such a system should be measured by a test that gives the illusion of controlled assessment.

Nobody likes these big standardized tests. Nobody likes that they are compulsory (like school itself is) and that they are not designed by the users (like school) and that they cause stress and control people’s schedules (like school) and that they can determine people’s fates and careers and lives (like school). Everybody from teachers to students to administrators agree that these tests measure random and even silly bits of knowledge and arbitrary skills, and poorly, and that they take too much time and do more harm than good. But maybe the problem is not actually the standardized tests. Maybe the tests are merely a symptom or logical extension of the real problem: the very system they purport to measure.

Posted in Education, Learning, Public school, School, Testing, Unschooling | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Public versus obligatory

I strongly support public education. I am opposed to obligatory education. I believe that a system (or systems) of education — schools, teachers, academic classes, performance art classes, art studios, mentors, tutors, project-based activities, book clubs, gymnasiums, swimming lessons, science labs, nature walks, environmental projects, cooking classes — should be paid for by all and freely available to all. But I believe nobody should be required to partake of it.

Similarly, I support public daycare. I am opposed to obligatory daycare. I believe happy, healthy, safe daycare should be paid for by all and freely available to all. But nobody should be required to use it.

Similarly, I support public radio, and I am opposed to obligatory radio. I believe public radio should be paid for by all and freely available to all. But nobody should be forced to listen to it.

I support public education, public daycare, and public radio. I oppose obligatory education, obligatory daycare, and obligatory radio.

Posted in Education, Freedom, Homeschool, Learning, Public school, School, Social welfare, Unschooling | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You can try again

On leaving a cult at age 27: “I have no idea what kind of work I want to do, or where to live. How do people decide these things?”

We all have things to unpack from our childhoods. Assumptions to question, assumptions we didn’t know could be questioned, some convictions to keep, others to reject or modify, still others to just set aside for a while as we ponder what to do with them. Defaults to retain or reset. New things to learn, maybe new ways to be. Old ways to recall and maybe embrace again. Some folks have more to assess than others. Time is forgiving. People are sometimes less so, but time is forgiving. It just keeps rolling out in front of you, saying here’s another minute, here’s another day. You can try again.

Posted in Freedom, Learning, Personal growth | Tagged , , | Leave a comment