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We were lied to in school, now what?

RecoveringAStudentJan 26, 2019, 7:58:40 AM

    I am glad to be a part of a community of "Recovering A Students" here on Minds, and doubly so after seeing a few blogs about the topic of "school as programming." On one of these blogs, the following question was brought up:

So other than the [short list] of suggestions at the end of the blog, what's the plan?

This blog is meant to answer that question.

The true purpose of education

    The first question to ask, is "What is education really meant to accomplish?" When I was first asked to answer the question my senior year of high school, I gave the expected answer because I believed it at the time: "Job Training." Of course the essay I wrote about this got me a good grade, but looking back, I can see I was wrong.

    Education, in reality, is about helping children prepare for adulthood, and adulthood means much more than working a particular career for a lifetime. Adulthood includes character, determining how to adapt to a changing world, understanding the difference between a job, a livelihood, and a vocation. Adulthood is about handling adult relationships, from marriage, to religion, to leadership. Adulthood is about understanding culture and becoming a contributor to culture. Finally, adulthood is about taking responsibility for one's own actions, understanding one's worst enemy lives in the mirror, and that acquiring knowledge is something one will do all the way to one's final day.

    What we are getting is a very different form of education, in which people are seen as raw material to shape into programmable worker units. Relationships, culture, history, future, they do not matter. All that matters is that you are broken inside, and strive to fill that emptiness with shiny badges, extra letters after one's name, or a career award nobody has ever heard of, but it was something to show for that extra time you put in at the office!

    In brief, education tells us something about how we look at the world, and at life. Getting a clear vision of a free and meaningful life is the first and arguably most critical solution to taking back education.

Changing modes of education

    I have spent a decent amount of time around educational bureaucrats, and while various pedagogical methods and technologies have changed over time, one thing is quite clear: despite superficial technological improvements, education hasn't changed since we brought the Prussian model of schooling to the world. Someone outside of the classroom and community writes up a set of content goals, and children are made to accomplish those pre-defined goals, on a pre-defined schedule. Of course these goals are completely tone deaf to how children actually develop, so they must be dragged or manipulated through the goals, with much resistance, thus leaving the child with a mediocre amount of knowledge, and no ability to self-learn.

    The needed changes in education are a complete change in modality. Instead of scheduling to specific content goals, we can instead throw away the periods, bells, and pre-determined destinies. These would be replaced with children trying a few different kinds of futures, by working alongside adults, traveling to new places and meeting new people, and undertaking projects that require months of focus. Teachers, in this context, are moreso mentors who train children in developing a character that enables self-teaching.

What this might look like

    I think the closest example we have to this revolution in education would be the MakerSpaces, and a few Meetups. In these, most people come to what is essentially a sacred space for learning, and dedicate an hour, 2 hours, or a whole day to wrangling with a project. People who are particularly good may even travel between Spaces and lead workshops. The result over time being that people learn new skills, make new friends, and at times have the sort of deep conversations that lead to someone going off and changing the world.

    After this, I think the next closest example were the times I spent with my father out on the construction yard. I didn't know it at the time, being too buried in school, but I learned morality by learning about the choices workers made and how it affected them over the years. I learned about economics when trying to understand what $8 per hour could buy in 1995. I learned about social skills by meeting his boss a few times, and understanding the difference in how people at each level of the company talked. I also gained a lot of self-confidence when my dad would let me try driving the Bobcat, surveying a foundation, or marking out property lines. It was an exposure to... life, something school does not and cannot deliver.

As I keep writing, I will try to focus on the solutions to the crisis of schooling, and see if there is a way to start taking concrete actions now. I believe unschooling is possible at any age, and I also think it goes beyond mere homeschooling. I look forward to developing the conversation with you.