With all due respect to Davis Guggenheim I think he got it wrong in Waiting For Superman! Public schools have something to offer no other educational institution, be that charter schools, private schools, boarding schools, even the various forms of homeschooling can.
If you read my previous posts where I question the value of formalized education as we know it, you must be thinking I went crazy or got change of heart. Please be patient and let me walk you trough this post by telling you few stories first. We’ll talk again at the end of the post if you have any questions!
The first story is personal, involving my family and few friends with school age kids.
Ever since my older daughter reached school age (currently in grade 1) the question which school to choose loomed large on our lives. At the time my perspective on formalized education hasn’t shifted too much from the traditional view that you need to get educated and get good grades to be successful, even though I already had a chance to listen to Sir Ken Robinson by then.
No, you’re not annoying, just boring! Attention is the new currency in our world and you need to offer something in exchange if you want me to listen to you. Telling me what to do, how to do it, when to do it doesn’t cut it anymore. Teaching me old solutions for old problems doesn’t inspire me anymore. I get what I need to learn to cope in this world from other places!
Yes, I learn from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs… I learn from my neighbor who is obsessed with vintage cars and spends all his free time with oil on his hands. I learn from William half across the world who harnessed the wind to save his family from starving. I learn from Mark up in Maine pondering the question of mind while wondering if his bees have lessons for human communities.
Learning to unlearn is the highest form of learning. ~ Buddhist proverb
At its very core, education is an innate expression of curiosity; a longing to understand and be part of the world; a manifestation of purpose and passion that every person carries within them. ~ Carey Elizabeth Smith, Co-Director of the Body Therapy Institute*
I’ve been troubled lately with the question “How do we learn?” I don’t mean specifically how kids learn in school, or how adults learn at a new job position… I’m rather curious how do we learn anything in general!
It’s midnight on a Holiday and everyone in the home is asleep! I’ve been going back and forth between the computer and the fridge 3, maybe 4 times now. Nothing inside seems satisfying to my disturbed mind. I finally reach out to the cupboard and grab the Nutella chocolate spread. The feeling is greater than me — I greedily shove 3 big spoonfuls into my mouth!
As the sensation moves down my throat and reaches my pleasure centre in the brain, I check my email, Twitter and Facebook for the hundredth time. I’ve been doing that for the past two hours, sitting helplessly in front of the screen in a wonder what happened to the world — why there’s no one out there sending a new message for me to read?
Maybe if I tuned into one of those chatty Twitter accounts that send a barrage of messages streaming down their channel I could find something useful?! No, I needed a person to send me something interesting, not some software scheduling a large queue of tweets that mean nothing to me. I needed to be able to reply back with a witty comment or enter into a discussion over a thought-provoking question.
This is when it struck me! A shiver ran through my spine and I felt I can’t move. I don’t know if the weight of the realization caused the shaking. Or maybe the high cocoa dose in my brain activated too many senses. Whatever it was, it certainly felt gravely cold in the room! I could think only about one thing — I am an addict!
Imagine your friends are doing research around the schools they consider for their kids and they ask for your advice. You decide to do a bit of digging yourself and soon you end up with this:
“It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.” — Albert Einstein, one of the most influential and best known scientists and intellectuals of all time
“I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays, and have things arranged for them, that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.” — Agatha Christie, British writer, famous for her detective novels
“Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mundane educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom, go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts.” — Frank Zappa, American composer, electric guitarist, record producer, and film director
What advice would you give to them?
Curious as you are, you start to grow interest in the history of education: How compulsory schooling started? Why — if these thinkers are right about it strangling curiosity — it got so widely accepted? …
This essay was inspired by an article titled A soft key radio and the Melting pot, written recently by a dear friend and fellow blogger. I hope to develop it further and use it as a backdrop story for discussing a topic that has been on my mind for some time — the impact of technology on morality. Stay tuned!
“Welcome aboard”, said the tall girl as she greeted me in front of a funny-looking train — instead of tracks and wheels, this one seemed to be just sitting there idly as a dead metal shell on the floor of a fairly big room that looked nothing like a train station!
As I was trying to meet the eyes of my hostess, I was captivated by her long streaks of dazzling red hair falling down her shoulders. They were protruding from underneath what looked like one of those traditional conductor caps my grandfather — who worked for the old railroad long time ago — used to let me play with as a kid. Instead of the railroad logo, though, this one had Tranzt Wrld embroidered at the front with big golden letters.
Tranzt Wrld was one of a new breed of companies trying to add tactile interface to an aging platform — the ubiquitous Soccet — the global social network that long ago replaced the Internet. Soccet allowed virtually anyone on the planet to access any information in the public domain. More importantly, it let anyone connect and interact with anyone else in any other location on the planet — including the newly formed Moon base that by now hosted about 100 astronauts, scientists and other staff.
“We in Tranzt Wrld care a lot about providing realistic experience to our customers”, continued the girl as she was leading me inside what looked like an empty train car. As I started looking around I realized that despite the external appearance, inside it looked very similar to the train cars being used in the public transportation systems of the big cities like London — though now almost no trains were running as more and more people were tele-commuting in a bid to save the planet from energy overconsumption and greenhouse gas pollution.
Are you dreaming too?
I am curious about everything and this blog is my way to ponder the meaning of the hard questions of life, mind, culture, future...
I like to engage with my readers so please comment if anything catches your eye -- criticism is welcome too! ;-)
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