Public Education: Start Again

If you could start from zero, what would public education look like?

Posts Tagged ‘Freedom To Learn’

Let Our Children Go!

Posted by Stephen Dill on May 24, 2011

I am slowly beginning to realize that there are many people alive today who consider the current public education system as dysfunctional and out of synch with human nature as I do. For those who I have already crossed paths with, I want to hear who you are running into in life who share our perception, if not our commitment to create a new system. Keep us posted!

Peter Gray, author and research psychologistIn that vein, I wanted to alert you all to a wonderful resource I was fortunate enough to meet and spend an afternoon with. Peter Gray is a research psychologist who recently retired from teaching at Boston College. He is the author of the primary textbook for college-level instruction, Psychology. I ran across Peter’s thoughts on education through the blog of a fellow education revolutionary who was extolling Peter’s bravery in calling public schools prisons. Peter’s blog, Freedom To Learn, struck a chord in every post I read, as I am sure they will for you:

We can use all the euphemisms we want, but the literal truth is that schools, as they generally exist in the United States and other modern countries, are prisons. Human beings within a certain age range (most commonly 6 to 16) are required by law to spend a good portion of their time there, and while there they are told what they must do, and the orders are generally enforced. They have no or very little voice in forming the rules they must follow. A prison–according to the common, general definition–is any place of involuntary confinement and restriction of liberty.

That from a wonderful post Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education, one of the first I read of Peter’s writings. Needless to say, I was intrigued with his insights and assessments of the true nature of our current system. A link off this post took me to an even more exciting conviction that I had been harboring for some time, that children are more than capable of educating themselves, given the right environment, trust and support. Here’s a small piece of a very important post titled, Children Educate Themselves I: Outline of Some of the Evidence:

We do not have to worry about curricula, lesson plans, motivating children to learn, testing them, and all the rest that comes under the rubric of pedagogy. Lets turn that energy, instead, toward creating decent environments in which children can play. Children’s education is children’s responsibility, not ours. Only they can do it. They are built to do it. Our task regarding education is just to stand back and let it happen. The more we try to control it, the more we interfere.

Now do you see why I am so excited to have met Peter Gray? I encourage you to read all that you can of Peter’s blog and spread the word. Peter’s interests are focused on the lessons to be learned from hunter-gatherer cultures and how they raise their young, also the influence of play as an education-rich environment. Any and all expertise in those fields of research could benefit our cause greatly, who do you know?

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