Sunday, 1 July 2012

The school system and natural learning

Ive just been relief teaching for 4 weeks at a local secondary school which confirmed everything for me about the problems and the solutions for 'education' today.Ive been lucky (actually no luck here;I wanted to)to have been a 'natural learning' father for 17years.Others know us as unschoolers, but in the same way that theism defines athiests,I thought that using schooling in the description of what I do is a bad start.We dont 'un' anything as my children,all three of them hadnt been to a school until 2009 except for a minor stint by my daughter at a local primary school for a term I think.Plus any reference to schools is abhorent to me-think sheep going through drafting or huge numbers of people being processed.You get the idea.So I have seen both schools and,in a flourishing network of locals called Hearthland Educators and in my own home,have seen children doing their own thing in many different settings.

And what did I teach the students during my stint? Not to trust their own views,feelings,intuitions.That someone else always knows the answer ahead of you and that pleasing them is very important.That freedom of expression is bad,that you dont have freedom to eat,socialise, go to the toilet when you want which by the way join a huge list of basic human needs such as privacy, autonomy,trust, companionship with who one chooses,ability to make choices about ones life- which are also denied at school.
So how do children learn? Or should we say,how do people learn? In my experience,and in my reading of education reformers and  such as John Holt,John Taylor Gatto and Derrick Jensen, people learn when they have good reason to do so.That is it excites them,it challenges them,something cool/amazing happens that makes you do it again; and they see in the 'teacher' profound effects of the particular thing.The 'student' says I want some of that-they see hear and feel the impact on the life of the 'teacher'.I'm talking here of the master/apprentice model.I'm also talking here of the value of the child setting their own life in motion-self learning.This is a massive gap between the current thinking in schools and the successful,happy motivated learner.

A little story before I go today. During my relief teaching I met a very determined but unhappy young girl who sat up the front and who asked if she could take the text book home and copy the text into her exercise book.Upon asking if she enjoyed the subject,the girl replied no,but she was working on her weaknesses which she seemed to interpret as any subject she hated.I said to her that I thought it sad that she did this-I think I said something like learning is about having fun,curiosity and the like.At that point another teacher,who happenned to be in the room,reinforced the girls viewpoint "Its no good doing what you like or are good at-its the things that you dont like or good at which deserve your attention."
I did think a little later that they possibly interpreted my arguement as there would be no challenge in doing what you love-thats if you just recycled the same stuff day in and day out.But that doesn't stack up with anyone who did what they loved-from Einstein to Olympic high jumpers.
Anyway,its a story that remains like an epitaph to a fallen city.This is the common view at school.Also that we know what you need-you just have to remember it and recycle it when we want.

I'm going to continue next time and lay down the wero(challenge) with some real challenges for the Ministry of Education.Bye for now
With patient love

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