On October 14th, the Today Show did a piece on an unschooling family in California. How I missed this, I have no idea. Apparently no one in my immediate circle watches the Today Show…
Anyway, the piece itself (which I’ll link to at the bottom so you can watch if you want to) was ok overall. The Bentley family were all wonderful, well spoken, obviously intelligent people, and I thoroughly enjoyed their part of the segment. Then, of course, Today had to go back to their studio where Matt Lauer spoke with Robyn Silverman (a child and teen development expert [?]). Silverman was also ok and pretty even-handed. Lauer, however, made me want to grab a print version of Michael Ellsberg’s book, run down to Rockefeller Center and beat him over the head with it. (I’ll get to the bullhorn in a minute.) He started by saying that in his house, unschooling would go over about as well as unbathing, proving in the first 30 seconds and beyond any doubt that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. He managed to hit all the myths in less than 5 minutes: socialization, testing (he kept talking about the need to ‘assess’ the kids), income level, blah blah blah. And somewhere in there he says, “What about college? Do these kids not want to go to college?” In the same way one might marvel at some alien species that lands on earth and shows no interest in, say, breathing or going to the bathroom – you know, things we could never do without.
Earth to Matt Lauer! How I love to take a bullhorn – illegal on the streets of NYC as it turns out – to yell at him and anyone else still holding on to their quaint little outdated views on what education should be. Have you been down to Wall Street lately? Talked to all those jobless college grads? Our compulsory school education model doesn’t work anymore, if it ever really did. College is not the end all and the key to success. If anything, you can learn a lot of things in college except how to succeed in life.
Don’t believe me? You don’t have to. Go get Ellsberg’s new book, Education of Millionaires. He says it all better than I can, and makes you laugh at the same time. (I’ve decided he is the Jon Stewart of writing about self-education.) Don’t have time to get the book right now? Then go to www.ellsberg.com and he will send you the intro and Chapter 1 for free. And then you’ll want the whole book. Trust me.
Look, when people ask me about unschooling and life learning, I am generally pretty patient in my responses, even when they leap headlong into the myths. It’s ok. Most people really don’t know anything about life learning, and I am happy to educate them. And maybe Matt Lauer was playing ‘everyman’ and trying to ask the questions that the normal person on the street would ask. (If I was talking instead of writing this, you would not be able to miss the huge amount of skepticism lacing my words.) But if that was the case, then Silverman’s answers were too ambiguous to do any good.
So barring marching through the streets with an illegal bullhorn, waving Ellsberg’s book around, being branded a crazy person and probably getting arrested in the process, I’ll trust you to read the book (or at least the first chapter), watch this segment, think about the things I talk about, and come to your own conclusions.