The other day I wrote about Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams” and how I thought it missed the mark by 1) assuming that schools can be completely overhauled in a way that would enable children to pursue self-directed learning and 2) dismissing homeschooling as an unworkable model for most people.
I gave Godin the benefit of the doubt regarding unschooling (and perhaps I shouldn’t have, since as Wendy Priesnitz pointed out in her comment, he cites Clark Aldrich’s “Unschooling Rules” and Laura Weldon’s “Free Range Learning” in his bibliography) in the hopes that he might, at some point, revise his position and use his considerable influence to promote real change in the form of life learning.
You see, in Godin’s argument as it stands, there is a strange (but sadly not uncommon) sort of double standard at work. He criticizes the schools for their inherent flaws and the way they discourage kids from being self-directed, and even goes so far as to say he doesn’t know how to fix them. On the other hand, he has no qualms about saying that homeschooling is not the answer because parents will make mistakes in their teaching, might not have the money or the patience to provide a stimulating atmosphere and won’t have the guts (his words, not mine) to challenge their kids & provide a place where it is safe for them to fail.
This is a double standard. Godin admits that schools are inherently, fatally flawed and has no idea how to fix them, but still maintains kids do need to be taught in school. Just some magically different kind of school that doesn’t actually exist at the moment (and probably won’t, ever). On the other hand, self-directed learning in the form of homeschooling/unschooling/life learning does exist and is working for two million + kids in the U.S. alone. And yet Godin says this is not the answer because there might be challenges and imperfections.
If ever there was a WTF moment, this is it.
Homeschoolers, in any form, must be perfect. Any imperfection, any challenge is thrown up as evidence for its’ unworkability on a large scale. Schools, however, can violate privacy, destroy a child’s love of learning and ability to think for themselves, put a child on drugs so that they sit still and ‘concentrate’, slap them with labels they carry for the rest of their school years and sometimes for the rest of their lives, and yet they must not be done away with, only ‘reformed’. (But nobody knows how, in practical terms, this can be done.)
All unschoolers have encountered this same double standard on a personal level. Some more, some less, but we’ve all dealt with it.
Godin usually stands out from the crowd with his ideas & innovation; unfortunately in this case, he blends right in.
“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery The Little Prince