Yesterday I was privileged to take part in Student Voice Live! held here in New York City at the Microsoft offices and streamed live worldwide. The day was everything I’d hoped it would be and more, and gave me the opportunity to hear what young people and adults from other educational philosophies and realms are thinking, dreaming and actively pursuing. Much of what I heard made me realize that as unschoolers, we should be collaborating with those working within the school system to create a better world for all children instead of keeping ourselves separate and insular.
Here are the things I took away from the experience:
1. Many teachers & administrators (including Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers) believe that students should be allowed to pursue individual paths of learning and that all types of intelligence should be recognized and honored.
2. When given a voice, young people do amazing and wonderful things, no matter their educational background.
3. The current system does not represent the people; It is sustained through big money lobbyists and companies who make/spend billions to buy politicians and instill fear into the general public so that they will continue to submit to high stakes testing.
4. High stakes testing and one size fits all curriculum has got to go.
5. The most effective way to end it is to refuse to participate in the system as it is. Period. Whether this means finding a way to pull your kids out of school or helping teachers and students stage walkouts in protest, the change must come from us and must jeopardize the jobs of those who keep destructive measures in place.
This sounds a lot like what I talk about when I speak of the benefits of unschooling, right? So many people at Student Voice live – teachers, administrators, reformists, college students, young entrepreneurs, parents, reform advocates – all agree. We all agree? Well, maybe not on every detail – I am still at the far end of the spectrum of participants who were there yesterday (though I was not the only one), but in general we all agree that the current system must go. Then perhaps we need to work together and stop marginalizing each other. Unschoolers are not the enemy of teachers, or even of school. We are opposed to top down high stakes testing in which children have no say. We oppose coercion in learning. But so do many, many of the people I spoke to yesterday.
This is hopeful. This is good news. Now we need to take the next step. Raise awareness. Discuss options. Free our kids.
Student Voice Live! is a major step in the right direction.