A child who is completely free to learn and whose learning is not being monitored and assessed is empowered. Their learning is for themselves, not because an authority figure asked them to memorise and regurgitate a set of facts or ideas.
The school system isn’t wrong in the sense that it’s further from the truth than Karl Popper. It’s wrong like the Catholic Church was wrong in refusing to accept Galileo’s heliocentrism and in locking him up so as to protect their worldview.
Why this film speaks to and inspire so many young people.
Dead Poets Society is not taking children seriously. Taking children seriously is not just being a bit kinder to the inmates, or being a tiny bit rebellious against an authoritarian system you nevertheless continue to work in, it is a different thing entirely. It is about children actually being free.
“All over the world the school has an anti-educational effect on society…” – Ivan Illich, 1971, Deschooling Society
It means children AND parents ‘getting their own way’—such a joy for all of us.
Most home educators in Britain favour autonomous curiosity-driven learning, vs formal homeschooling.
Taking children seriously means taking a child’s wish/decision to go to school seriously too.
Lots of things ‘suck’ for most people, but very few things suck for everyone. People are very, very different, and there is a danger in just assuming that a child is acting out of desperation when in fact they are quite healthily pursuing their own ends. The danger is that one will then, in effect, be refusing to help them pursue these ends, and, in effect, start to undermine them by constantly seeking alternatives and constantly acting on the assumption that there must be something wrong with them, or with the alternatives that you are providing for them, if they persist in wanting this.
John Holt was so critical of school that sometimes he appeared to suggest that even children who want to go to school should not do so.
Why schools like Summerhill and Sudbury Valley can’t actually be non-coercive.
In a family it is just about possible to reach an agreement that all the family members are happy with, with maybe five people. In a school there are hundreds of pupils to satisfy, and it becomes totally impractical. So their democratic model is no more than a method of deciding who is going to be coerced. It is not a way of finding real solutions.
Can there be such a thing as a non-coercive school? The existing institution that comes closest to a non-coercive school is the entire town (or city, or society, or internet) that the children have access to, including their homes, and their friends’ homes, and excluding only the existing schools.
We believe that it possible for human beings, through conjecture, reason and criticism, to come to know and understand truths about the world, including truths about the human condition and about specific people, and including truths about matters that are not experimentally testable. We do not believe that we possess the final truth about any of these matters, but we do believe that our successive theories can become objectively truer—with more true implications and fewer errors.
Learning is different from looking at one’s learning. Objectifying education as a thing to look at and judge interferes with learning.
The assumption that there are things all children must know provides the justification for the provision of standard academic subjects and their non-curricular counterparts. As soon as a child is expected to devote time and attention to those, there is coercion.
If a child wants to go to school, we support that decision, and we ensure that our child can always leave or contact us without notice.
What distinguishes families taking children seriously from those in which the parents favour coercion, and why compulsory school is necessarily coercive.
A Brit argues that an episode of The Simpsons is a moving classic of American culture.
The Unschoolers’ ‘child-led to directed’ continuum does not distinguish between ‘child-led’ and neglect (which is coercive), and it also does not distinguish between what some unschoolers categorise as ‘directed’, but which is non-coercive—lots of welcome suggestions by the parent.
The primary function of teachers is to hold innocent people against their will (in other contexts known as “imprisonment without trial”), to force them to do things they don’t want to do, to stop them doing things they do want to do, and to “train” (coerce) them to conform.
Most people hate school but do not feel entitled to say so, and many can’t bear to think about it so they hardly even know how they feel. Children are not the problem: coercion is the problem. Being forced to go to school is the problem.
In the UK, at least thirty per cent of school leavers (age sixteen) are functionally illiterate. Taking a wider view of schools’ success and failure, I’d say the proportion of children our schools fail is nearer eighty per cent, if you consider how little children learn in schools, and how little love of learning children end up with after eleven years’ schooling.