October 16, 2012

TED Talk on Unschooling


  1. Wow. You should send this to the SGU podcast for their "Name That Logical Fallacy" segment. I definitely heard Straw Man and False Dichotomy. I'm sure there's more.

    He mentioned kids being arrested for making gun gestures with their hands "happening all over the place." Really? We're "overmedicating." That's too generalized to even take seriously.

    His "Assumptions" slide. Those are some HUGE assumptions and the school side is just ridiculous. One big false dichotomy slide right there. It takes "100 hours" to learn basic math and reading. Source? For everyone in all times and places and of differing physical and mental abilities?

    "Wouldn't it be cool..." his imaginary utopian school that has way better stuff than most schools can afford now. Yeah, how would that work? We'll ignore that too.

    Things I agreed with: yes, the teaching to the test aspect is silly and something that we need to work on. But you don't want to toss it all. All learning is basically teaching to the test. You learn to drive so you can drive a car. We just need to make the test and the learning more connected and authentic in many cases. The bell-ringing schedule thing. Yes, I hate that. Obviously when you have a bunch of people in one building that need to all be together at certain times and eat lunch and go to the bathrooms and visit different places like the music room and the PE coach, you need some kind of a schedule, but the more flexibility the better. I also agree that our grade level system seems strange. What other aspect of life are you always in the same room with a bunch of people exactly your age? None that I know of. It's pretty artificial and something that could be changed.

    But his curiosity/meaning Vs. violence, boredom and dependence thing is another howler of a false dichotomy. Yes, many aspects of public school are boring, but they're different for different students. There are also aspects full of curiosity-building, wonder and meaning. Those are different for different students as well.

    I work in a public school. It's amazing to me to see those children get off the buses every morning. The trust implicit in that is amazing. These parents trust us to house, feed and care for their children every day. The kids also get art, music, math, reading, science, free books, friends, mentors and when needed specialists in reading, math, behavior, counselling, and more.

    There are better and worse teachers and schools and programs but to dismiss an entire program of democratic education, well, he didn't make a very good case for that.

    Gotta go teach a class now. I promise that there will be curiosity and wonder and meaning as we read and discuss David Wiesner's book, Hurricane, then self-select some new books we just bought that will also spark curiosity and wonder...

  2. Sorry it took so long to post your comment. I didn't realize it was stuck in the spam filter.

    I didn't take everything he said as gospel (hah, couldn't resist!) truth, but I admit I found myself wanting to agree with him a lot. Part of that probably has to do with how nicely it fits with my current choices, but some of it has to do with my own personal schooling. I went to several schools growing up, from California to Georgia. The curriculums varied from place to place. I might be ahead in one system and behind in another. Sometimes I totally missed out on a subject. That's not my point though. I wanted something different for my kids. We've never moved, but I still think I am doing better for my kids than they'd get in Barrow County schools.

    I do think that his overall message is a good one. I think we can trust kids to learn. I think we can trust kids to choose what they want to learn and when. I also think we can trust kids to make those choices at every age. I think these things because I let my kids do it and they are amazing. Can they pass a standardized test? Maybe not, but I do think that they could if they decided they wanted to.

    Thank you for commenting. I love that David Weisner book. I love all of his books actually. I think Flotsom is my favorite.

  3. I agree his overall fluffy "trust" and "creativity" and other ideas are good, as long as you're aware he's mostly making stuff up. That said, I wasn't commenting on your choices at all. Homeschooling vs. public schools is a different issue. He was talking about something else entirely...I'm not sure exactly what it was, but it was Something Else (which will never exist). I worked in Barrow County Schools and agree you're probably doing better than fine on your own. It's just not an option for everyone (fortunately in some cases and unfortunately in others). But as for him? He just needs to get some actual science or research or actual logical arguments in there.