Sunday, April 30, 2006

School blogging

Blaming schools and teachers for the shortcomings of students has become another cottage industry. Part of the reason for this trend is that parents themselves do not want to take responsibility for their children's education. BoingBoing links to a You Tube video that puts learning into a different light. This is an important little link that will easily get lost in the shuffle. I especially like the testimonial at BoingBoing.

This YouTube video is the trailer for a documentary called "Voices from the New American Schoolhouse," which chronicles the radical education practiced at the Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, MD. Fairhaven appears to be a classical free-school, in which kids self-govern, design their own curriculum, and tutor their peers. I went to publicly funded schools like this from grade four to graduation, and they were the most important factor in the way I conduct my own adult life. Attending schools like this teaches many kids to run their own lives, blazing their own trail, inventing their own careers, and trying anything. Useful skills in a world where any job that can be described is likely to be outsourced.

The documentary is narrated principally by the school's bright, well-spoken students, who are eloquent and passionate advocates for open education.

Readers may find it interesting that my own education was a patchwork of various elementary schools, six different ones before high school, which included almost two years in a one-room school with six grades. I went to third and fourth grade there with three others in my grade. The largest grade has seven pupils.

There was no such thing as "open education" in those days, but the kaleidescope of learning envitonments had much the same effect. I became very good at adapting, which has served me well in my adult life. Through it all, however, it was my family -- parents, mainly, but the extended family as well -- who were the real engines for learning. Not because they were all that erudite, but because they ALL valued and supported the notion of learning, which is a very different thing from going to school. Write this down: Schools cannot be in loco parentis. That is a role that cannot be delegated. At some point, though, we all choose, whether or not we admit it or are aware at the time, who our role models will be. It is a blessed parent who is allowed to play that important role. None should readily or willingly argue for anything else.

If you haven't already done so, go now and see the video.

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