Category Archives: Alternative Education

My Blueprint for Education

My Blueprint for Education.

What Ms. K Had to Say

***

One woman’s message to me about “Why People Don’t Understand Schooling.”

Entry Date: 2010-08-16 12:48 PM

There are some assumptions here which are naive at best. Not everyone does have access to the internet, or even to the rest of society. Sure, there are many things wrong with schools, but there are also many things right with them. Rather than advocate eliminating schools, which would hurt the least advantaged in our society, we might take some of the suggestions here and work to implement them in our public schools, so that all young people have access to varied experiences and methodologies. We can differentiate instruction, learning, and assessment. We can provide alternatives within the public system. We can guide young people toward self-directed learning, and so on. We can’t do any of these things unless we have free, public schools, and act to change them. As citizens in a (somewhat) democratic society, we have the power to change those things we don’t like. Rather than talk about dumping them, why not work on changing them?

***
My Response: This is exactly the misunderstanding I am talking about. You made a hefty amount of assumptions yourself, which was the whole point of the post. You have very little idea how I feel about education – not from that one post. I am not against public schools, I am against the type of schools we have now which don’t ever include youth choice and voice, and those schools are the mainstream. How can we raise youth in a so called democratic society that doesn’t even allow them to grow up with opportunity to vote and have say in what directly affects their lives?

Do public schools need to be dumped? Not really. They do need a major re-haul that reflects real democracy. Growing up in a system that doesn’t allow you any input or say, in which everyone has the power to decide things for your life except you, is NOT democratic.

You’re right, not everyone has access to the Internet, but when I was talking about technology, and how it is changing the public’s access to these things in places such as libraries, I was making a point that we are increasingly coming toward that point. Also look into things such as the hole in the wall project. and what Dr. Sugata Mitra had to say about its effects.
I do not advocate a complete dump. Here are some things I have thought about:
A Summary of some things that can help
Standards of Diversification
A follow-up to college inc.
Since Schools Aren’t Going Anywhere… (While that the title would appear to prove your point, I have since shifted in thought, and doubt I would want a system of education to vanish altogether. The contents actually show the desire to change rather than delete)
Other Forms of Progressive Education
College Life For Me
My Blog’s disclaimer:
Disclaimer: This is an experimental process of blurting out and sorting out my views and ideas. I have no facts, only opinions and references (links and videos). I’m blogging as a necessary step towards being fully involved in the free/democratic/progressive school movement and the other “alternatives” in society that make sense to me. FEEDBACK IS WELCOMED AND APPRECIATED!

You can also check out the wide array of various bloggers and websites I link to in my blog. Feel free to leave comments (on the blog) to these things.

***I can see how she would think, “against compulsory schooling” would mean, “against free public schools,” but no I didn’t mean that. Against compulsory schooling meant, “against the authoritarian nature of mainstream schools, public or private,” in which attendance and everything else is out of the control or input of the youth that system is supposed to serve.

People Don’t Understand Schooling

In relatively recent news, a high school valedictorian really criticized the nature of compulsory schools, and advocated a changed system of choice and autonomy. In response, I have seen many people say that she was wrong for this, and that although schools aren’t perfect, they do serve a great goal of educating all citizens. When people are critical of compulsory schooling, the response is generally this, “So what, you’re against education? You’re defending ignorance, and blind rebellion.”

No. People like myself, those proposing alternative free schools/democratic schools/holistic schools, or the “Valedictorian [who] speaks out against schooling,” are not against education or learning. We are against compulsory schooling. There is a difference between all these things. Learning is a process, or experience, that leads to education – the acquisition of knowledge. Schooling is a system, a specific environment (school) in which the acquisition of specific subjects and information is obligated to take place at specific times with specific outcomes for all. People against this system realize and propose that learning is not as narrow as we think it is. Learning is not something only invoked in a controlled environment. It happens outside of school buildings. It happens on the internet. It happens in a conversation, on a trip, or through reading a book. People against schooling encourage learning, not by the force of standards, curriculum, or career prospects, but rather, through will and intrinsic motivation. External motivation can be a jump-start toward a goal, but is only valuable up to a limited point. In order to learn and succeed, one seriously has to want the end result.

People also try to argue that without school, there would be no base of knowledge to rely on, and that people would be clueless and ignorant. This would be true – before the advent of the internet, and global electronic communication. In his “Open Letter to Educators,” Dan Brown highlights a great point that many people miss when they defend schools – facts are no longer restricted to schools or things such as physical libraries. We are reaching a point in our existence in which holding in all those facts is not necessary to survive in society. We have that breadth of information available to us for free AT places like libraries, and we can pay to buy laptops and internet connections at home. All cell phones now feature internet access. You can read news papers on smart phones, and phones such as the Black Berry have built in dictionary searches. Now sure, we are in the early stages of this eworld of information and communication, but we can only move forward. Point is, as the world of information and communication opens up for free more and more, the need to go to compulsory school to learn a base of knowledge will be useless. In a sense, it already is, but the government pitifully tries to hold to standards and rigid expectations of how information needs to be obtained, and where. People against schools realize that education is a free form occurrence hardly dependent on a physical space to learn in UNTIL you need to specialize, as with higher education. So schools are only necessary for depth, not breadth, and in lieu with the previous paragraph, that breadth is only meaningful if it is brought about by personal will and interest.

“Shakespeare is the greatest playwright. Everyone should read his work.” “Students need the classics. Students must be well rounded.” Humans are specializers, not generalizers. What use is it for our society to function, for everyone to be required to know the same amounts of things at the same time? Especially when much of this information is now readily accessible, and when people are expected to go off to study and work on what they care about anyway. Some people really like cooking, others really like math, or buildings things, and there are artists and writers. Some people like money and the way economics works. We all have inclinations and talents that push us one way or another. Although standardization’s goal is to have everyone learn the same thing and be on the same path for average knowledge, it fails because again, everyone is different and has a brain for grabbing different information, and it is not necessary to be standardized in “the real world.” The only place in which standardization and not deviating from the norm is valuable is in industrial, “blue collar” jobs, and at the typical “desk job.” But as more technology takes the place of human labor in these areas, creativity and innovation is needed more and more for the eworld of communication and exploration, for space exploration, for art jobs, for new technology, for architecture, for industrial DESIGN. Increased and changing aesthetics and efficiency is very valuable for the new way of society. The government mistakenly thinks that more standardization and indoctrination into our society of information is what will bring about innovators in these fields, but freedom and intrinsic motivation is more important. People need room to breathe, think and experiment outside of standard ways of doing things in order for the tweaks and creativity necessary for our lives to be enhanced. Change does not always come from standardization and knowing the same things. Those opposed to schooling see the detriment of standardization that is praised and enforced on the impressionable youth of our rapidly changing society.

Now, those opposed to standardization do not deny structure, for the most part. Humans are very sensitive and complex beings, and as our societies advance, we must deal with equally complex and sensitive systems. Having a certain amount of structure and familiar procedures in our daily lives can actually have us prepared to think outside the norm. Routines are valuable, but again, in most situations, being standardized in the same way becomes a problem. In many situations, having a variety of personality types and thinkers is critical to problem solving. One major qualm that opponents of compulsory schooling have is that uniform standardization does not prepare youth for the random occurrences of “real time” and “the real world.” The government needs to loosen up or break down the standards, allowing enough diversity of thought and action to penetrate school relationships and actions. Standardization does not take emotional and behavioral factors into account. School is often too much of a controlled environment, far different for what happens in the various environments outside of school. While standardization works for this environment, once youth move on to a different stage, or even a different controlled environment, such as college or a job, the rules change, and many are left unprepared to adjust quickly and appropriately, after 12 years of the same methods and treatment.

Another thing defenders of school don’t realize is that everyone is different. Now this seems obvious, but when you look at the nature of compulsory schools, the goal is to have everyone be the same in what they know or aspire to do. Government standards invariably describe what each student should know at each stage of the schooling system and process. It also sets the prescription of what level they should understand the favored information. Advocates of alternatives and learner centered education assert that this isn’t possible, and since the standardization of schooling, it doesn’t appear that the model student is ever lived out truly. It can appear as if standards work because many people graduate from the school system. However, democratic and alternative education advocates don’t see that as a success. Most students save for the valedictorian and a group of contenders probably did the basics to get by, or more realistically, performed at various levels of competence while still meeting the basics of the standards. In “low performing” schools, students get by to the next grade automatically, whether they individually meet the standard or not. People opposed to schooling assert and show through various alternative school models and programs, that learning and education takes place on a case by case basis. People learn in various ways, on various levels. Just look at multiple intelligence theory, emotional intelligence, and learning style theory. People have the aptitude and competence for some areas over others, and demonstrate their education in different ways. This intellectual diversity is crucial to innovation and creative developments, and trying to marginalize this leads to a lessening of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

Then there is the argument that, “If it was left up to me at that age [high school, middle school, etc.] I would have sat around and done nothing.” Now, this argument holds some weight and validity. Most youth as they get older in the schooling system probably would do nothing for a while if they suddenly stopped schooling. Actually, many youth do that while they are IN school, and IN a classroom. When a teacher is absent, the class slumps into apathy. On school breaks, students forget everything and they seek opportunities to play and do things relevant to them. The argument goes awry however, because of the reason for this apathy. Think about the lower grades, and children. Years of being told what, how, when, where, and why to learn have not settled into to these youths minds. What to THEY do when given a break? They play, explore, and discover. They are prone to asking more questions, and engaging in conversations about fantasy and possibility that lead them to wonder about life and the world around them. The very young are always looking to discover something that captures their interest. They may not go for depth right away, but they do search a wide array of things until eventually something does stick. But over time of having the learning process being decided for you by everyone but yourself, it starts to sink in that discovering things on your own is not possible, and maybe even useless in the face of the agenda set before you. When a youth seeks to learn something outside of the curriculum, it often is penalized and scorned as “slacking off.” Extracurriculars not done for college resume one-upmanship are also seen as useless. After having your outer school goals and interests put down continually, the experience can lead to apathy, a sort of learned helplessness brought about by lack of autonomy. Youth have no meaningful or powerful stake in their education. Proponents of alternative education assert that youth should have more to input.

This ties into the rebellion argument, saying that those against schooling are romanticizing opposition to authority, and encouraging rebellion for rebellion sake. This is far from the reality of views on this topic. Many, if not all alternatives usually seek to create an environment of empowerment and having a stake in choices made in ones life. Through learner choice and voice in education, students gain responsible freedom and understanding of their personal goals and desires. Many alternatives seek to create an environment of inquisition, in which students don’t take rules and those doling them out at face value. At democratic schools for instance, students vote on the rules of the school, and the hiring of staff. If offenses are committed, legitimate school trials are held to solve the matter and everyone present has say in how the conflict will be resolved. Often at these schools, other barriers such as age segregation are removed for more equality and realistic interactions. In unschooling, a form of homeschooling in which the youth has free reign and guidance from those around him or her to learn what he or she pleases, respect for the youth’s choices is a given. Again, running a muck with TV, video games, and apathy will most often occur in those who have been oppressed. It is a means of escape to finally do something, anything, of your own will before you have to go back to doing merely what you are told and expected to do. Now, for most who have been in the compulsory system, giving power to youth seems silly, but think about the society we live in. Isn’t the United States a democracy? Isn’t this country founded upon the motto of  “power to the people,” and “individual liberty?” Those against schooling argue that compulsory and standardized schools do not allow the freedom of choice and the power of voice necessary to raise citizens of a democracy. They are in opposition to the blatant authoritarianism and top down lack of freedom inherent in most schools.

Many arguments against the learner centered approach are weak if thoroughly examined. I make this bold claim because the rhetoric for their arguments often goes towards the easiest assertions based on the way things were in the past. We need basic facts and skills – but they don’t only come from schools. Technology has changed this access. Most kids would do nothing if given a chance to learn – only if their personal attempts to learn and discover are thwarted by the expectations and systems of those with power. You just want a rebellion – only if that’s what it takes to give youth the early experiences with power, choice, and autonomy necessary for democracy. People won’t even know what the basics are without school’s telling us what the basics are – as if we don’t realize that you cannot get along in modern society without reading, writing, comprehension, and basic math. Kids can’t just learn by themselves – as if parents, books, the internet, libraries, friends, mentors, internships, community organizations, tools and materials don’t exist or cannot be found without school.

Lastly let’s take a look AT computers and AT the internet. Who really taught those who grew up in the information age how to use the internet? Aside from educational games and sparse typing courses, many of use have self taught when it came to the internet, and we still do it. When the latest operating system comes out, do you learn how to use it at school? No, you need to get a feel for it and read the instructions on your own. Do teachers make you learn how to host a website, or do you delve into instructions, css, and html on your own? Is it necessary for everyone to know html and css to navigate the Internet at this point? Not really. Do you need to be a computer programmer to run anti-virus software? No. These are some of the most complex systems in our society, and we have come a long way through experimentation, with some taking interest in more complex parts of the system, and learning along the way. Education is a process and an experiment. It is not final or fixed, and that is what those against schooling really stand for.

A “Rainforest” Brain in a Sea of Standardization

I read two articles today that lifted and sank my heart. The first was an article in ODE Magazine (“for intelligent optimists”) written by Thomas Armstrong. It was an excerpt of his book, “Neurodiversity: Exploring the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences.” The second was an education article by Our Weekly, a newspaper about current events in the African American community that circulates in my town. The title of that article is, “California’s Education Transformation: New standards, programs, and funds introduced.”

The Ode article indeed was a source of optimism for me. Thomas argues that rather than focusing on the stigmas of psychological or developmental disorders, psychiatrists and others should start looking at the unseen abilities people with these issues have, the three disorders in the title of his book being the major contenders for investigation. Based on strides in neuroscience (neroplasticity and neurodiversity), Thomas likens the human brain to “more like an ecosystem than a machine.” He essentially says that just as different environments fluidly change from place to place, so to does the human brain lie on a continuum of potential and ability. He recalled from watching the scenery on his way to  Yosemite National Park that “The green fields did not stop cold to become brown foothills. Foothills didn’t abruptly become mountains. It all happened naturally along a continuum.” He says it’s the same way even with these disorders. Not everything is as black and white as we continue to hope for it to be. Humans are biological just like everything else in nature despite our need for concretion and completion. Nature is a fluid and flowing thing, and our brains follow suit.

Much of nature also works by adaption, and I will admit that with our industrial and technological progress, humanity understands adaptivity for everything but our our brains, until now. From season to season, environment to environment, organisms respond accordingly. Much of that is automatic, but in this article I believe Thomas’s argument in relation to neuroscience is that with current findings, people have the ability to adapt by will, rather than by influence or instinct. He notes that autistic people “are systematizers. rather than empathizers…[and] that they often work better with non-human factors such as machines, computers, schedules, maps, and other systems.” Someone with ADHD can be good in quick response situations and rapid-paced careers. Everyone is different and needs to find their place in their society, but having a developmental or mood disorder doesn’t mean you’re doomed or will never fit in. To provide people like this with opportunities to succeed, Thomas argues that it is important to look into other characteristics, environments, and skills that can benefit these people. Nothing is really one sided.

This is very important to consider, given the continual push for more standardization and the rising rates of disorders and grief. On that note I feel the key thing Thomas mentioned was this, “Instead of pretending that hidden away in a vault somewhere is a perfectly ‘normal’ brain, to which all other brains must be compared to…we need to admit that there is no standard brain, just as there is no standard flower, or standard cultural or racial group, and that, in fact, diversity among brains is just as wonderfully enriching as biodiversity and the diversity among cultures and races.” Here are seven tenants to realizing this neurodiversity, and doing something about it (number 4 strikes a chord in the theme of Malcolm Gladwell’s, “Outliers”; number 6 tunes in with Mark Hyman’s “The Ultramind Solution”):

  1. The human brain works more like an ecosystem than a machine
  2. Human beings and human brains exist along continuums of competence
  3. Human competence is defined by the values of the culture to which you belong
  4. Whether you are disabled or gifted depends largely on when and where you live
  5. Success in life is based upon adapting one’s brain to the needs of the surrounding environment [likewise…]
  6. Success in life depends upon modifying your surrounding environment to fit the needs of your unique brain
  7. Niche construction includes career and lifestyle choices and assistive technologies tailored to the needs of a neurodiverse individual
  8. Positive niche construction, directly modifies the brain which in turn enhances its ability to adapt to the environment

His article can be found here.

So time and time again I hear people discuss the fluidity of the individual over the standardization of all. I’ve also read segments of a book on neuroplasticity, “The Brain that Changes Itself.” And what does the California Department of education (CDE) do? They “Race to the top” after the external motivators of money, and will use that money to cash in on national academic standardization. State Superintendent of public instruction, Jack O’connell  will “adopt the Common Core Standards which were developed to establish consistent  and clear education standards for English language arts and mathematics that would better prepare students for success in the competitive economy.” I knew I wasn’t crazy in thinking education is only about a job, and that this new/global/competitive economy is cropping up fast and being tossed around as the ultimate goal for learners of the 21st century. “Common core standards are a set of guidelines that detail what students should know at each grade level,” the article reads. The overall goal with these implementations is to “close the achievement gap” in low economic areas, and “prepare all students for college and careers in the 21st century.” So, this is the third ring towards my “College is Mandatoryfears. California is a finalist for $700 million dollars in funding according to that article, and the state is getting ready along with 34 other states for “phase 2” of the race. The claim by the CDE is that adopting standards will cause schools to have new curriculum, better instruction tools, batter assessments and better ways to gauge accountability. Sounds great, but what about individual choice, ability, and interest. This Common Core Standard program also coincides with STEM, “student achievement in science technology, engineering, and mathematics. So to add insult to injury, there will be nationwide intellectual standardization, as well as emphasis on science in math rather than all subjects. This narrows things down more, and from the findings of the previous article and neuroscience, this is bad news for people who are different or have disorders.

Rather than look to see how people can live and benefit from things in various ways, the government looks to bring people even more into narrow unified systems, while those who are different or learning disabled become or continue to be the minority, only left with disability services or various forms of maladjustment in their lives. Alternative learner-centered education is in for a hard struggle I realize, as the people implementing these monetary-centered standards have money, the media, and tradition on their side.

What is the Purpose of Education?

What is the real point? Definitions of education say things about “a learning or teaching experience.” It is meant to be an experience that gives you knowledge about the world, and skills to apply that knowledge in various situations. When I hear about school however, I get the feeling that something else is understood by “education.”

On quite a few occasions I have pointed out president Obama’s use of the phrase “global economy” in his education speeches. When I see anything about his education plan, he brings that up, as well as “competition.” Beside his words, I often hear the phrase, “A high school diploma is not enough anymore.” It is understood unofficially that in order to get a secure “well-paying” job (as to what is a well paying job, look up top paying jobs) you need a college degree (in what I am not sure, possibly those top paying job areas). I am also seeing a surge of commercials by vocational schools and schools like DeVry and Everest, which claim to get you a degree in fast growing jobs as soon as possible so that you can join the workforce. Their selling point is often that they get you straight to the “hands-on” vocational information in their curriculum.  At college encouragement rallies for youth that I have attend, the hook is that you can make more money with a college degree. I hear conversations about students wanting this job or the other once they get out of college, because of the pay and sometimes (thankfully) interest in the subject. Many youth major in things they hope to get a job in.

So enough of these instances. My question is, “Why is this happening?” Am I missing something here? I thought education was just about learning and critical thinking, and of course you can apply that knowledge to practical things, like a job. That brings me back to what that man said in the film, “College Inc.” Maybe education really is a business, and nations can’t “afford” to waste time on people learning for the sake of academia and to “sit around and think.” This worries me. It puts me out of place with many people I know, who have this idea that education is just a tool and not process or end in itself.

What’s stranger is that as information becomes more publicly accessible and open source, learning to gain facts and information is no longer something that happens in an institution. If you want to learn about trees or math, look no further than your internet browser. This is great. The general population has this immense opportunity to learn. However, what does that mean for a school if you can get together with others and learn from online information? It seems to be that schools then would be built up more as a preparation for work. Leave learning for learning sake for hobbyists or radicals. Of course I’m just generalizing, but this is bugging me.

I don’t like work. I don’t know why. If I were able to work doing something I’m into, then sure I’ll work. However, my “line of work” wouldn’t be as secure or well paying as others. What can a studio artist or freelance writer do other than “work” hard with no hope of gaining anything but happiness? No money, especially starting out. I would have to be satisfied with low income anyway, so I’m at odds with this preparation for work thing. I would go to art school, and take music and writing and speaking classes on the side, but where will that get me in this “global economy?” Sure there are things like The Guggenheim Museum, and 3d Graphic Design & Animation, but…I’m not interested. I am not interested in using mainly technology in my art works. I also abhor megacities like Manhattan. I want to be contemporary with traditional materials – pencils and brushes. Should I force myself to be interested for greater chance of security and payment?

I am against change in one way, but for it in another, and that brings me to feel how hard it is to “know nothing of the world,” as my mom would say. I know very little of art. Guggenheim is not technology on steroids. I don’t know what work is like. I don’t understand how money is important. For the past 12 years I’ve been sheltered and exposed. Sheltered from “the world” at school and exposed to the life of emotional pain at home. I understand deceit and lying and emotional strife in interpersonal relationships, but know nothing about jobs or the workforce or things that matter at large. I know the alternatives and the things that matter to a select few.

My Blog of Effort has Moved

My blogging about education has been moved to democraticeducation.org (IDEA, institute of democratic education). With this move, this blog runs the risk of becoming an online diary. I don’t really like that idea.

Change. I like it, but have grown to learn to hate it. Reassessment is a good thing. Being open minded is the best thing ever. Well, I could turn to Sustainability, Free-thought, or Art, or a mixture of my interests. I just don’t think it makes sense to continue to concentrate my alternative education ideas here when they can contribute to an actual alternative organization.

I’ll be doing some double posting and posting original ideas, mostly in Op-Ed, sometimes in The Pulse. I am appreciative, but I sort of feel like the oddball there. They all have their black and white photo with the chopped out background replaced with a white one. And then when I saw their bios, I thought, wow these people are generous. Then I realized when I signed on, that the bios were written by the bloggers, but in third person. I dunno, that seems kind of rigid, but I passed it off as professionalism – I have seen other blogs, like the ones on Psychology Today, that do the same thing, except the person remains in color.

So yeah, it’s a togetherness thing – great. Anyway, I’m doing educational stuff over there, life stuff over here. I’ll figure it out my dear, seven readers.

“The Apple and the Arrow” – Freedom and Schooling Pt.3

Ridicule and Ridiculous Tasks

In the middle of the story, William and Walter leave the inn and are walking through the village when they see a man bow before a hat on a pole. It is a “ducal hat” representing King Albrecht’s Austrian heritage. William feels that the man is acting lowly for bowing. He proudly walks by the pole and the soldiers stop him. They feel that he is being disrespectful for not bowing. William explains to the men that he is a “man of peace” and also finds it unnecessary to bow before mere cloth. The men try to make William bow. They put force against him and Walter and call them “braggarts and fools.” People of the town gather and eventually Governor Gessler comes.

Gessler’s first strategy was reverse psychology and he tried to paint a picture William as being too snooty to bow before his leaders. William resisted and insulted Gessler by saying he is a “man of peace” and that he will only bow humbly before true nobles and people that deserve respect like the holy men “and the good Lord himself.” This causes villagers to shout insults to Gessler, causing him to move on to his next strategy – the ridiculous task. He highlights William’s archery skills and challenges him to shoot an apple on Walter’s head. This puts villagers in a state of fear and even William feels weakened by this challenge, even calling Gessler “my lord” to give in, but Walter encourages him to go through with the task.

This scene reminds me of what happens at school when students stand up for themselves or others. The first thing the person in power will do is try to twist the students motives around with a “but I thought you were,” or, “it seems to me” sort of statement. Or the adult may try to forcibly move the student away from where they were. If the student untrips the statement the adult scrambled and students notice, thus rallying around with their full attention, then the teacher will resort to “making an example” out of the student for all to see. He or she will either give a authoritative speech, glare at the student, send them to a corner, or present a “prove how big you are” challenge that they hope the student will slip up on so that other students will know better than to challenge he or she next time. More often than not, the student will choke up and not know what to say under the intense stare, they back down, or they screw up on the challenge causing his or her peers to laugh or take pity while the act of oppression flies straight over their heads.

William suceeded and everyone cheered and called him a hero. If the student succeeds at proving themselves to the teacher or administrator, there is cheer, but just like Gessler in the story, that adult will keep going with more distracting tasks until the youth is put in their place. After the applause Gessler prodded on and it was discovered that William hid a second arrow to kill Gessler if he shot his son, Gessler sent William off to be imprisoned and finally made an example of him.

The Daring Few

Although William is captured he manages to retain enough ingenuity to still resist in any way he could. Very few students are like William. The only youth who would resist harsh treatment may only be those from non-restrictive schools, like democratic schools, or unschoolers and worldschoolers. Essentially this resistance can only come from people who are used to more freedom and independence in life, like William. When people grow up thinking for themselves and being largely responsible for making choices, they are better at critical thinking and coming up with innovative self-preserving solutions.

Into the Storm, the Mess Schools are in

Gessler and his soldiers are preparing to ship William off in chains on a lake that goes toward the castle. They notice that it is raining in the distance and that the waves look really high. “There were many hidden rocks, men said, where boats had sunk.” The soldiers expressed their concerns, but Gessler, intent on carrying out authority at all times remarked, “‘Enter the boats, men, and let us be off!'” Immediately they are out on violent waves, making them sick to the point of vomiting. For a while they go on like this until one soldier, Peter, pleads to let William, who knows the waters well and is not sick, to man the ship. One soldier’s pleas were not enough and so the few others present rally around Peter’s cause. Gessler is very sick at this point and allows them to unchain William.

I am not sure yet of who was doubtful of compulsory schooling and why, but as we can see, laws were passed and the system was carried into being. The state of this system today is like the storm Gessler ordered his soldiers into. We all know that things aren’t working in public schools (the world of private traditional education remains hidden to me at least). The testing, competition, and factory style course systems are wreaking havoc on students, teachers and parents emotionally and psychologically. There are constant waves of layoffs and budget and program cuts out here in California. The drop-out rates are not improving and there’s even talk about the “school to prison pipeline” for underachieving students in disadvantaged low income areas. We’re in peril, but it seems that the government wants to cover up this storm. People speak about education reform, but all I hear from such reformers is talk about charter schools, more discipline, competition, and more assessment or accountability. I only hear about using schools as preparation for yet another level in the future, rather than living life for what it is today. College. The workplace. Jobs. Money. That’s all the government cares about when it comes to school.

The Peter’s of this situation would be those of us who care about reform for the sake of the learner, not the institution and powers that be; we want dignity for the youth. We understand what is happening and in ways that go unnoticed, we plea for true change. Education is not about money or global schemes – education is about education. It is about practical life experiences and meeting friends and mentors along the way in developing a learner’s interests and inclinations. So now I ask, where are our other soldiers to rally with us? Alternative education is a fairly populated but slow moving movement that needs to be dropped on more ears, placed before more eyes, and ignited in more hearts.

“The Apple and the Arrow” – Freedom and Schooling Pt.4

A Note About Peter the Soldier

While William is telling this story to his family it is said that Peter was “a kind man.” Hedwig, William’s wife agrees and said she used to play with him as a young girl, but she is not so pleased that he became a soldier. “‘He was such a sweet lad.'” But William replied that, “‘Men do many things, Hedwig, that they do not like, just to live.”

My principal and especially my English teacher have said something similar to this. My English teacher more than one has said, “Sometimes in life you will have to do things that you don’t want to do.” The Principal told us this before we took the grueling AP test against our wills. It brings me to wonder, how much is sometimes? It seems to me that for the rest of my life I will be made or asked to do things against my will for the sake of others above me. It really does seem that people have to do what they despise in order to live, but that is order to live by another man’s hand or against it, as when William killed Gessler once he abandoned the ship and escaped to wait for him in the woods.

How Parents Unwittingly Do the Bidding of Those in Power

Throughout William’s story telling I noticed that whenever Walter or Rudi interjected or asked a question they were hushed or scolded. They were told not to ask “silly questions.” They were told to wait. When Rudi tugged his father’s beard in excitement, William scolded him.This small scene grew stranger, because I noticed that the adults, Hedwig and Grandfather Walter made small comments or remarks during the story too. No one stopped them.

But Children are Spontaneous

Walter and Rudi still chimed in at times and the hushing disappeared. That was an odd part of the story.

I don’t understand why the author chose to include those bits of dialogue and interaction. It reminds me of the way many parents unknowingly, or sometimes knowingly, treat their children. Many adults have so much restraint and inhibition because of this type of rearing. Although it is necessary to have some self-discipline in order to avoid danger or trouble with other people, snuffing out harmless expressions throughout childhood is detrimental to self esteem, and merely reinforces the heavier amounts of restraint children must develop in compulsory school. When the levels of restraint grow high, a youth can develop serious emotional and psychological problems.

Triumph

After Gessler died and the soldiers ran away, the men from different cantons prepared for their New Year’s revolt. When midnight approached the men gathered atop the mountains, one for each canton. They prayed and then chimed bells and blew horns. The New Year arrived. Soon after that there was the lighting of the large piles of wood gathered for the occasion. The men danced around the fires atop various mountains. Below on ground men ran tyrants from their castles and burned them down. It was noted near the end that “few people had died and very little blood had been shed.”

And finally it is revealed that this is the tale of how Switzerland came to be. The narrator remarks that after the revolt the cantons banded together and that throughout the years more cantons joined until Switzerland grew to be a nice stable size.

This is what the Alternative Education movement needs; although in this society, burning down buildings and running bureaucrats out of them would be met with brute force. I don’t advise that, but there are modern ways of achieving the same thing. It has to go beyond protesting (unless many students and youth protest, which is a different case) or rather be very different from it yet still effective. It seems that the movement does have people from many countries congregate, but there needs to be one unified gesture or action to bring attention to the cause, as with the revolution celebration on the mountaintops. It has to bring about curiosity, but not alarm. Many people have many causes they want to bring to light; I hope that youth-led education will be highlighted.

These are my reflections and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. When I first skimmed it I wondered if I would get anything out of it. I am very pleased with my conclusions. I readily suggest you pick this book up for yourself and see what you get out of it. Read it to children and recommend it to older kids and ask of their views. The theme is definitely about freedom and the struggles people go through in order to achieve it. It also highlights the ridiculous and tricky nature of authority. Most of all it teaches the liberating value in acting on free a heart and mind.

A follow-up to College Inc.

I think that I’m just going to burst multiple posts into being like this – at random. I am not centered enough to post everyday and by a schedule – that pains me. I want to be focused.

It seems that everyone, except I, knows how to articulate exactly what I mean. Here is a short TED talk video by Sir Ken Robinson about school. Check his 2006 video about school as well.

Previously Unreleased: Unschooling and Death

I found an article in the Huffington Post about inappropriate representations of unschooling, a form of youth-led learning, and an actual example of an unschooled person. These are interesting articles – I’m going to look into getting a news feed widget.

The next bit of news is that I’m slowly but surely indulging in an college course presented by Yale University’s Open Courseware. OCW’s are free lectures and courses made available to the public by colleges. For the most part they are presented by Ivy Leagues and other prestigious schools and it honestly has that component of self promotion, but it’s still free knowledge. I have been thinking about death and existence for a while now, and looking at it and examining it from an academic standpoint is comforting. The course is taught by Professor Shelly Kagan.

I enjoy this course because it gets me to challenge my beliefs and I’m not being forced to do it. I told my mom about the course and she frowned and asked why I would want to study such a thing. Then she asked if it was for my actual college education. I sighed and said, “No, not everything has a purpose in that way.” I remember going to my local library to have books ordered from the Central Library, or as I call it – the real library with real resources and stocked shelves. When the woman at the information desk looked at the titles she kind of laughed. I said it was for a class and she remarked, “It has to be.”

The main thing the Shelly is getting students to look at at this point is the existence of the soul and what role the soul has on death and our perception of what death means. There is the dualist view which many of us have, that we are body and soul. Then there is the physical view, which says that while we are unique and have evolved consciousness, we are just physical, we are just our body. I’ve believed in souls for a long time and now if someone were to ask me if I had one, I would say I am not sure. It’s odd, but I’m okay with not being sure. Picking things apart and figuring out why people believe what they believe interests me.

However this also got me to thinking about how many people don’t question these things and prefer not to. Lately I’ve been treating religion and faith the same way I treat the existence of a soul. I’m not sure, but I’m open to questioning it and figuring out it’s value and why it should be considered valuable. Which brings me to remember that recently I was asked if I believed in sin. I said no and for the life of the questioner that didn’t make sense. I tried to explain why but failed. I don’t know it just doesn’t make sense to me. Of course there are things that happen that are negative and lead to negative consequences, and those things should be corrected or avoided, but I don’t believe in it in the religious way. Maybe that is because I am questioning souls. If there are no souls, then sin as an abstract act of the spirit is pointless because what we call sinful acts are then only limited in the physical material world.

I fall more and more out of traditional faith everyday, and that will sadly lead to problems with me and the people I meet in my life. Most people are strong believers in their faith, and in the United States, Christianity is the widespread faith. I just can’t bring myself to take it literally or even as the truth. While there is great philosophy contained in religious scriptures, I don’t feel it in the religious way. I wish there was another word to describe it – religiosity, but I can’t find it. Fervor? Either way, when people discover this, I will either be pitied or shunned or hated. People will feel terrible to know that I don’t believe what they believe, and that makes me want to pity myself. But I can’t wallow in the pity even though I try to – I know that I’m never go back to traditional faith ever again.

I put the bible on my summer reading list, for I am still curious. I’ll see how that goes. Then I’ll read the Qur’an, the Vedas, The Four Noble Truths/Eight Fold Path, and perhaps the Gnostic Gospels. I want to see what followers of faith are getting that I have not.