Essays

long reads on learning, culture, and life.


ON THE WILDNESS OF CHILDREN

The revolution will not take place in a classroom

At the turn of the twentieth century educational theorists were quite open about the fact that they were designing schools for the purpose of adapting children to the new industrial order.  Children must shed their “savage” wildness, these pedagogues maintained, and develop “civilized” habits like punctuality, obedience, orderliness, and efficiency...

A THOUSAND RIVERS

What the modern world has forgotten about children and learning

Any wildlife biologist knows that an animal in a zoo will not develop normally if the environment is incompatible with the evolved social needs of its species. But we no longer know this about ourselves. We have radically altered our own evolved species behavior by segregating children artificially in same-age peer groups instead of mixed-age communities, by compelling them to be indoors and sedentary for most of the day...

OCCUPY YOUR BRAIN

On power, knowledge and common sense

We are so accustomed to centralized control over learning that it has become functionally invisible to us, and most people accept it as natural, inevitable, and consistent with the principles of freedom and democracy.   We assume that this central authority, because it is associated with something that seems like an unequivocal good – “education” – must itself be fundamentally good, a sort of benevolent dictatorship of the intellect....

 

SCIENCE / FICTION

How "learning styles" became a myth.

We're all familiar by now with the strategies of those who have attempted to deny the scientific consensus about climate change.   But there’s a reverse misuse of science currently in play, on issues from GMO's to phonics and learning styles — the claim there is scientific consensus where there is no such thing, that an open, ongoing area of scientific inquiry has reached a settled conclusion, and that anyone who disagrees about this is as irrational and “anti-science” as a climate denier...

THREE CUPS OF FICTION

On "whites in shining armor,"and the toxic fantasy of saving the world with schools

When we put children from traditional rural areas into school, what we’re doing is transitioning them from a non-cash agricultural economy where nobody gets rich but nobody starves into a hierarchical system of success and failure in which some lives may get “better,” but others will get much, much worse.  Guess which club has more members?  Welcome, boys and girls, to the global economy.

LEARNING / SEX

An Unschooling Primer

Many of us have difficulty explaining the concept of unschooling, life learning, or self-directed learning to those who are unfamiliar with it.  In an attempt to help unschoolers communicate their way of looking at things to the wider community, we have come up with the following helpful worksheet in two parts.