Tag Archives: education alternatives

We Need to Move Away from One-Size-Fits-All Education

one-size-fits-allOn Thursday I read an Education Week blog piece, “Survey Finds Rising Job Frustration Among Principals”, highlighting the Metlife Survey of American Teachers documenting declining morale among both teachers, principals, and other school leaders. It rekindled my frustration with the mainstream approach to endless inside-the-box “reform” of our public education system rather than making some real substantive changes.  I posted perhaps an overly provocative comment…

Seems like all the participants in the conventional schooling process are hating it more and more! Will we have to let the whole thing go down in flames before we get out of our state of denial and really transform the system, rather than this endless reform?

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Fundamentally Opposed to Mandatory Standardized Education

So I was in the mood for a rant today… You’ve been warned…

Based on all my life’s experience, all the principles I hold dear, and all my study of human history and development, I am fundamentally opposed to having a standardized education imposed on young people by the government. It is the most effective tool of the totalitarian state, and all the more pernicious when wielded by the highest levels of government in a democratic society. I fear that it will continue to erode the underpinnings of the democratic principles the United States was founded on, continuing to teach each successive generation that the powers that be know best and you better get used to that if you want to succeed in life.

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Visioning Many Educational Paths

Angelajean and I founded our Daily KOS “Educational Alternatives” group because we both believe that our youth (and their families) would be much better served in their development if they had a wide range of educational options. Currently there are very few such options available to most young people, particularly those from families without the economic means to have sufficient discretionary income to spend on private schools. I wanted to restate the group’s goal, to hopefully recruit more bloggers and diarists among us who share this vision to contribute their written pieces to our group.

Here is the group’s “mission statement” as posted in the profile…

To best serve the development of all our young people, we need to move away from our one-size-fits-all education system (based on the 19th Century industrial model) to a new approach that encourages and facilitates many profoundly different educational paths, including learning within and outside of schools.

We are grateful for all the people who have contributed pieces to the group and others who have contributed comments to some very lively, thoughtful and provocative discussions. We are also grateful for our silent readers, though as always, I would encourage you to use your voice and comment to add the energy of your posted words to the mix.

From where I sit, we currently have two well-represented sub-groups within our group. One is contributors who are advocates for homeschooling and unschooling, that is education outside of a formal “school” environment. The other is contributors who are advocates for education within the conventional public school environment, though a more progressive version on that schooling than the current paradigm of high-stakes testing and external control of teachers.

But there are other educational “flavors” that are mostly not represented in our group discussions. These include (advocates for) charter schools, holistic schools (like Montessori, Waldorf and others), democratic-free schools (like Sudbury Valley), Critical Pedagogy, online education, learning centers (catering to homeschoolers) and even elite private schools (or at least their possibly unique curriculum). These are, or at least could be, vital components of a “many paths” education system that I feel would much better serve our young people’s development.

Now occasionally I, Angelajean, or another contributor has posted a piece on one of these flavors, but I would like to call out to others reading this piece who are advocates for these educational options to step forward and contribute as well. This would lead to a broader conversation about a range of educational paths that fall between “life learning” on one end and formal instruction in classrooms on the other. Though I tend to favor the former, I also think that a robust education during one’s childhood and youth, depending on the developmental goals you might be pursuing (and your economic means and other resources) might include several of these options at different points in your development. To me the bottom line is that the learner pursues their education instead of being pursued by it.

So in an effort to call on more contributors to spark that wider discussion, I would like to briefly summarize what I see as the significant educational flavors that I’m aware of and some key issues for discussion with each. The first two are already much discussed in our “Ed Alt” group…

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The Internet and My Tale of Two Crises

The Internet is our most dynamic new societal institution, developing quickly over the past 25 years from “Web 1.0” (providing static web pages with existing content) to “Web 2.0” (providing interactive environments for building connections between people, facilitating other societal institutions, and the “marketplace of ideas”). I think this is a good example, a good metaphor, for the direction we are moving (and should continue to move) in our entire society and its institutions, from top-down dissemination and control, to a more egalitarian exchange between a circle of equals.

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Education Alternatives 102: Mann, Dewey & Lane

Education Innovators Horace Mann, John Dewey & Homer Lane
Following up on my recent “School Alternatives 101” post, I want to share some quotes from three great educational innovators who were “parents” (in this case, all “fathers”) of the three types of educational alternatives I talked about in my post. I want to focus on their visions’ of who drives the educational process, which I believe is a key way to distinguish these three approaches from each other. This may seem like “education-wonk” stuff to some of you, but I think it is really important, even from a parent’s point of view, when considering educational options for your and other kids. Continue reading →