Tag Archives: many educational paths

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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Advocating a Portfolio Model for Public Education

Jal Mehta
I was happy to see this piece, “A Case for Educational Markets From the Left”, by Jal Mehta, an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, featured on Education Week‘s daily e-newsletter. I am pleased that the kind of arguments for educational transformation that I passionately write about, including many paths and focus on more democratic governance are getting a broader airing than I am able to give them. There are maybe 100 to 200 people who read my blog, while this piece is being put forward to a much larger audience of educational “thought leaders” who read Education Week.

In Mehta’s arguments I see another person like myself trying to think outside the box of conventional liberal/progressive wisdom on education “reform”…

I’ve been struck by the vitriolic reaction that always emerges around proposals to increase market forces in education. I wanted to use this post to say something about why even some of us on the left see some value to markets in education.

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Critical Pedagogy: One of Many Educational Paths

I was introduced to the educational path known as “Critical Pedagogy” by my fellow Alternative Education Resource Organization member John Harris Loflin, an activist for educational alternatives, particularly for urban, at-risk minority communities. John argues persuasively that a mostly white, privileged, middle-class alternative education movement would be benefited by finding common ground and allying with efforts in urban minority communities to challenge the conventional approach to schooling in those communities. The focus of that challenge is a curriculum, plus methods for teaching and learning known as “Critical Pedagogy”, that is designed to deconstruct the inferior position of the minority community relative to the dominant culture and identify ways to take action to change that power differential.

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A Parent’s Wish for More Sensible Education

Kansas City MO school superintendent John Covington
I find it sad to watch what is happening to our nation’s public education system. It seems fixated in the thrall of a bureaucratized, regimented, OSFA (one size fits all) approach to learning that goes against all the principles of democracy, human nature, developmental science and every other pragmatic wisdom about what makes people (adults and youth) tick. For at least half the kids that are processed through its institutions, and much of its adult staff, it seems to lead to a profound ennui with learning and teaching… framing it as something you have to do rather than want to do. A hazing ritual to be endured, rather than a voyage of discovery, joy and mastery.

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Imagination Trumps Knowledge

I am heartened to read in Business Week the results of a recent survey of 1500 chief executives, which I believe validates the need for many diverse educational paths for youth including the Rodney Dangerfield of educational pedagogies, “Unschooling”. Frank Kern, senior vice-president of IBM Global Business Services, reported in the May 10 edition, “What Chief Executives Really Want”

There is compelling new evidence that CEOs’ priorities in this area are changing in important ways. According to a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value (NYSE: IBM – News), CEOs identify “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.

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The Internally Motivated Learner

Youth LearningSo what the heck does it mean to be an “internally motivated learner”? Is such an animal the exception or the rule? And can internal motivation drive even formal academic learning? In a culture where conventional wisdom seems to think that most of formal education needs to be mandated and externally motivated to be successfully undertaken, I think these are very important questions.

Certainly infants and toddlers learn most or all of what they learn for internal reasons. Infants don’t need to be motivated or instructed in how to walk, they are driven to do so and through practice, trial, and error they figure out how to do so. Toddlers learn to speak with a minimum of instruction, by listening to people speaking around them and learning to vocalize words and put them together into phrases and sentences. They learn a myriad of other skills involving coordination of their bodies with their brains on their own as well. Continue reading →

The Dimensions of Many Paths

What I have gotten paid to do over the past fifteen years is to be a “systems analyst”, a job that involves understanding all the component parts that make a business process and/or the information systems (generally computer networks) that support that business process work, and given that, how to improve and enhance those processes and underlying systems. One of the techniques of this trade is to define things in terms of categories, some time-honored and used repeatedly others invented one-time to address a particularly unique situation. So applying this technique to looking at schools, I attempt to define a category “school type”. Continue reading →

An Argument for Many Paths

Starting in third grade with learning the multiplication tables, our son Eric started having a problem with school. By seventh grade he would not do any homework, had been diagnosed with ADD, was taking Aderall, had been through an IEP, had had a number of sessions with an educational therapist, and resisted in any way he could think of going to school each morning. When he got to the point in eighth grade of writing “F**k Math” on his standardized math test, we pulled him out of school. Continue reading →