Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 'Second Life' Generation


Checking the result...
Originally uploaded by victorpanlilio.
Today we made a huge decision. We registered officially as a home schooling family. Not yet sure exactly what it all means, but we're taking primary responsibility for CJ's education. Our decision was far from easy, and it involved a whole lot of reading and pondering. I'm inclined to believe that we're doing this primarily with CJ's best interests in mind, but we realize we're doing this for ourselves as a family, too. After all, we're part of a "community of learners."
I think we live in a society in which a rapid and accelerating change in social life and the economy and the kind of work that people do is transforming the need for knowledge... knowledge in the 21st century is going to be very different... a very substantial proportion of people are engaged in work, in jobs that did not exist when they were born and that number is increasing. So the model that says learn while you’re at school, while you’re young, the skills that you will apply during your lifetime is no longer tenable. The skills that you can learn when you’re at school will not be applicable. They will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace and need them, except for one skill. The one really competitive skill is the skill of being able to learn. — Seymour Papert, MIT
CJ taught himself to read, the same way he learned to eat solid food, walk, speak, and use the toilet. Notice a pattern? I suspect that, with proper guidance, encouragement, and resources, he can probably teach himself just about anything. What's the alternative?
Many children struggle in schools... because the way they are being taught is the way is incompatible with the way they learn. — Peter Senge, MIT
One friend told me her son's teacher forbade students from using the Internet to research a topic, so they'd be forced to look it up in the library. Now, I have nothing against books (we have hundreds of them), but what's wrong with Wikipedia as a starting point? Why are schools trying to assert control over people who've discovered tools that empower them to direct their own learning? This strikes me as silly, wrongheaded, and counterproductive. It's like forcing someone to dig a hole with kitchen utensils when a shovel would be more efficient.
We don't have to make human beings smart. They are born smart. All we have to do is stop doing things that make them stupid. — John Holt
Google the combined terms "MIT learning children 21st century" and read the first five articles. If you can read only one, read this.
Now, given that picture of a rapid change of society, one would expect to see a rapid evolution of the institutions charged with preparing the young for it. We do not see this. We see a much slower rate of evolution of the school and that means we’re seeing a bigger and bigger gap between school and society. This gap is what I believe is responsible for the deterioration of performance in our schools and our educational systems. Because the children can see this; they can see that school is irrelevant. They feel that the pace of school and the mood of the school culture is out of sync with the society in which they live. And so it becomes harder and harder to get them to buy into the idea that school is satisfying their needs, that school is a bridge to the 21st century. — Seymour Papert, MIT
Another friend – who taught in schools for over 30 years – pointedly told us not to put CJ into a regular school. Why? Because, according to her, he'd only be bored to tears. It seems a lot of schools turn children off to learning by having them do pointless busywork. No child should have to endure such nonsense.
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