Sunday, September 27, 2009

bigger picture

I don't live in "the bigger picture." I like my house, my hobbies, my life. I don't like to write about school; I don't like to think about school. I like to think and write about learning, and joy.

Nearly a month ago I was quoted on a blog post. Time was I'd've heard about that pretty quickly, but it's so common now I don't always hear. This blog post was a long and detailed article about education and facilitation of learning. It's received 237 comments. I can't read them all, but I read some, and it's worth bringing to share. Anyone my age (I'm in my 50's) probably remembers stories of people's parents or grandparents bribing them with the purchase of a stereo to get a haircut, or with a car, to go to college. I naively believed those days were gone. Maybe I just hadn't thought about it much. And so the bribery is what first struck me about this blog comment:
About the time I got to 8th grade, I started begging my parents for homeschooling (I had started reading about unschooling at that point and I utterly hated wasting my days there). I finally got my parents to agree, but the day my dad was going to go to formally pull me out my grandma promised me $1000 for each year of high school if I graduated. I kept going (the deal fell apart, I feel like four years were wasted).

By the time I graduated I was not prepared for life at all. It’s like this post says. I didn’t know how to learn for myself, where to go, what to do. No one was there to tell me how I should live my life and I crumbled under the pressure. I suffered from analysis paralysis and started having panic attacks regularly. I also had this nagging feeling that I was disappointing everyone.

Even though I completely hated my formal education, I decided I’d suffer through college, if only for it’s guiding hand.

College wasn’t a total waste because of two classes I had. One was called “The Creative Process” and one was Drawing 101. These classes were so good, they actually pushed me toward quitting college. In The Creative Process, we learned about creativity (obviously) and it just blew my mind. And the openness of the class was a beautiful thing. We sat in circles, the professor didn’t care if we were late, we were encouraged to be ourselves, to think outside the box. We called the professor by his first name (which I had never experienced before). We would watch documentaries on artists and look through the design anarchy of Adbusters magazine. The drawing class was where I first harnessed creative flow. I found out that by drawing I could “get in the zone” any time. And I really enjoyed it. Loved it, even.

Unfortunately, I also had a math class and an English class. They were typical, rigid, boring as hell.

One day in the middle of math class, I finally snapped. We were going over basic probability (I was 19 years old learning basic probability) and I just realized how stupid and redundant it was. How much I hated the subject and hated being there. I stood up… and I walked out.

For someone as shy as my 19 year old self that was a bold move. I didn’t have a car at the time, so I just walked home. Two and half miles home.

I remember crossing a bridge that day, it was such a beautiful day. The sun was shining really bright, the air felt lighter. I don’t think I was ever so happy.

Anyway, Leo, this post is exactly how I feel about education. I wish more teachers would be facilitators. I knew a handful of teachers who were like that and they are really to be appreciated and I feel like I owe a lot to them, but they were really limited by the system. And unfortunately, the system only really awards and promotes truly awful teachers, so I’d say its a lot more common to find unhelpful, narcissistic teachers (I had one who told us we were lucky to get her time and that she deserved respect, even though the entire class was hopelessly confused about the material). The good ones should help create some kind of alternative to what we know as education. They are really the only ones who can do it.

Thanks for this thoughtful post, Leo!

That was written by J.D. Bentley and it's about twelve posts down, give or take.
Leo's thoughtful post is here: [Thanks, Robin Bentley (no relationship to the other Bentley as far as I know), for sending that link to me.]

Reading 237 brilliant comments might be fun, but I have a Monday afternoon chat you might want to go to instead.

But back for one moment to J.D. Bentley and his grandmother. Four years of high school (for $4000 that his grandmother didn't even come through with, it seems) and four or some years of college for ONE art class and a class in creativity!? What if when he was thirteen and in the 8th grade his parents had spent some time on creativity and art with him? How many years in a different direction would he be now? Poor guy. I wish he was the only one ever hurt by bribery and misguided misdirection, and that we could all comfort him. But there are millions, now, being bribed and threatened. Then there are three who arent: my kids. There are a few hundred, maybe thousands of others. It makes a difference. It makes a small difference in the big world, but an all-changing difference in those unschooled lives.


Jenny Cyphers said...

Oh goodness! I didn't even have threats or bribes and I still feel like it was a waste of time! One huge big time sucking creativity killer!

I'm sooooo enormously grateful for my own children's amazingly creative and interesting lives! They reaffirm our decision to unschool, everyday with their awesomeness!

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Thanks for sharing that. Sometimes seeing things through a trapped person's eyes helps us to keep that extra spark for unschooling going. It's just what the world needs.