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Lazy linking on liberatory learning

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 17 years ago, in 2007, on the World Wide Web.

Three good recent articles on learning and unschooling in the home:

  • David Friedman (2007-12-04): Home Unschooling: Theory

    Our approach starts with the fact that I went to a good private school, my wife to a good suburban public school, and both of us remember being bored most of the time; while we learned some things in school, large parts of our education occurred elsewhere, from books, parents, friends, projects. It continues with some observations about the standard model of K-12 schooling, public and private:

    1. That model implicitly assumes that, out of the enormous body of human knowledge, there is some subset that everyone should study and that is large enough to fill most of thirteen years of schooling. That assumption is clearly false. Being able to read and do arithmetic is important for almost everyone. Beyond that, it is hard to think of any particular subject which there is a good reason for everyone to study, easy to think of many subjects outside the standard curriculum which there are good reasons for some people to study.

    2. It implicitly assumes that the main way in which one should learn is by having someone else tell you what you are going to study this week, what you should learn about it, and your then doing so.


    3. A related assumption is that you learn about a subject by having someone else decide what is true and then feed it to you. That is a very dangerous policy in the real world and not entirely safe even in school–many of us remember examples of false information presented to us by teachers or textbooks as true. A better policy is to go out looking for information and assembling it yourself.

  • David Friedman (2007-12-04): Home Unschooling: Practice

    When our daughter was about ten there was a class, lasting somewhat over a year, in math. It started assuming the students knew nothing, ended with the early stages of algebra. That is pretty much all of the formal instruction either of them had. In addition, we required them to learn the multiplication tables, which are useful to know but boring to learn. That, I think, was the closest thing to compulsory learning in their education.

    How did they get educated? They both read a lot, and although some of the books they read were children’s books, pretty early they were also reading books intended for adults. … But the largest part of their education, after reading, is probably conversation. We talk at meals. We talk when putting one or the other of them to bed. …

    What is the result? Our daughter will enter college knowing much more about economics, evolutionary biology, music, renaissance dance, and how to write than most of her fellow students, probably less about physics, biology, world history, except where it intersects historical novels she has read or subjects that interest her. She will know much more than most of them about how to educate herself. And why.

  • Heart @ Women’s Space/The Margins (2007-12-05): Raised in the Revolution: Radical Women Homeschooling Boys

    There are quite a number of youngsters being homeschooled in progressive families, including by radical feminists and lesbian feminists. I have been homeschooling for 24 years now; my two youngest, Sol, 12, and Maggie, 9, are still being homeschooled and have never gone to a regular school. It's an interesting thing, raising children away from the sexism, racism, classism, lesbophobia, and other destructively socializing influences of school kids and school hierarchies of all kinds, with a commitment to seeing to it that your children spend time with with others who are being raised as they are. V's son, shown in the video, goes to Brother Sun camp at the Festival every year, a camp for boys ages 5-10 years. My daughter, Maggie, goes to Gaia girls each August. In settings like this, children raised in the revolution find encouragement and support.

    V has graciously given her permission for the posting of this video. I will allow comments but want to remind everyone that V is a real person to me, a member of a women's community I value. I'd ask you to keep that in mind in commenting. V's son, Parker, is giving a report about his friend, Alix Olson, also a member of the Michfest community. Watch it all the way through the different "takes" — I think you'll enjoy it!

    None of us involved really knows what the results of this quiet revolution we have undertaken will be. But, that is the way with all revolutions– they take on lives of their own which are outside of any individual's immediate control. I do find reason to feel hopeful about the potential for change in the world which resides in this particular revolution, for so many reasons. I am about to blog its dark side, as I have before, but before I do, I wanted to post this.

12 replies to Lazy linking on liberatory learning Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Laura J.

    My most vivid memories of third grade are how often my teacher would confiscate my novels so that I couldn’t entertain myself while waiting for the rest of the class to catch up with me during lessons from our reading textbook.

  2. Laura J.

    … clearly she had my best interests in mind. In some universe.

  3. L.

    My most vivid memories of third grade are how often my teacher would confiscate my novels so that I couldn’t entertain myself while waiting for the rest of the class to catch up with me during lessons from our reading textbook.

    Hey, me too!

  4. Rad Geek

    My main memory of third grade is all the time I spent sitting around after having finished worksheets of division problems that I learned how to do in second grade, and multiplication problems that I learned how to do in kindergarten. I couldn’t do any other kinds of problems, because it was either beyond the wit or against the ideology of the school to provide me with different problems from the rest of the class so that I might, you know, learn something. Needless to say, I couldn’t just go to the library to find something productive to do on my own, either.

    Also, instead of having a science class, they had a vegetable garden that you worked in. This was called Life Lab. I guess good honest labor in the fields was supposed to smash the rotten counter-revolutionary reformist line in our little hearts, or something.

    Ah, Santa Cruz.

  5. John Markley

    “My main memory of third grade is all the time I spent sitting around after having finished worksheets of division problems that I learned how to do in second grade, and multiplication problems that I learned how to do in kindergarten.”

    That takes me back. It’s depressing to think of the hours upon hours wasted doing absolutely nothing because I always finished my assignments ahead of time and wasn’t allowed to do anything else. (And what we read in school was usually a dumbed down version of something I had already learned from all the history and science books my grandfather had given me.) At conferences, the teachers would tell my parents, “John’s such a bright boy, we don’t understand why he always seems so unhappy in school.” Yes, a mystery indeed…

  6. L.

    Nothing wrong with vegetables!

    It is sad to think of all the wasted time, though. One of my favorite classes was Library Assistant, which I was allowed to take in place of shop in the sixth grade. I just sat at the checkout desk for forty-five minutes reading trashy books of my own choosing and stamping the due date on the occasional illustrated biography of Ben Franklin or Harriet Tubman.

    I guess the above example illustrates how I wouldn’t actually have found the cure for cancer if I hadn’t been prevented from moving on to other amusements after finishing Chocolate Fever. But I would have been a lot happier.

  7. smally lerned

    I finished my work easily but was really spaced-out and spent my spare time day-dreaming. They were childishly philosophical sometimes. A pity I wasn’t bought one of those philosophy for kids books.

    The ones who suffered the most, of course, were the ones struggling to keep up and being forced from one lesson to another never learning any of it.

  8. Rad Geek


    There’s nothing wrong with vegetables per se, but they are not a substitute for learning about science.

    To be fair, of course, neither are most third grade “science” classes.

    But if they wanted to find a class to cut in order to make room for gardening, what about the time we were wasting on gym? Or spelling drills?

  9. Laura J.

    Did you guys ever get to EAT anything that came from the garden while still fresh, or did they forget to include the lesson that the main reason people do work is that they have a reasonable expectation that it will result in some kind of good?

  10. L.

    Yeah, I don’t get gym. It’s so Prussian. Recess with a library option instead, please.

    Third grade science could be a lot more rigorous and exciting, sure, but in my experience, it was way preferable to seventh-grade science, where we had to make posters with glitter. I will never get over that.

    If you got to EAT the vegetables from the garden, I would consider the garden component sufficiently awesome. I loved string beans and cherry tomatoes when I was a kid.

— 2008 —

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