Posts Tagged ‘deschooled’

James is knocking it out of the park again!

My dad hit me when I got bad grades. Particularly when I was young and got a bad grade in “Conduct”. Happiness was an “A”. Even better: an “A+”. Sadness was an “F”. It was almost like a joke. Like the only way to get an “F” is if you tried to screw up almost as much as you tried to get an “A”.

But  in twelve years of basic schooling I can’t’ remember anyone asking where the “E” was. It goes A, B, C, D (which was really horrible to get a D. It means you were trying somewhat (so as to avoid the “F”) but you were just plain stupid and got a D. Not even a C.) and then, the magic “F”. Which was more than just a letter but a one-letter acronym. None of the other letters stood for anything. They were just letters. They could’ve been replaced by numbers (Claudia tells me in Argentina they were graded by numbers from one to ten. No letters). It’s not like “A” stood for Amazing. Or “B” Boring. “C” Crazy. “D” Dumb. You could’ve just replaced them by 1, 2, 3, 4. Or a “1+”. But F was irreplaceable.

(the mirror image of the tattoo says “Never a Failure, Always a Lesson”)

“F” stood for “Failure”.  [Note: except when I was really little. There was “O” for outstanding. “S” for Satisfactory. And “N” for needs improvement. I got an N for conduct and it’s the first time I remember my dad hitting me after the teacher told him I was always calling her old, which she was and there is no shame of that but I only realize that now that I am as old as she was.]

So why no “E”. I think teachers got together 5000 years ago. Maybe 10,000 years ago and came up with the horrifying conclusion: Some students might think “E” stood for Effort. As in, “at least I didn’t get an ‘F’. I got an ‘E’ which means I put in an effort.” And doesn’t that go along all too easily with the lie teachers say, “I’m not going to judge you on your grade, I’m going to judge you on the effort you put into this class.”

Did they ever really judge you on that? And if they did, do you really think they would want you to get an “E” on a test and then have to put up with your arguing at the end of a semester when you would say, “See! I put in the effort! I got an “E” on everything and you said that would be how you would judge me.”

“This is awful”, said a teacher at that first convention of the union of the national teachers club. “We have to take the ‘E’ out of the alphabet.”

“But,” said Mr. Maroon. “We spend years teaching them that song: A, B, C, D, E, F, G… to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star. And now we have to tell them there is no E?”

“There is an E! Just not in grades. Why is this such a difficult thing to understand? If we put an ‘E’ in there then our schools will NEVER get funding. All our schools depend on our students, smart or stupid, doing well on those standardized tests where they fill in the multiple choice circles and cyborgs read them and grade them and the better they do, the more funding we get. If we put an ‘E’ into the system the students might clog up the pipes with Effort instead of Amazing. They might even think “E” is for Exceed because at least it beats Failure! WE CANNOT HAVE AN ‘E’!”

I doubt that conversation really happened. They really backed themselves into a corner. They thought by using letters instead of numbers that would fool kids into some state of confusion where they really didn’t know how they did. Like, “is a B good or bad?” But everyone knows where they stand when it comes to 1 through 10.

But now they were stuck with the “E”. Until they decided to strike it from the alphabet. But only some of the time. Except for that one time an entire novel was written without using the letter “e”. That guy knew what he was doing. The insidious removal of the most common letter in the English language.

Because that’s what English is about. It’s not “Anglo”. It’s not quite “Saxon”. It’s not “Latin”. But its a weird mixture of all three, concocted like a test tube baby in some scientist’s laboratory when the aliens landed and impregnated our ancient Mothers with the sperm from their dying planets (since they came from a Federation of planets surrounding a supernova, or perhaps supernovae (there’s that “E” again) ).  So we can keep on experimenting and investing and twisting and testing. Now “google” is a verb, a noun, a business, the beginnings of an artificially intelligent singularity, a map, an email, a social network, and a photo album with the flowers as bookmarks. We don’t need those anymore thanks to Google. No memories are special enough to mark them with a flower, thanks to the newest word in the dictionary.

Ugh, trying to unravel the Rubik’s Cube-like scam of lower education is a full-time job. Once you get a side with all one color you realize you’ve hopelessly prevented yourself from getting the other side to be one color.

I have not read much about home schooling or unschooling so I am no expert. But I’ve thought about it. And this is how I would do it if my kids were to let me unschool them.

A) First, (and again, this is without reading about it at all so I, at best, uneducated on the topic). I prefer the word “unschooling” to “home schooling”. I assume home schooling means I replace the teacher, buy them science textbooks, math, Canterbury Tales, etc. I don’t want to do that. That sounds boring to me and I assume to them as well. Unschooling sounds more like it – i.e. just completely no education at all.

B) Only one requirement: read one book a week. It doesn’t matter what book. I will pay them 10 cents a page. WHAT!? How can you pay your kids to learn? Well, I want my kids to get used to being paid for doing things they enjoy. Later in life (just a few years really) they will have to do it anyway. Why not get used to being paid for something they enjoy right now? This way they will know easily to avoid getting paid for things they don’t enjoy. (this is hopefully a way to avoid them going into a life of prostitution).

Then we talk about it. Then we visit the bookstore and they get to browse other books and see what they like. I get a synesthesia of experience when I go into a bookstore, some sections have bright colors and draw me to them (fiction, current affairs, philosophy, art, comics, history) and some I can just feel the drab greyness (interior decorating, crafts, children). They would browse until something pulls at them. Then they would buy it and read it.

C) Every day: I’d set out drawing and painting materials. They’d also be encouraged to keep a diary. I want the creative neurons going. I can’t force them to do this. But maybe they would want to.

D) At least an hour of sports a day.

(sports are good for kids)

E) I’d set up playdates for after school so they can get socialization. Or playdates with other kids that are being unschooled or home schooled (there are more than you think out there). My kids think that all home-schooled kids are “weird” because they aren’t social. But I ask them, “when do you talk to your friends anyway?” And they say, “after school”. So that argument is out the window.

F) The rest of the time they can do whatever they want: eat, read, watch TV, sleep, blow stuff up, do nothing but stare at the wall, walk around the block, go to the movies. Whatever. In fact, I hope they do a lot of nothing. People get addicted to doing “something”. What’s so great about “something”. I like to do nothing. Even when people do nothing they try to label it: like “meditation”. Ugh, what a boring thing: meditation. Try, “I just did nothing. I even thought about nothing in particular.”

When you are capable of actually doing nothing (not so easy after decades of “something addiction”), there’s a deep well that springs up, and fills every corner of you, crowding at the anxieties, the fears, the pressures put on you from government jobs colleagues bosses friends family. The nothing replaces all the vomit they try to kiss into your mouth.

By doing all the above they have more opportunity to discover their passions, more play time, more creative time, just as much social time.

The standard criticism: kids should learn how to deal with kids they don’t like and doing things they don’t like. People say this to me all the time, ranging from Harvard graduates to my own kids. “Kids should do things they don’t like!” Really?

My answer: Why? It doesn’t seem like adults are any good at that so how did experiencing it as a kid help them?

What makes me an expert on unschooling? Absolutely nothing. And that’s the point. I just don’t want them to do any of the 100 bad memories I (and just about everyone else) has about standardized schooling. Why should they have to go through with it?

And I’m going to grade them every week. I’ll give them a big piece of paper with the letter “E” on it. And we can talk about what it means. Maybe every week it will mean something different. That sounds like fun.


Source: Education On The Plate

I recently spoke at the #140edu Conference in NYC on the topic in the title. This is what I said.

How many of you here graduated from high school?

#140edu stage - via digital camera#140edu stage – via digital camera (Photo credit: NJ Tech Teacher)

How many of you liked high school?

Just as I thought. Despite the laws mandating it, despite the ominous predictions of what will happen if you leave it, not everyone should go to high school.

Let me say it again, not everyone should go to high school.

This sounds like heresy, especially coming from a teacher.

But even in a time when it seems like you need a college degree to be an auto mechanic, not everyone should go to high school.

When I dropped out of high school for the first time, yes — I’ve done it twice — dropping out was considered a sure path to economic and social failure.

Not much has changed since 1968. Dropping out of high school is still labeled a sure path to ruin. That there are students dropping out of school is still called a crisis.

It is not a crisis. It is a message.

Thinking of drop outs as a crisis leads to solutions that focus on compliance– things like raising the age at which one can leave school, or more truant officers to track down the education fugitives.

But if we look at students dropping out of schools as a message, drop outs tell us is that school sucks, that it is not reaching them, or that they feel they have no hope for success, in high school or beyond it.

They tell us that they are not being challenged enough, or not being allowed to follow their interests, or just that school doesn’t fit them: it is too big, too small, too cliquey or too dangerous.

The reasons students leave school are as differentiated as the lessons we teachers are being told to teach them.

You have heard, and will continue to hear today and tomorrow, about ways to make school better, more enticing, more encouraging, more engaging and more effective.

All that is good, but it is almost impossible for any modern high school to meet the needs of all students.

This is not for lack of intent or lack of effort. It is a result of an increasingly centrally-mandated standardized world. Now we’re all supposed to hone our lessons to the common core. Really? Does anyone really want to be common?

Instead of focusing on how to make school better or teaching better, I’m going to talk about how to make learning better.

My idea of the perfect school is one in which you can  learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it, where you want to learn it, and how you want to learn it.

I say, do what teachers have been telling you to do for so long, take charge of your education and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

I dropped out of high school twice, and college once, because attending was interfering with my learning. I got tired of teachers calling my questions and observations distracting and disruptive. I got tired of being told what to learn and when to learn it.

I figured out that knowledge doesn’t come in neat little packages called math, science, English Language Arts or social studies. Art is not a subject, neither is music, or health.

Knowledge is a massive, ever growing, completely interconnected all enveloping mass. It is the butterfly effect writ large, where everything we learn, every insight we gain, every understanding we come to, changes EVERYTHING.

So I left.

My parents were not happy about any of it, but I had the biggest, most cultured and most diverse city in the world to explore.

I still got a great education because I asked questions, followed tangents and never stopped being curious.

The real key to making dropping out — or opting out if you prefer– is to do it soon enough. Don’t wait until you’re beaten down by the system and have lost interest and hope. Leave school while you still have curiosity, a hunger to know something, to know anything or everything, and before you have to support yourself financially. It may be after 10th grade or it may be after 8th. You will know when it is right for you.

Now you can sleep a little later, but don’t spend the day in bed, or watching cartoons or talk shows. There is a world to explore.

Today it doesn’t matter if you live in Manhattan, like I did, or in East Nowhere, the whole world is available to you.

Think of the tools you have now that didn’t exist when I dropped out. Computers, the internet, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, and more are all there to help you access the world and learn anything you want.

You don’t need a curriculum, a road map or a plan at all.

Just ask a question and seek an answer.

Then ask another question.

Listen to the answers you get. Follow tangents. Focus like a laser or wander aimlessly. Tinker. Play.

All knowledge is connected and things will all start to make sense as you note commonalities, wonder about discrepancies, make connections and develop insights.

Are you in love with baseball? Study it. You’ll learn about statistics – figuring pitcher’s earned run averages takes complex mathematics — develop strategies, learn the science of the curveball, learn about the history of race relations in America, and more. You’ll learn about why the Dominican Republic produces so many major league shortstops and why Japan doesn’t, but produces pitchers. Follow baseball as far as it will take you…then ask another question.

Do you like to knit? Study it. Learn about different kinds of wool, how they differ and where they come from, how they become shocking chartreuse or majestic magenta. Learn math as you figure out how much you’ll need to make that sweater, the physics of tensile strength.

Into dolls, dogs, drumming or debate? Are you passionate about golf, gardening, guitar, grapes or Greta Garbo? It doesn’t matter what. Take the paths   your interests and passions give you.

Greta Garbo in The Joyless Street. Alexander B...Greta Garbo in The Joyless Street. Alexander Binder (for Atelier Binder) made the portrait during the filming. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a while you’ll become an expert, an authority. You’ll wander off one path and discover another one, perhaps the secret of life, the universe and everything.

Just keep asking one more question and you will find many more answers. Each of which will lead to more questions.

Joyce Valenza calls it “a never ending search.”

Here are some things you are likely to discover:

People are eager to talk about what they do and what they know, to someone who is interested in learning.

People are eager to tell you their stories, what they think, what they feel, to someone willing to listen.

Your bullshit meter will develop and become more accurate.

You will find the joy of learning again, the joy of teaching what you learn, and you’ll rediscover the excitement of wondering.

You will learn that all answers lead to more questions, better questions, deeper questions.

Keep asking.

Keep learning.

Do all the things school doesn’t leave you the time to do and you will get a better education than any institution can give you.

Don’t worry about getting into college. Getting into a good college requires standing out from the crowd, somehow distinguishing yourself from the hundreds of thousand other high school seniors.

So while all those other kids are all taking the same classes, cramming for exams and spending every extra minute doing every imaginable community service and extra credit assignment, you’ll be having different experiences.

While they’re being told what to learn, you’ll be deciding what to learn. Their learning will be limited by the curriculum, your learning will be free-range, going as far as your curiosity takes you.

Just think of the application essay you’ll be able to write.

And somewhere in the process of writing that essay, you might begin to wonder whether you really need to go to college.
Once you start becoming a free-range learner it is almost impossible to stop. And that is the best part of it all.

“When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.”
— Dresden James

The continued existence of the failed socialist experiment of Government schools proves the above quote.

In the circle of schooled ignorance spiraling down the toilet bowl, I’ve run across several reasons why tax-payer funded educrats hate me and other self-educated, DIY educators.  Here are a few of my “lunatic” ranting that prevent me from rising in rank at the Government school factory (not that it’s my intention to rise to educrat status):

A. The self-educated students threaten the government’s monopoly on education and control of the collective. Follow the money!

B. I don’t serve the good of the group/society.  Self-educated people tend to be very self-reliant.  They aren’t dependent on government handouts. I ask too many questions. This adds sand to the assembly line of ignorance.

C. Non-mass minded individuals are not easily manipulated. It takes too much energy and too many lies to convince liberty lovers to worship stupid State institutions.

D. DIY-educators reject blind obedience to statist views enforced by legally licensed force and embrace moral integrity and self-ownership. We take education into their own hands. 

E. De-schooled students learn by exercising muscles like self-reliance, play, following their own interests, curiosity, passions, and thinking freely. The nature of Government schooling atrophies these vital muscles of learning.

F. Individuality is recognized by DIY educators.  Interest-Led learning is encouraged not crushed by State run curriculum and standardized testing. Added bonus: No BELLS!

G. Un-schooled/home schooled students experience freedom from violence against individual rights. They surpass schooled students academically. If you’re a stat-head, check out our report card here. 15 year-old public schooled students scored below the average for advanced nations on math and science literacy. At least we’re beating some nations. Mexico anyone?

H. DIY’ers have not forgotten the equation which should be taught in schools but is left out of the curriculum: Government = Force… and the threat of violence. As free individuals, we condemn the desire for power over other individuals.

I. Education Vigilantes recognize and embrace an individuals right to privacy. Big Sis cameras watch our every move in government schools – Except in front of the urinals…at least that’s what “they” tell us!

J. We recognize that no one, from the Department of Education, board of education, principal’s office, or even the most caring teacher, knows more about how YOU learn than YOU.  State-licensed “expert” teachers tell students what, how, when, why, and where to learn. Surely they know. They are the “experts” with the education degree(s).

K. Self-educators reject the State’s lip service to freedom and it’s crusade against ignorance. We recognize a Ponzi scheme when we see one. Institutional forced schooling is centralized control of the herd where the few control the many to create a cooperative, collective paradise. Government schooling is a social duty (a collectivist brain washing term) of all people for the sake of all people.

L. State-run schools promote the myth that the individual detracts from societal happiness. How can we have peace on earth and good will toward men with individualists in the mix? Individuals should melt into one societal glob. Education Vigilantes expose this myth at the expense of the Leviathan. Ouch! Self-education can’t be controlled by the State.

M. The number one reason statist educrats hate me is: I refuse to be collectivized…being right infuriates them!

Feel free to add more reasons in the comment section: Especially any statist trolls lurking!

The quest to turn base metals into gold has been my dream. With the right elixir and large cauldron, I’d be very wealthy indeed! Just think of all the potential gold you may have wasted by tossing those beer cans in the garbage. Another dream of mine (more of a request actually) is to turn Moose, my dog, into a unicorn. He told me he’d like that, especially the one-horn thing.  He says it’d make a great squirrel-skewer.

Just as chemistry has many alchemists to thank for knowledge gained on the road to easy gold, we in the government school business send props to our Utopian-dreaming fathers of publik skools. Like the elusive pot of gold, government schools created a dystopia: An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and fearful lives. But, we continue the search for the impossible by putting our faith and kids in the black cauldron of coercive government schools. If only we could discover the ancient formula buried in the floorboards of a dust covered laboratory. Many tricks and new methods are flooding government schools. None work.


What foolish charlatans! Failing American schools are no mystery to anyone: Especially those tossed in the roiling pot of public collectivism.  Students spend their school days graded by age, bored senseless, fed State propaganda, and made to endure useless tests and worksheets. I tell them, “This is NOT the real world.” When’s the last time you saw adults have to ask permission to go to the bathroom or walk in a straight line down a hallway? Oh yeah, in a prison, right? The few that do open their eyes to their predicament, I target for my Education Vigilante Apprenticeship Program. They’re invited to really explore individual freedom, out-side-the-cauldron stuff (self-ownership, liberty, freedom, etc.).

Thinning the herd is a methodical process. I use a one-on-one strategy. I’m seeing progress in the awakening of liberty in a few. However, the infatuation with government dependence is multi-generational and sickening really. Students aren’t taught history. The whole language reading programs ensure functional illiteracy. How could they know to call Bull$&^!  Deep down they know schooling is not right.

By the way, a huge hat tip to all those parents who realized the dumbing process of schooling and yanked their children from the State alchemy laboratory. Un-school, home school, de-school or anything but government school.  There’s an estimated 2 million American home schoolers who pulled the plug on schooling. Progressives and other statist types hate this growing trend. They brag on government schools, not for their ability to educate, but for the social education forced upon the captives in the cinder block cells. In my state, a score of 800 will meet standards on the high-stakes standardized tests. What parents are not told is that if their child scores 800 on all five sections of the test, they really only answered 50 percent of the questions correctly.  Wow Johnny, you passed the math portion!  It’s the only time he’ll get an ice cream party and a movie for making a F on a math test.

Don’t take my comments here to mean that I’m bashing students who pass the CRCT and other stupid torture tests.  I promote the Bartleby Project. I find it hard to believe the green environmentalists haven’t occupied the Department of Education to stop all the sacrificial tree killings to produce this wasted paper! I’m sure this might be a cause of global warming.

If only we could get all those wayward non-schooling folks back in the crucible, the collective would be complete. We could reach our mountain top and live in Utopia, insulated from stupid.

No amount of money stolen from tax payers or ancient secret formulas can turn the schooled into scholars. Science won’t allow it! Sadly, that’s never stopped the State from trying.