Monday, May 18, 2009

John Taylor Gatto - Theory Of Access

This is why homeschooling is so successful; parents give their children access to all kinds of resources. The world truly is their classroom. I think it is fair to say that homeschoolers do more of their "homeschooling" outside of their home than inside of their home! Travel is an important element in one's education as well.

Reading is certainly important, but it has its limitations. One must go out into the world, meet people who are experts in their field and have an opportunity to actually work with them. Kids need to be exposed to real people who face real problems in their work world, and kids need to face challenges themselves in order to develop the ability to think and problem solve.

The Arts are important. Its study is unfortunately dying under the weight of emphasis on standardized testing in our government school systems. Kids need the study of the history and performance of music, literature, theatre, and so on. It is essential in creating well rounded individuals who can think and apply what they learn, as there is math in music and poetry, just as there is science in dance and singing. Cross application of information learned makes study interesting, relevant and meaningful.

Education needs to include hands on experiential learning. Text book learning is fine, but it cannot be the only resource. The fact is that school systems have pretty much eliminated field trips due to budget cuts or the inability to demonstrate how those field trips contribute to increases in standardized test scores is very unfortunate.

Kids need to get out from behind the brick walls and learn things from the real world. Homeschoolers tend to take advantage of their freedom and flexibility regarding their studies to go out and do things that strongly compliment and reinforce their reading work.

Kids need to learn from challenges and failures. That is certainly something that Gatto touches upon here - but what he does not say, and I will say, is this: A system of illusionary meritocracy has been created in our school systems. Kids do whatever they must do in order to get an "A" - but do they truly learn anything? Cramming for a test is not learning that "sticks". It is nothing more than an exercise in short term memory. Kids will also tend to pursue the areas of study that will give them an easy "A" instead of the harder coursework. It must be pointed out that harder does not necessarily mean more content. Having a lot of busy work - may be hard in terms of time to complete a subject, but we ought to be looking at substance over volume with regard to coursework. Many teachers also grade on a curve in order to give the illusion of achievement. So what have the kids really learned?

John Taylor Gatto is spot on with his Theory of Access, and he has a proven record of working with kids to back it up.

(H/T Tracy and Mary)