"I am looking for a formula for mass-production of little Nobel Prize winners, researchers, engineers, and creative problem solvers"
There are many potential educational systems that would do better for the top [1|5|10]% of learners, while doing far worse for the remainder of the bell curve (however it is defined). One has to be upfront and honest with themselves, and audience, if the goals and proposals will benefit all overall, or select few. I am not yet convinced that less-structured approach will provide clear benefits for everybody :-/
In my experience whenever I hear people talk about unschooling or free thought for their children it isn't about children at all but about the political beliefs of their parents. There's still this kind of 60s hippie or California 'free spirit' individualist attitude that also has a renaissance in 'hacker' circles. It seems to me more about the beliefs of a certain social class than generally about education.
By 1990, that "very highly educated general populace" was setting out jars of water in front of their TV screens, so they would get charged with healing powers of ESPers
What is well understood at this point is that people who are born into the right circumstances (genetics, family wealth, avoidance of illness/handicaps, etc.) are able to be more successful in what they do, be it school or other ventures. This is why you see a correlation between those successful entrepreneurs and success in school. Even Steve Jobs was successful in school, despite going about it in a non-traditional way. People are not successful because of school, people do well in school because they are successful.
I'll go even further and say I'm convinced that a less-structured approach will clearly not provide benefits for everybody.
I had my boy in a Montessori environment, which is more unstructured and focused on the type of self-learning the author is describing. It worked really well for me growing up, so I wanted to provide that environment for my son. Well, it was a disaster. After a neuropsych evaluation for him, he's now in an exact opposite, highly structured learning environment. He's not only much happier, but back to progressing appropriately in his education.
Not everyone needs to be a creative Nobel prize winner or otherwise prominent, as much as parents would like that.
The real trick is in finding potential ones and not breaking people in the process. Feeling like a reject for failing with assorted psychological issues or having trouble retraining. I'm taking here of the Chinese filter system.
Not only are the people normally distributed, the schools are too.
That tippy, tippy top will always ever only be a handful.
That's not to say we can't raise the bar globally, but realistically we're probably at or close to the ceiling ;f what's possible for mass education.
By way of analogy, it's not at all unlike how most weightlifting advice says to give your muscles a day of rest in between workout sessions.
e.g., I recently watched a talk where a researcher cited a study that found that putting kids in remedial literacy programs, with all their drilling and whatnot, seems to do more harm than good. The (deliberately over-simplified) impression I got was that, if you leave the kids alone instead of bothering them, you'll generally see a markedly bigger improvement through simple regression to the mean.
That this gets over-simiplified into a simple "homework bad" in the popular sphere is unfortunate. Sadly, nobody has yet figured out a way to inoculate science so that it can survive on Facebook.
Too much is definitely a detriment to anyone’s education, but I think this usually happens when classroom instruction is imbalanced with material covered as “homework”.
By far I learned the most in a physics class in high school with homework but you could correct a number of problems in class if you completed it at home (not easy). I liked this balance, but there were still students who seemed to lack the discipline to actually just do the homework and not wait for class to see how many solutions they could copy.
Anyway, the socialization taught in school is often the wrong type of socialization. "here is how to talk and play only with kids your own age".
I will also mention: we have 5 kids. Oldest now in college, youngest in 4th grade.
Ben Sasse’s book “the Vanishing American Adult” points out that the modern child-centric school system is an extremely recent invention. Back in the day, children were socialized by hanging out around adults who could teach them how to be humans.
If my wife and I cared more about our kids we’d home school them.
The people who are supposed to be overseeing this and averting this mess generally have other concerns, limiting their ability and willingness to intercede.
Really, the only changes are the time-horizon and how the social groups are sorted.
In adulthood it more based on one's ability to actually perform socially useful activities. Not 100% obviously, but a lot more than childhood.
Obsessed? Some. Aware? Everyone is aware of them, consciously or not.
> because it determines everything about your life - who you can talk to, who you can date, who you can work with, etc.
I mean, sort of. It’s always present in these determinations, but it’s only one factor.
I believe you’re right to say that some exposure to a status-focused microcosm is good for understanding how to navigate society, but I really don’t think it’s as extreme as you make it out to be.
I've found this to be a pretty apt generalization in literally every place I've lived, which at this point encompasses a half-dozen major cities spread out over several thousand miles.
Minimal differences, really.
My wife says that they were all incredible awkward to be around, so there may be something to the social thing.
You have a point there. In regular school you are forced to be 'social' or risk punishment. I put 'social' in quotes because I think what is considered social is subjective and mostly made up. But watching how people are treating one another in this world I'm not sure if that social component is really working out good. Homeschooled kids are definitely not as slavishly as the 'socially' drilled kids from regular school.
Behind? In what? We are homeschooling our daughter. For her age she's amazing with computers, english and painting/drawing(which is her passion), and also unlike her peers at school she learned to enjoy life long learning and has become autodidact as well. She never learned the usual things taught at school like: forcing other people what to do, bullying, all day on social media, hate to learn, etc, etc..
I'd suggest that social development can be served by literally just playing with friends though. In our area, the YMCA offers sports basically the whole year, which is a good way for the kids to spend time in a structured group setting (and if you're lucky, you can even be the coach!), and my wife has found plenty of fellow homeschoolers and unschoolers on FB who are looking for some social interaction for their kids (we happen to live in a place that isn't particularly religious though).
Relatedly, everyone just seems to agree that the socialization provided by school is good and necessary, and I'm not so sure that's true. It's been our experience that all of our friends and relatives, when they do complain about school, complain about bullying or kids otherwise misbehaving in a way that's stressful to the child in question.
In addition, our experience on the playground has been that kids who are in school tend to be way more likely to be rude and aggressive. And I don't say this to suggest that school makes kids rude and aggressive, just that I have 4 kids and I have spent a lot of time around a lot of different kids and I've seen zero evidence that school provides positive socialization beyond what could be had by attending regular play groups.
That is, socialization in the public school system very much has a downside.
I mostly just want to remove socialization as the deciding factor that makes parents keep their kids in school when they'd really rather do something else, because, as you say, socialization in public school very much has a downside, and I think at best, it's a wash compared to homeschool.
And if you shield kids too much such as by over structuring their life, they might be defenseless later on. It's a fine balance and requires care, care which neither schools nor homeschooling parents are likely to be able to provide. Not even specialists most likely.
It's an open question.
Also, school is a terrible place to socialize.
We could waste people's time considerably less than we currently do, but it would require a sober look at what people are capable of and tracking them into vocational training that matches their abilities much earlier than we do, rather than sticking our fingers in our ears and singing "lalala everyone should go to college."
This is really wrong attitude. Success sometimes depends on a small push at a particular time.
On the other hand, "being terrible" is also not exactly a great reason to stick kids in school...
I've been told that most schools do not cater for profoundly gifted children, especially the asynchrony of the emotional development. I don't blame the schools because children like my son are very extreme. I don't know what setting is right for him, but we have no choice but to look into home schooling, let him grow academically and in emotional peace, and maybe when his maturity increases we can reintegrate him with other children. Or maybe home schooling will be such a relief for him that his anxiety or whatever it is that is causing this will get naturally alleviated.
We found a charter school that mixes home school and in class education. So he is in a typical school environment 2 days a week and we home school the other three days. This has been a good mix for us; he can get some socialization at school (plus other activities we are involved in). It's not as all encompassing and stressful as a full 5 day a week school would be. We can do academically advanced work 3 days a week; while still giving him a chance to work his underdeveloped social skills with a little less pressure on the system. Best of luck; parenting can be hard :)
If I can presume to mount my own soapbox in response, though: This strikes me as a symptom of the rather extreme age segregation that goes on in typical schools. I went to quite a few, and my favorite for the social environment had middle school and high school all together in one building, with a total student body of a bit over 100. And one of the neat things that happened there is that, while kids were generally age-segregated in their actual classes, we were all together for lunchtime, school plays, etc. The group of people I typically sat with at lunch time during my junior year of high school included seniors and also one 6th grader.
In retrospect, I imagine that made for a better environment for everyone's social and emotional development.
Most of the reasoning for it was that public schools are evil and stupid and raise evil drone kids with evil drone values. This is a terrible perspective to inculcate into your children and it warped my view of everyone around me well into my twenties. Also the homeschooling community tends to self-select for a lot of the most narcissistic and BPD types of parents who actually do inflict major developmental and psychological damage and abuse on their children.
There was also a smattering of justifying it to the effect of "children learn better at home than they do in a classroom environment". This may be partly and technically true, but in practice it gets cancelled out by the fact that most parents are not actually able to educate children effectively past a 3rd grade level.
There are always exceptions. The broad exception, as usual, is when the family has plenty of money and the parents have LOTS of autonomy over their work schedules. The home-schooled children of doctors and lawyers that I knew had private tutors in some subjects and did all kinds of travel, participated in sports and robot building competitions, even worked for state legislators as part of their "high school".
Long story short, I am sending my children to Minneapolis public schools. As a parent, I hugely get the desire to keep your kids close and be their everything all the way through to adulthood. It was hard for us to watch our six year old get on the school bus and think about this first chapter of our lives together was in some sense ending. But I also know from experience and observation, the protectionist instinct to keep your kids that close for that long is really not healthy.
> There are always exceptions.
And yet you believe it should be illegal. It's going to be hard to make it illegal and still allow the exceptions, though. "Illegal unless you have plenty of money and autonomy over your schedule" is a pretty sketchy law.
It actually didn't work out that badly for me, I thought I made that clear. It worked out badly for most of the people I know, though.
I think it should be illegal because it's broadly unhealthy for society. It's part of a broader belief that the way to fix a suboptimal public education system is to make sure all parents have big incentives to invest time and resources to improve it, rather than for the wealthy to flee and create a system that works only for themselves and leave the public system and the remaining people it serves to wither on the vine.
> > There are always exceptions.
> And yet you believe it should be illegal. It's going to be hard to make it illegal and still allow the exceptions, though.
Yes, despite the fact that some kids (such as myself) did OK under homeschooling, it should still be illegal. I also knew a kid who learned to drive a stick at age ten with no license, and he didn't die. He was an exception. Still a bad idea that should not be legal.
By that logic, private schools should also be made illegal. And that should be a higher priority than homeschooling, because (I believe) more people send their kids to private schools than homeschool. (Also by the same logic, charter schools and magnet schools are suspect.)
I mean, you are correct in saying that that may be the best chance for the public education system. However, I think that your proposed solution is not only misguided, but heavy-handed authoritarian to boot. Let's throw away parental authority over children, and give it to the state, so that the schools will be better? No thanks. I want the schools to be better, but not at your price.
I used to think this too, actually. But now I think that Finland’s approach satisfies the goal while being a bit less drastic. Private schools are still allowed, but are not allowed to charge tuition fees (they are funded by a state grant if approved), are not allowed to have a selective admission process, and must offer the same educational and social services as the municipal schools.
It’s important to remember, the current system we have is heavy-handed and authoritarian too. It traps lots of people in an underfunded system and then tells them that system is hopeless and they are bad for using it. And parents do not “give up authority over their children” by sending them to public school. By fearing and vilifying any state action whatsoever, what you end up doing is vilifying, fearing (and eventually crippling) democracy. Instead of doing this, consider looking at measures that have been tried, proven to work, and have high satisfaction where they have been done, and join me in advocating an evidence-based approach to improving life for normal people!
But parents being required to send their children to public school is a forced removal of control from parents. No, I will not join you in advocating that (not even if you include your restricted version of private schools). I trust the median parent to decide what's best for their children more than I trust the state.
Also: I'm not going to watch a video to try to figure out what your point is. If you've got something to say, say it.
"Before humanity is taken over by AI?"
I’m sure he believes everything he says wholeheartedly, but self-directed learning without guidance can lead you to pick up some weird ideas before having the context to understand why they’re “weird”. I don’t think he’s entirely off-base with his criticisms of the school system, but I also don’t think he presents any arguments that aren’t well-established already.
The question of which sources to trust (and thus learn from) is the biggest reason not to go entirely self-directed with learning. One is equally likely to end up with a theological argument as a scientific one depending on which sources you were introduced to first.
If my Big Ideas about how the world works had been about something more difficult to prove or disprove, like sociology or psychology, I kind of think I would still believe them, because it's one thing to elaborate your maths to a logical contradiction on a couple of sheets of paper, and another to run a well-controlled experiment with thousands of subjects.
I do think it's true that school is oppressive. I guess it's oppressive for the same reason modern mass societies are oppressive: strict conformity is tacitly enforced. The nail that stands out (for whatever reason) is usually hammered in. Of course we also gain a lot from the way we've arranged our societies (and our schools). We're optimizing for the best outcomes on average -- and we may be doing that fairly well -- but that doesn't mean we're anywhere close to optimal for a given individual.
Unfortunately, "optimal for each individual" may not be a realizable goal. But if you have the resources, alternative means of educating your children seem tempting.
It's also well-documented that girls seem to tolerate school better than boys (and get better grades), which is interesting.
My guess is we could use more customized, self-driven efforts in schools and intermingled age groups. Though I doubt his vision would be practical without devoting a lot more resources per child.
This isn't speculation. Some of the best performing primary schools in the world are in Scandinavian countries, and they have a heavily unstructured "structure" if you want to call it that, day consisting of mostly playtime and activities, no standardized tests (even when there are testing, the results aren't publicized).
A far-cry from some of the rigor and structure our kids face here in the US, where the primary objective seems to have been to raise obedient subservient factory workers rather than inspire dreams, aspirations, and creativity and teaching children how to truly learn, rather than simply perform a task.
A much better comparison is Canada, which demographically and socially is much closer to the United States but ranks even higher than Finland in education scores.
AFAIK from my contacts in Canada, their schooling system is very similar to the US, but had much better results.
It passes the smell test as well: teaching children how to learn versus teaching children how to perform a task or pass a test Obviously the former is going to be better.
Not forcing children to sit in classrooms for the majority of the day is obviously going to be better.
Not being obsessed with standardize testing losing sight of the overall goal of preparing your children for life sounds obviously better.
Starting at 7 years old sounds obviously better - I can specifically attest to this as a parent, where Americans seem obsessed to have their glorified daycare service aka "preschool and kindergarten" so that they can work more of their already overworked life away)
Irrespective of the above points: I get it (the point about population size, different countries, economic systems, political systems, etc). This fact is brought up every time a desired attribute about a smaller country is mentioned. The things I am talking about are irrespective of population size. It requires a perspective change and getting rid of politicians that still somehow think the turn of the century, industrial-age, overtly standardized school system we have built here in America that more resembles a prison than a place of learning is working and just needs more: more money, more teachers, more books, more standardization (now we need to account for all different metrics and biases! more money to the test generators) etc, so we can keep on chugging along with this failed system when the elephant in the room is the system itself is what is a overall failure and needs a complete rebuild -- which is exactly what Finland did in the 60s when it had similar challenges from the Soviet-era education system.
Whereas at a school kids are cooped up in a high pressure environment, with other kids who are all just as immature, and a few adults to supervise.
My parents homeschooled my brothers and I. I'm really torn as to whether I want to do the same for my kids some day. One the one hand, I feel like it was a good healthy environment to learn and grow up. On the other, I've always felt like I don't fit into society and sometimes am jealous of "normal" people.
Many who were not homeschooled feel the same way. I don't think this has to do with being homeschooled or not, it has to do with how some people adapt better than others. I went to regular school and sometimes I get that feeling that it is hard to fit in with the average, but that is not a bad thing after all. Modern times are quite tough for everyone. Perhaps we all have that feeling but never talk about it.
With your first sentence you're accusing people of having personal experience(!), while with the second sentence you're just plain insulting people.