Episode-739- Changing The Way We Help Children Learn

I was originally going to call this “changing the way we teach our children”, but when I went to type that, I realized it missed the entire point.   To me this is one of the biggest problems of the modern education system we teach instead of encouraging learning.

When you teach you “push” information when you encourage a person to learn you are “pulled” by them to learn more.  Have you ever wondered about this fact…

No person asks questions that start with why, what and how more than a child.

Now given that is the case why do kids always end up bored in school, how do they get from wanting to know the why of everything to bored apathetic teens in just a few years of school?  Can we really blame them when the results of our system are so uniform?

Today’s episode was inspired by a comment in response to the segment I did yesterday on “unschooling”.  Unschooling is where children are largely self directed in their learning and study what they are most interested in.  Most of the feedback was great but one commenter left the following comment…

Dear Jack,

Your remarks on ”One step beyond homeschooling – unschooling” are completely wrong and disturbing, not that expected you to be perfect.

Let the ”children discover what they like” is nothing more than parents skipping their parenting responsibility to educate their children and a petty excuse.

Parents have the responsibility to orientate their children because they do have life experience, in contrast the Children have almost no experience and lots of romanticism … how does the child discover what he wants? By analyzing his own ignorance ?

Another problem is that it opens the door for children to escape reality by studying ”cool”, but ultimately irrelevant subjects, in order to escape their petty lives. This going to create a lot of little Nicolo Machiavelli, who become philosophers because their lives sucked.

In short : Unschooling is a petty excuse for parents to escape their responsibility, children do not have not enough life experience or stability to make important life decisions and this will certainly result in children escaping reality in BS studies, just like the example of your article studying ”exo-geology”.”

I find this view very myopic and very limiting, today’s show explains why and expands on the concept of putting people (kids are PEOPLE) in charge of their own learning.

Resources for Today’s Show

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78 Responses to Episode-739- Changing The Way We Help Children Learn

  1. I’m right with you on this one Jack.

    On the comment from yesterday above, I’ll temper my comment and just say WOW.

    One of my daughters loves cooking, cooking shows etc, she can’t get enough. What’s the point? At 7 years old she is learning math way beyond her years by doing it through something she does. Safety sallies may wine because she is wielding a knife like a pro but only 7. “whatever” I say her interest is paying off big time.

    We all have an interest in something, a passion etc. We hear all the time “Do what you love” few actually practice what they preach. I say lets allow our kids find that passion and encourage them to explore it.

  2. @Jack,

    Random note:
    In college, I gave a speech about a black powder rifle–in which I demonstrated showing the rifle. While I did take it to the Campus Police, and gave them the nipple (so it wouldn’t fire), it wasn’t a big deal. No one freaked out, or called the Feds on me or anything. I can’t imagine that happening today.

  3. @Jack,

    Regarding admitting the problem in education: I am good friends with two teachers who work at the same school in a “depressed” area. They are somewhat aware of the problems, but they really never get to the level of thinking about how to SOLVE the problem, because they are so busy with DEALING with the effects of the problem. This is a classic “treat the symptom” sort of trap I think.

    They’ve got kids who have been pushed through an educational system for 10 years before they got to them, and at best, they are doing damage control. They are just as trapped in the failed educational system as anyone else. Still–if you press them, they default into DEFENDING that system that prevents them from doing their job better. It’s a vicious circle.

    Bottom line…we CANNOT keep doing what we’re doing. The costs, and results simply will not withstand reality forever.

  4. My thoughts on education changed drastically in my freshman year of high school when I read A.S. Neill’s “Summerhill – A Radical Approach To Child Rearing”. Its one of maybe a dozen books that I can honestly say changed the way I approach life.

    “Obviously, a school that makes active children sit at desks studying mostly useless subjects is a bad school. It is a good school only for those who believe in such a school, for those uncreative citizens who want docile, uncreative children who will fit into a civilization whose standard of success is money.” – A.S. Neill

  5. It looks like the link in the show notes for the ‘Lifehacker’s Top 10 Tools for a Free Online Education’ is broken.

  6. Have not listened to the show yet, but will be later today for sure. This is somewhat in response to the comment that inspired this show.

    We homeschool our children. My wife wanted to homeschool before our oldest was school aged, but I wanted them to experience at least a year or two of public school (at that time.) Our oldest is the only child that has attended school outside of our home. She went into Kindergarten as an emergent reader (she could read easy readers) and she came OUT of Kindergarten not knowing how to read at all any more. We had to start all over with her. That was the tipping point for us (me) and our kids have been homeschooled ever since.

    We have adjusted our model over the years, but currently we use a modified “unschooling” system. I prefer to think of it as “(parent) directed learning enhanced by self-directed (unschooling) learning.” Each morning, they work on core curriculum (reading/writing, arithmetic) They are learning latin, greek, and other subjects that my wife and I never had the opportunity for in our school days. After “official” classes are done, they continue to learn simply by asking questions. Sometimes someone will ask a question that spawns a spontaneous history lesson, or someone will ask “why” something works the way it does, and we have a science lecture. These are not formal “sit down and take notes” sessions. These are story telling sessions that really engage the kids. We also do “read aloud” time, which gives them the opportunity to practice their reading and speech skills without even realizing they are learning.

    Unlearning in and of itself can work just fine, but the PARENTS have to be willing to answer every spontaneous question the children raise, and the home has to be set up to be conducive to learning environment (don’t have them sit around and play video games all day.) This is not as easy as it sounds to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and it’s one of the reasons we include a (parent) directed learning curriculum. The core skills are necessary, and often lead to questions in and of themselves (which leads to unschooling)

    Every good parent “home schools/unschools.” Some of them just happen to send their kids to public or private school, too.

  7. We actually had an elementary school teacher last year tell us a couple of years ago that “Our job is not to get them to think” I cannot believe how backwards everything has become… Fortunately that teacher was not in charge of a classroom that one of my kids was in. We had mostly been lucky up to that point and our kids had good teachers. However though their actions and policies, the administration, district, and state all seem to have a twisted view on what the kids need. Actually teaching the kids seems to be down on their list. They care more about TAKS scores (standardized testing), which in turn equates to a school ranking and how they are going to get funded than anything else.

    We are homeschooling this one now, and are in process of taking our middle schooler out of the system as well. I would much rather my kids have a foundation in principles and be well-rounded thinkers than to be a product of our current education system.

  8. “The Underground History of American Education” by John Gatto is available online here:
    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

    • John Taylor Gatto is one of the best writers out there on how our educational system is hurting our kids — and he should know better than anyone, having spent close to 30 years teaching in NYC and winning awards for it. I read “Dumbing Us Down” back when I was trying to do a career-switch into teaching and it literally blew my mind.

      His “Six Lessons of the Modern Classroom” is a classic — so sad and so true.

  9. Jack,
    My wife is a Teacher Librarian in the Denver Metro area. She struggles every day with the Principal. She must be an advocate for “creating media” rather than just observing it. The Principal thinks it is the Librarian’s job to sit the kids in front of a screen and show them a video on science. My wife knows the children would be more engaged if they were creating a video on a science topic they choose, so she collaborates with the teachers to develop the curriculum. Problem is, that the administrators don’t understand technology, and so they fear it, and ignore it. My wife is a great teacher, not a great sales person. It is exhausting when the creative teacher has to sell the administrators on an idea, even when there is data showing the success. I have met a lot of creative teachers out there, but not a lot of creative administrators. I liked your show today. I agreed with most of it. And I have some additional ideas to incorporate in the raising and educating of my son (5mo).

  10. I completely agree with your views on school.

    I work in retail (while in college) and consider myself not a moron :). There have been plenty of times that when I am handed an amount, other than what my register tells me to give back, I have trouble because at the job my brain shuts down. There is no stimulant in the job other than “Did you find everything ok?” and talk about the weather. I will go into the job able to do math in my head and remember the phone numbers to enter into the register but by the end of a 8 hour shift I am completely brain dead and cant handle the most simple tasks. If you don’t believe me try doing something with no brain activity for a full day (after working a 18 hour semester week) and then test your math skills.

    Haha Give us some slack jack :)!
    I am currently looking for other work as well but its hard because of needing a flexable schedule.

    Thanks for the show

    • Modern Survival

      @Kyle, dude, may be, I don’t know man. I have done plenty of brain dead stuff but I can always make change in my head. Though if you are working that schedule I can see the occasional brain fart.

    • I use to feel the same way and get angry about the same thing, but there is just something about standing there all day that turns my brain off. It happens to all the cashiers at my location. Next time it happens, break the cycle and ask them how long they have been working that day because that might show ya that they are just warn out from a terrible job. Give them something other than, “Did you find everything ok?” “Yes”. It is VERY embarrassing though. I have to plan homework around work because I know when I get off I cant turn my brain back on for a couple of hours. Its like having the brain function of a kid watching TV.

  11. We’d been homeschooling this past spring when my husband lost his job. Our usual homeschooling routine completely went out the window in a haze of phone interviews and other job search items. Turns out, his education continued, since my son’s questions continued unabated. One thing that’s really emerged from all this is a major interest in meteorology. He knows exactly what a radar screen is about and how to interpret that, for one example. Fortunately the local NWS is interested in mentoring him in various ways. Looks like building a weather station is in our future. I am just bubbling over with ideas on how to use that to give him opportunities for math, statistics, data analysis, graphing… and I know he’ll be listening because right now he’s passionate about the weather!

    Oh BTW I asked him what was $20.01-$15.01. He answered $5 immediately with a big smile. He’s 8.

  12. Marc, I am so glad you bring up John Taylor Gatto. Jack has never mentioned him. We have several of his CDs of recorded talks. My favorite is “The Paradox of Extended Childhood” (from 2000). If you don’t have time to read his “Underground History,” try “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.”

    What Jack did not get to was the question of whether or not it is the State’s duty to provide education in the first place. This is probably discussed in Libertarian circles. It may very well be one of the systems that gets dismantled in a “rebuilding” of society. Other possible positions could be: “It is the parents’ job to provide their children with education,” or, more radically, “It is the person’s own responsibility to obtain an education for themselves.”

    I am the product of 11 years of private Christian school. Parents were paying taxes for public schools and then SPENDING from their net income to send their kids to the school, which accepted no funding whatsoever from the state–no grants, no incentives, nada. I was educated “outside” the system, and I absorbed that perspective. Would it shock you that the folks who operated the school were John Birchers and preppers?

    You will spend your money on what you think is important. Private/home education (let’s not even say “school”) is an opportunity to put money where your mouth is/beliefs are. It is a real sacrifice for some families, but they do it because it’s important to them. It is also a sacrifice for people to do without because they CHOOSE to not rely on credit to obtain it now. This is the kind of choice I’m talking about.

    *I would love to hear how perhaps some TSPers with children who have made alternative education a priority balances the costs involved (in time, energy, money, etc.) with their other goals like debt elimination, investment and general prepping.*

    Also of possible interest is Joel Salatin’s talk http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Your-Hands-Dirty-Children/dp/1933431903

  13. Jack! I am so glad to hear your take on education a little more in depth at long last!

    As a homeschooling mother, the topic is dear to my heart for all of the obvious reasons, but there is more to it. I came to my current understanding of personal liberty under the auspices of learning about homeschooling. When my oldest was a newborn, I happened to see a video of [some loser] ranting about how homeschooling is exactly the same as child abuse….about how parents are not equipped to make educational choices for their children. He was saying, in short, that parents are to provide their children with food, a roof and rides to and from sundry governmental institutions, where they would be taught and imbued with what he vaguely referred to as “character.”

    I looked at my precious new little baby in my lap and considered the implications of what that man was saying. And it started me down a road toward a better understanding of my own role in society as well as my role as a mother.

    As time has gone by, I have sadly resigned myself to the fact that THAT GUY will pretty much pop up in every conversation you try to have about education. ‘That guy’ tries to turn parents who choose homeschool and parents who choose public school against each other. That guy pits teachers against parents who actively take the reins in their children’s education…either by removing them from the system or even just by being very involved (and on top of) their traditional education. That guy just stirs up trouble, and I am disappointed to see him pop up here at TSP, which is about nothing so much as personal responsibility.

    And that brings me to what I really wanted to say (sorry, I know this is long)…ALL of the parents who take personal responsibility for ensuring their children succeed academically, whether they attend a public school, homeschool, charter school or whatever (astronaut school?)…All of those parents are good parents. Damn good parents. Human parents, that can//do//will make mistakes, yes…but good parents.

    All of the attacks against ‘involved’ parents and alternative-minded educators….do not even apply to to the people at whom the attacks are being hurled. I believe very strongly that there are wrong reasons to choose one educational method over another. If you are actively trying to shield your child from the world (and I don’t mean in an age-appropriate way here), and that is the sole reason you make the choices you make, then YES, you’re probably limiting your children unnecessarily. **Any parent or educator who is worried about these things, is inherently NOT making those mistakes!**

    Also, to the unschooling issue…I think that many folks confuse unschooling with Radical Unschooling, which is a whole different animal. I myself could write an encyclopedia about all the reasons I thing RUS is kindasortaOKtotally ridiculous…But of course that wouldn’t make me RIGHT. In any case, I wish that uninformed people would stop confusing legitimate unschooling methods (which are almost always implemented by extremely mindful, intelligent parents) and Radical Unschooling.

    Anyway, Thanks for the podcast, Jack and thanks to all the mindful parents and educators!

  14. Title reminds me of…

    “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

  15. Wow, great episode, I wish the school system was that way over here. Another interesting alternative to homeschooling for parents that are too busy doing their own stuff might be a community-based kind of homeschooling whereby, let’s say, 15 children from a neighbourhood get together each day to learn the basics. Instead of the regular curriculum and and teacher, have the parents take the role of teacher in rotation. If all 15 kids have both a daddy and a mommy, thats 30 people to teach, and that will only require each parent to teach for about 1 day a month.

  16. Jack,

    We do the unschooling with both of my younger children. I was a bit sceptical at first but have been amazed at how much my 9 yr old has learned. He is interested in geology, wood carving, black smithing, nature, astrology, animal care and the list goes on and on. Yes you have to be ready to suport thier questions when asked, you cannot be a couch potato and hope the schools teach them. I also use it to have him teach me on subjects when we both have a question, I ask him to do the research and “teach” me what he learned.

    We use the I phone when out on the road to do research when a question is asked and that almost always leads to several more questions. My son has a journal to record his questions that we cannot answer in a timely manner and that keeps us hopping.

    He has created his own schedule for different days which includes art, science, reading, physical fitness, math and writing. I am amazed at how much faster he learns when he is wanting to learn about something vs being forced to study a subject when he is not in the mood for it.

    In closing we looked at what he was learning and being subjected to in public school, (he went through the 3rd grade), and realized that with very little effort he can learn twice as much in half the time on his own. My daughter is 3 and will not be subjected to public schools at all. I do have two older boys that went through public school and graduated but if I had it to do over again I would not subject them to it again.

  17. All I have to say is:

    Some of us still buy new vinyl records.

    Thanks for another great episode!

  18. +1 for Gatto…

    We homeschool our seven children and let me tell you ‘unschooling’ isn’t very popular in the homeschooling communities here because it doesn’t work and leads to lazy kids that can’t really do anything once they are done with school.

    You have to have some structure.

    But kudos on picking up on the whole ‘our educational system sucks’ bit :-)

  19. Jamey, see comment above about the difference between unschooling and radical unschooling. There IS structure to unschooling-homeschooling, it just isn’t classical structure. And it is *informed* by the child’s inborn passions. Several people have commented here today already about how unschooling philosophies are working for their families.

  20. Tanks for another awesome episode. It really made me question why we moved to the suburbs just to put our daughter into a “better” government run school.

  21. Hey Jack, thanks for the talk on education. Thought you might enjoy this creative animated talk on the current culture of the compulsory education system. And yes, you would really appreciate the work and perspective of John Taylor Gatto.

    http://youtu.be/zDZFcDGpL4U

    Thanks for the podcast!

  22. As someone who taught in the public school system for 13 yrs, let me say that IMHO, Jack you are spot on! DS is going to be educated at home, and I have finally decided upon a relaxed approach where he will have a little structure and be expected to learn the basics – when he is ready – but most of it will be projects and reading based on his interests and giftings.

    @Jamey: I really haven’t seen anybody who even calls themselves a “radical” unschooler who doesn’t provide some structure and guidance for their kids. But I can see how the radical approach won’t work for some kids. Some kids have the temperament and maturity to be able to be totally self-directed, while others need some more structure.

    The problem may be that some radical unschoolers are so blinded by their philosophy that they don’t realize their kids can’t handle a totally unstructured or unguided childhood.

    Kids have different needs and abilities, and parents must take the time to observe them and figure out how they can best help their children with their education.

  23. Todds comment above about A.S. Neill’s “Summerhill – A Radical Approach To Child Rearing” reminded me of the fact that Summerhill School is around 30 miles away from my house (I live in the UK so don’t even get me started on the so called “education” that I got from high school).

    Summerhill School was founded in 1921 by A.S. Neill and is still run on the same principles today. I love that it says on their website “founded in 1921 and still ahead of its time”

    http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/

  24. I can understand the writers concerns to a point. If we are constantly reinventing the wheel, it’s very unproductive. Learning how to learn then piggy backing off what other have learned is a very important way to increase knowledge.

  25. GREAT episode, Jack. I really enjoyed this one.

  26. Looks like I was featured … so I will try to explain myself and consider Jack good opinions. Jack somewhat broadened the subject by including how you can raise a kid and being ignorant on that topic I will stick to the subject of yesterday.

    1- My writing : Nope I am not a product of American public schools or a angry teacher who barely can write. I am not even American, I am from Africa and English is not my first language, hence the occasional slaughter of grammar and orthography.

    2- My experience: Studied in a variety of schools (private, public, catholic and boarding) and I currently own a private school myself, as here it is not like in the US. Neither do I have a degree in Teaching, I am mostly an engineering educated dude.
    From all of this saw that despite the overall structure of classical education and good teachers a lot of people failed to educate themselves, so how does getting the whole structure out will improve the outcome ?

    3- Kids are People: Of course kids are people, but kids are not adults and not taking that into account is not doing the kids a favor. Adults have a lot of life experience and are therefore best placed to direct the child learning. I am not denying the kids humanity, I am just pointing out to their limitations. Plus Kids are sheltered from most of the economic hardship and unless they poor parents who can barely get by, they won’t be aware of how critical it is to be successful.

    4- Exo-geology : Having studied geology in my Highschool I can surely tell you that Exo-geology is BS, since it is the study of the geology of planet we ain’t going touch in a thousand years, it would make sense of studying the geology of good old earth, but that is just me.

    5- BS studies and refuge: I have seen hundred of people flock to easy courses during my high school years, most of them trying to shelter themselves from hard work. Unschooling would make such sheltering even more easy if the kids have not to choose from a set of options, but can do has it please him. Something good can come out of this, but why leave it to luck ?

    6- You said that ”Your kids will do better than you” after talking about Twitter in the podcast, in essence implying that the what we dismiss as decline in the current generation is the big thing of tomorrow. If that were true you wouldn’t be making this podcast, because there would be no decline in the Republican spirit of the US (you will attribute it to the school system, but aren’t most of current educators ex-dope-smoking hippies who lived in freedom ?).
    Each generation can’t redefine the wheel and world, it is arrogance and dismissal of past experience. As St Tomas of Aquinas said ”Truth is son of time”, for life is limited and we gain more by learning from past experience, thus building upon them.
    Classical education is one of these methods, tested with millions of kids over hundreds of years, why to assume that letting your kids wander aimlessly will produce better ?

    7- Classical educations and discipline: You asked if skills needed to be sucesful could be acquired in school and the answer is yes.
    Classical education instill discipline, which is needed to study, goal setting needed to get the marks you want and the social skills needed to deal with others. Sure it varies greatly if you include the attitudes of parents, kids and teacher, but this is what I learnet from it.
    The same discipline is what needed to succeed in life too, prepping being in essence a act of discipline, same wise goal setting is also a skill needed in prepping. So classical education does teach important skills. So how does you preach discipline for prepping and dilettantism for learning ?

    8- Bored kids : ”As long as the kid have fun” isn’t the best standard to be used to educate kids, as it teaches them instant gratification and risk aversion. Some things require sacrifices in the present to enjoy a better future, just like the prepper avoid current consumption to prepare for future reward.
    Being a better person and getting what you want ain’t always fun, it is hard work and can be mentally and physically demanding, so do you expect to raise capable men if the base of their education was ”whatever makes you happy” ? Remember that what is best for your isn’t always what makes you happy, remember that we must prepare for failure, one of which is doing something boring as hell too.

    9- Public schools are indeed a problem : I do agree with you that public schools are indeed a great problem, having been able to see the contrast between by studying in very autonomous private schools. It is a grave problem has there is a great lack of customer choice mating with bureaucracy. However public schools =/= Classical education, these are 2 different things, destroying public schools shouldn’t require aboloshing classical education.

    10- Homeschooling : From watching Stossel I learned that the US have a problem with Public schools, but what puzzles me is that you you skip private schools and go all the way down to homeschooling.
    Might be the economics or maybe the regulation involved, but a moderately upper middle class person with 500 000$ ought to be able to open a private school ? Why not ? Also why people don’t consider private tutoring ?

    Great show Jack, I learned a lot of things from you, keep up the good work.

    • @sams,

      I think there is a place for more traditional schooling, because for some things that might be the best way to teach, and for kids to learn, however, that’s not what we’re doing. We’re housing kids in classrooms more often than not.
      However, it is not a school’s place to instill discipline in my children–that’s my job as a parent. I think that “unschooling” has been mixed up with non-parenting–THESE are also two different things, which I’ve seen the media try to turn into one.

      I think it would be fine for a child to attend a few years of traditional schooling, but not exclusively, and in fact I wouldn’t have a problem with more than a few years as long as they were also getting the other sorts of experience, but that is difficult due to time needed, and honestly, I wouldn’t want my child wasting years they don’t need to, because some median student might need to.

      As far as Public vs Private vs Homeschooling. Well, that’s a good point. I think that it is POSSIBLE that some private schools might be a better choice. There is also Montessori education, which is a bit like unschooling at school. It also incorporates less rigid age segregation.

      Lastly–private tutors. Well, I’ve actually considered this, and have approached teachers I know. They’ve all looked at me like I was crazy. I guess I need to find someone who is more open minded. I like this as an option for certain subjects–that is fundamentals, because I am not cut out for that sort of teaching at all.

      However, regarding “BS Studies”–well, this certainly isn’t the exclusive problem of unschooling. Certain Students or in certain circumstances in ALL forms of school will seek “BS” classes. Trust me–in Public high school in the USA, a student can choose very different levels of courses and both get the same diploma.

      • @KAM:

        As a parent you can subcontract the school to teach you kids discipline, has much as you can subcontract someone to teach them football. Of course as a parent you will responsible for the Lion share, but it does help the kid to attend a school with a set a standards He would have work hard to meet, planning, setting goals and sticking to them.

        Sure of course it doesn’t mean that you should have your kid wasting years on lengh in course, it is a balancing act depending on the kid maturity. It always sad how many time schools are like broad daylight nursery for youngsters and Disco/Date-hunting-ground for teens.

        @Modern Survival/Jack:

        ”Sorry dude but you need to do some more studying because your entire reply sounds as if you didn’t even hear today’s show before writing. All of your points to use your words are irrelevant.”

        I mostly tried to answer and expand on the post of yesterday, has today you broadened the subject by including parenting, I have no kids and don’t know how to raise them, so STHU on the matter ;)

        On the ”real school system bit”, I think Catholic missionary schools in Africa were the best in the last 50 years, but that is just me.

        Raising a child and educating a child are to different things, it is impossible for each teacher to the moma/papa of every single kid in the room and they shouldn’t be, the kid need to learn that not everyone is moma to him.

    • Modern Survival

      @sams,

      Sorry dude but you need to do some more studying because your entire reply sounds as if you didn’t even hear today’s show before writing. All of your points to use your words are irrelevant.

      The system I laid out required students to earn more freedom as they progress. You clearly do not even understand what unschooling is. Further if you want to see a real school system look into what it was like in the US in 1850, students taught other students as they progressed.

      The simple fact is this, today we send our children to school to learn stuff (meaning to memorize a bunch of shit long enough to pass a test and not much longer). This is a moronic approach and the results are VERY clear to see. What schools should do is TEACH STUDENTS TO LEARN. That my friend is how you get the unschooling concept to work. By 5th grade if a system can’t teach a student to manage say 20% of their own learning and if they can’t get to 50-60% by high school the teaching sucks.

      You are entitled to your opinion but as you say you have never been a parent and frankly I think that makes it impossible for you to really understand education of a child. Raising and educating children are the same thing.

    • @sams,

      I’m having trouble finding a reply that many layers deep, so I’m answering to the root post.

      I have to disagree about ‘subcontracting’ discipline.’ I think that is a failure of parenting if one has to have a school teach their children discipline. A child needs a certain level of discipline long before they go to school. I should note what I mean by discipline is basic polite behavior, and a means to deal with others respectfully.

      This isn’t to say that a school shouldn’t maintain a level of discipline either–as appropriate for the setting. When it is class-time, then classroom behavior should be maintained. That being said…12 years of classroom is too much.

  27. In the past two week I have paid with cash and coins. Jack is right 3 or 4 kids looked at me like “what? huh? oh i see.” The current educational system is is not working.

  28. @Sams

    Have you noticed how no one here is talking about African schools, of which most of us are surely ignorant? I am an American, making decisions about my American family and decided for or against American schools. I have to imagine that things here are in a different state than African (any nation save MAYBE, MAYBE South Africa), Chinese, Swedish, et cetera schools.

    I agree with Jack (obviously), educating and raising kids is EXACTLY the same thing. Parents are forever enlisting the outside assistance of others to help in that job….aunts, grandfathers, teachers, their own peers, church leaders and so forth. But the point is that it is all up to the parent. The government shouldn’t get to say “Just send them to us and we’ll take care of it.”

    As to the suggestion of hiring private tutors….man….you are definitely in a very different world than the one my family is living in. In some states here in the US, if you register as a homeschooler, you are considered by that state to be a private school. Furthermore, most homeschoolers participate in co-ops wherein there kids can get some more detailed or varied information than what their parents can offer.

    The main issue here is that NO ONE, ever, wants better for my kids than I do. Public education is there for anyone that wants it, and I am glad that it is or myself, a product of abject and ignorant poverty, would have never been educated in even the most base sense of the word. But people that choose to educate in a different way are, as a group, much more enlightened than people like you would like to give them credit for.

  29. Sams, the average income in middle class america is probable 60-100k and americans (lately) have many kids.

    Income is a huge reason that folks homeschool (probably not the only reason).

    Survival guy, if you would tell Sams that he doesn’t understand ‘unschooling’ i would say that you don’t understand a classical education based on your reply. It’s worth the research.

    I would send my large family to a classical private school in a heartbeat if I could afford it. But for now, we do homeschool.

    • Modern Survival

      @Jamey, I completely understand “classical education” I was educated in both public and private schools at different times in my childhood. Did you listen to the episode or are you just basing things on the text, by the way I am Jack the host of the show as it seems you may not have been aware of that.

      • This classical education movement, not ‘classical’ as a generic adjective for ‘traditional’.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_education_movement

        I hadn’t listened to the podcast when I posted, I just got through it.

        I think that the entire system of teaching basics up to 4-5th grade and then teaching them how to learn so they don’t need you and can investigate topics that interest you (did I summarize you correctly?) is actually a very good working definition of the classical style of education. I.e. you just “invented” a style of education that was popular in the middle ages and produced the greatest minds of western civilization.

        I don’t disagree with you, I certainly wouldn’t call what you describe ‘unschooling’ at all. That’s just normal homeschooling for 90% of us doing it.

      • Modern Survival

        @Jamey,

        1. I never said I invented anything.

        2. The problem is you disagree with me on what the definition of unschooling is. To me it is the processes of elimination of the need for school. Before you jump on that, that is what schools are supposed to do. By the time a kid leaves school they are supposed to no need to be there any longer. The sad fact is that isn’t what happens.

        You see unschooling is rails off learning, I see unschooling as a way to get a person to a point of rails off learning. You are describing what some call “radical unschooling” not what I and most people mean by the word.

        • 1. fair enough
          2. correct, i don’t agree with your definition. by that definition I am an unschooler. the word has a lot of baggage in the h.s. community and that is probably why they had to invent ‘radical’ unschooling.

          I do want to say that I really didn’t have any problems with anything you said in the podcast.

  30. Former school teacher here.

    Most of what Jack said in this podcast was correct. Even the part where he said you don’t need a college degree to teach children. You just need to know your subject matter and be good with kids.

    I have only two quibbles with Jack’s position.

    First, you can run into some terrible problems with Jack’s proposal when you have special needs kids. Teaching special needs kids takes some very advanced training. I admire the teachers who do it and yet I know I couldn’t do it myself. Ideally, special needs kids should be less than 5% of any student body. But the actual numbers are sadly not as small as that.

    Second, while “unschooling” can definitely go a long way toward helping kids make sense of their own abilities and interests, there is still a need to stick with the classical Three R’s. I’m not saying we need to do that at the exclusion of unschooling. I’m merely saying go ahead with part of your daily homeschooling as the traditional (and admittedly regimented) training in Three R’s, and then the rest of each school day can be the unschooling approach. Kids can’t just do regimented worksheets all day long, nor can they just be allowed to freewheel all the time. There needs to be a good balance between structure and freedom.

    And teaching kids to read with comic books is one of my favorite curriculum choices. Anyone here who wants to do that, check out Scott McLeod’s work in educational circles to bring comics into the classroom.

    • Modern Survival

      @Oil Lady,

      I think your two points are valid but I don’t think they apply to anything I said even a little bit.

      1. Special needs are special needs, they are handled as such. I bet though a lot of them branded as “special needs” would do well with some more freedom, some not so much. The current system is one size fits all, what I propose isn’t and by freeing up resources with kids doing more self directed learning those with actual special needs would get more not less help.

      2. I really don’t get this crap about the three Rs and I even updated my stance on it in today’s new to restate what I already stated about 50 times in this one. I outlined a system that taught the three Rs as a base and where freedom for self study was earned by meeting minimal standards.

      In my system you concerns are not really there to be concerned about. You certainly won’t “run into terrible problems” as you infer. Unschooling isn’t about letting kids play video games, eat popcorn, play on facebook and calling it learning. Unschoolers are required to LEARN to have a legitimate subject they are learning about and well, if they have to write about it, then they are learning to write, if they read about it they are learning to read and math will find its way into most subjects as well.

      I don’t care that a lot of people disagree with me on this, I really don’t we all have our opinions. What drives me nuts is how many seem to ignore what I actually said. My response to you is not personal it is more a general response to all such objections.

      How the hell can you claim kids won’t learn to read and write if they are reading and writing about anything?

      How can you be concerned that some kids won’t have the discipline to self study when they have to earn the freedom by learning fundamentals?

      How can you worry about “special needs” when the system itself would make more teacher time available for the students that need it?

      I just don’t get it it is like I am talking about apples and those objecting to it are saying poison ivy is bad for you. While poison ivy is bad for you it doesn’t have a thing to do with apples.

  31. Well, Jack if it’s true that I missed what you actually said in the original podcast, I guess you have paid me back here by talking completely past the true gist of initial response here in the “Comments” section.

    And comic books in the classroom STILL rock.

  32. How is “un-schooling” any different than experiential education?

  33. long time listener, first time commenter. the first time i heard about something like this was from a teacher friend of mine but what she told me about was this school in italy. here is the wiki page that explains how the school works.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach

    it was fascinating hearing how the school works and i believed that this was the future. im all for being well rounded but we have to realize that the one size fits all approach does not fit for all subjects. if a kid has a natural aptitude towards something like art, then guide them along the path and expose them to all other subjects that stem from it. like you could cover math, history, chemistry, wood working, metal working etc. it is largely up to the teacher to guide the students down the path and show how all of these subjects interact with their natural passions. i plan to try to use the philosophy when my kid gets home from school to temper the rigidity of the current system with this system at home. if a kid has a skill or a passion it should be our job to help that grow into something truly beautiful. keep up the good work and i hope the link offers some new info.

  34. Hey Ants,
    Everyone should watch this video… speaking of TED Talks…
    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html

    and then visit his website : http://www.khanacademy.org

    First off, It’s totally free. We started my children on Khan Academy earlier this summer so that they would not lose as much ground while on break. I set up accounts for both of them and had them work up to the point that they left off last school year. When we reached that point THEY were asking to continue doing the lessons. They love it! This is incredible. I have even started to use it to refresh myself on many of the subjects in which I struggled in school. Give it a shot. Oh, and did I mention that it is totally free and AWESOME!!!!

  35. Wow, I was wondering if you would ever discuss unschooling after all the articles and opinions on college. I first learned about unchooling on Brent Veinotte’s podcast titled School Sucks. This would be a great guest if you want to continue this topic.

    I can tell you my 12 yr old step son is lost in school. He gets good grades after he goes through spells of just not caring. The schools solution was to dope him up with ADD meds and that was terrible. He was so emotional. We pulled him off of that after his dad agreed. Finally, this year the teacher allowed him to just draw in class and he is doing better and getting good grades.

    Of course, all this is really not acceptable to me. So, I set him up a computer when he is here and turned him onto Ted Talks and Kahn Academy. He was amazed at what is out there to learn and is very frustrated with school. He is really into Dual Survivor now and likes Codie Lundin. I’m starting to explore that with him. We even tried to do a bow drill, that is tough and we were utter failures (WA not the state that makes that easy) :) Unfortunately, we don’t have him full time to really expand that, but I have seen a vast difference in him wanting to learn. I’ve also seen vast changes in his maturity. Oh yeah, I turned him on to your podcast (Dave Canterbury sold it).

    I disagree kids will be lazy with unschooling. Kids are only lazy when they are
    told no all the time and are forced to basically sit in front of the TV. I agree we need to treat them as people. You know that is hard sometimes because you break that authority training your parents did when they raised you.

    I’m watching my 13 month grow and it is amazing what she is learning. I think we are going to try unschooling with her. Sucks I have to pay 4K a year in property taxes to teach her myself.

    I know from my experience I was bored as hell in public school. Once I got a computer my learning was all there. At 15 I started working for parts in a computer repair shop just for experience. I ended up building web sites for local businesses in town before heading off to college. In college I ditched out on half my classes (even ditched a final once on accident :( ) Oh, I got a 3.9 through high school and a 3.8 in college. I guess if I applied myself harder I could have gotten a 4.0. Currently, most of job knowledge comes from experience, online trainings and searching google. I’m a database developer and actually love what I do (I don’t mind that commute every day – gives me time to listen to podcasts).

  36. Jack! Perfect timing with this show, I had a whole email rant about the school system related to this CNN jobs article http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/09/07/rushkoff.jobs.obsolete/index.html?hpt=hp_bn1 but I ended up deleting the schooling rant.

    Earlier this year “This American Life” had a podcast about kid politics and featured the Brooklyn Free School where there are no courses, no tests and no homework, and where the kids decide everything about how the school is run, including discipline.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/424/kid-politics
    http://brooklynfreeschool.org/

  37. I’m not making a value judgement at all, as I don’t know enough about the topic, but how is letting a child scribble and draw, watch Dual Survival and learn how to use a bow drill, going to make him or her competitive in the future? On its face, this unschooling stuff sounds a lot like the “every kid gets a trophy” routine that has permeated youth sports. Most kids don’t actually LIKE school. This idea that a 5, 6 or 7 year old should be “in charge” of their learning process seems a little misguided to me. I would no sooner put them in charge of their learning process as I would their medical decision making or let them buy the food for the house for the week. By and large, they don’t have the life experience to consistently make good decisions.

    All that said, I will agree that the traditional public school system is broken. I, admittedly, don’t know enough about this to know if unschooling is part of the solution.

    • Marauder, while I don’t like that this is what he does in school, graphics artists can make great money. Not to mention great artists make bank, like a bronze sculpture a friend at work was showing me today. The point of unschooling is to encourage interests, by providing him materials to explore those interests. This is where the parent’s work comes in because other things need to be related in. For instance, if he wants to draw he would need to learn color patterns, lighting effects, vectoring and a lot more that I have no experience with. He can start a freelance business and get a portfolio. A portfolio would get him through the door to other businesses. He would also have to learn marketing and possibly some web SEO and programming to promote his work.

      Using his other interests we can research and learn about nature and plants. The point you are making could easily be turned around on public school. How does learning history of primitive civilizations help him get a job? So, if we are going to teach that in public schools, let’s make it fun so he remembers something. Plus, people like Jack is doing okay with learning this stuff. He is a great example because he made his own market for it.

      Unschooling is far from every kid getting a trophy, it is basically there are no trophies. The school system is the one handing out stupid stars and stickers for everything, it’s a joke now. I like your line “Most kids don’t like school.” I also like that you say the public school system is broken. This is the problem with this country we never ask why or are willing to step outside the box to solve a problem. It is always how can we tweak one little thing and it all works?

      I can say they hate school because it is Forced just like taxes. No one wants to pay them because they are forcefully taken. Even the people that say we need taxes to take care of things, try to dodge them all the time. Just ask someone that says we need more taxes if they took deductions this year, Warren Buffet is a great example of that. When things are forced upon us we lose the control the organization doing the force has the control. Then you get people banding together (clicks, political parties, lobbyists) to make things better for themselves while pushing down others. Unschooling is about returning control and making learning fun. The current school system will never work because it is based on force with taxes and with attendance.

      The medical condition is a little left field to this topic but as to the medical condition, I imagine you do let them make their own decisions. If your child says my tummy hurts do you ignore it because they can’t make a diagnosis? They know their bodies more than we do. Can they drive themselves to the doctor, probably not, so just like with unschooling you provide the means? Do they understand medication, if you explain it to them they do, just like with unschooling. In fact, you can teach them about medicines and illnesses right there. Have them research their symptoms. If they have an interest, expand on it. It’s what I do when have something new happening to me. It’s how I started teaching myself about herbs and diets.

      Now, don’t get me wrong. If a kid wants to go to a classroom and learn at a public school, then by all means let that happen. I bet those classrooms would encourage a lot more learning then.

    • Modern Survival

      @maruder, it just sounds to me like you didn’t listen to a single thing I said like most objecting here, you are not objecting to unschooling you are objecting to not learning anything at all. Also the survival industry is a viable industry, as I an attest to.

      The point is when kids are learning about anything they are learning reading, writing and communications and those are the most valuable things we can all learn. I also said and I just do not Fing get how the hell any of you missed this, “kids would have to earn more freedom over time by meeting certain minimal standards on fundamental knowledge”.

      What you are saying is kids don’t know how to educate themselves and I am saying of course they don’t because we are not teaching them to do that.

      I really feel like I said tomatoes are red in this episode and you folks keep saying tomatoes are not blue.

  38. Regarding The Bill of Rights. My 4th grade teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Von Kolnitz, taught us that in 1991; however, it should be noted that she in the process of applying to law sschool at the time. In addition, she bought her students replicas of the U.S. Constitution, which I proudly hung on my bedroom after reading (and attempting to question my dad about) it. She brought so much knowledge and lessons of self-worth to the inner city students (Los Angeles) whom she taught; she bought non-curriculum books on her own dime for us to enjoy, encouraged us to get involved in school activities (school productions, science fairs, etc) and comforted those of who had rough home environments. Ms. Von Kolnitz had a knack for broadening student curiosity like no other teacher I’d ever had.

    • Hrmm, it looks like law school didn’t pan out. Quoted from http://www.renacademy.vbschools.com/:

      “Elizabeth Temple was named a dean of students for high school at the new Renaissance Academy. She began her career in education as a fourth-grade teacher in south central Los Angeles as a charter corps member of Teach for America. She moved to middle school teaching in integrated English/history classrooms in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, and San Ramon, California. Temple joined VBCSP in 2001 as a special education teacher at Great Neck Middle specializing in children with learning disabilities/emotional disturbance. She was then named a special education coordinator in the Office of Programs for Exceptional Children. Temple is a product of Virginia Beach schools, having graduated from Cox High School. Her mother, Mary von Kolnitz is a retired English teacher from Lynnhaven Middle. Temple received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in foreign affairs. Her master’s degree in special education was awarded from Old Dominion University.”

  39. Hey Jack,
    I am in the process of listening to episode 739 regarding education. I find your conclusion interesting as well as your idea to solve the issue’s in our education system and here’s why. I am currently attending college after 15 years out of high school so I am going back to college as an adult; I am experienced enough to see many things that I would likely have missed as a younger man. I am currently attending a Junior College (Sierra College, Rocklin) in California as the 4 year university system in my state is unjustifiably expensive; thank you Grey Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger!
    Because I have re-entered college after such a long break in education, I joined a program that was started and operated by several of my professors called the “First Year Experience.” Though it is open to all students, it is primarily geared towards working adults, military vets, and returning students who are trying to get back into the academic swing. From this organization and due in small part to my age (31) I have found myself forming close bonds with a great many professors in my school. From them have I learned some very disturbing facts which I have sense been able to substantiate through the Student Government. I understand that up to this point, much of the problems you see regard teachers and the politicians who write the ordinances for the DoE. However, I find that, thus far (as I have not finished yet) the one element that is missing from your segment may be the most significant contributor to the decay and in some area’s, failure of the American Education System. This entity is less the teacher and shockingly, even less the politicians. The problems I have seen and have been forced to endure myself are coming from the Education Administration itself. The teachers, though some certainly could use a kick in the ass themselves, are really just the academic laborers with Administration being the typical middle management. The issue is that the next level, the boss of Administration are these lazy, do nothing politicians who just let their admin’s take the reigns to do as they please. Administration is no more concerned with our education then the man in the moon! Sierra College is a multi-campus school, two campus’s are main education centers, two other are very small and hardly used for direct education; however, this school has seven (7) vice presidents! They have a long history of promoting ineffectual teachers to administration, giving them nearly complete control over what happens with funds. Now, these administrators, who number nearly double what the whole system actually needs to keep itself functioning are starting out with pay around 65k-80k per year and yet they can be seen in their offices doing next to nothing! All the while, the teachers are getting paid less and less, losing benefits, being told what they can teach and who they can teach and these teachers are put in a position where they are too afraid to stand up and say anything for fear of losing their job or potentially making the whole situation worse for their peers and students.
    California has a law that mandates all higher education institution to have “as many” full time teachers as they have “Part time” teachers. Sierra College however, has never committed to this, choosing to break the law in order to shave spending on full time benefits and pay so that more “Good ol’ boy’s” can be hired on as admins. Yet, many of the part time teachers do work full time hours, but Sierra, and other schools, will hire them for multiple part time positions in order to keep them working full time with only part time pay, rights, and benefits. Meanwhile, the school is constantly cutting classes which are mandatory for transfer to University in order to keep students who are on financial aid in the JC system up to two years longer.
    For reasons unknown to me, there appears to be no form of check’s and balances with education administrators, thus, they remain able to live the better life by destroying the rights and potential futures of others. The Student Government has been manipulated into impotency save for the ability to gather students if they so chose. Why they have not appears to be due to some un-proven history that the school has had in which Student Senators who have attempted to force a change in administration have had severe problems with their education there after; lost transcripts, de-registration from classes, failure to disburse financial aid, and forced removal from student government.
    I don’t know, maybe this is just the simple consequences of allowing bureaucrats to hold any power of governance, especially self governance.

    Michael

  40. Mrs. Kay Crislip

    There is a big difference in letting a child direct his own learning and encouraging them to love learning. We have home schooled five children, and we can, I think, say that we have raised five children who love learning.

    All five have gone on to pursue careers that reflect their particular interests. However, they all learned about basic math, science and reading/English skills.

    When they were little, we spent a lot of time outdoors. When they were curious about a bug or rock, we would go home and look it up in the encyclopedia or go and check out a book and read about it. This led them to follow this process as they grew older, and our kids are still teaching us about new subjects they are learning about as adults.

    We have home schooled all five of our kids. None of them has attended public or private schools. However, we have had help with areas such as: biology and chemistry; algebra and calculus; Spanish, French, and Sign Language. We would highly recommend One Day Academy as a college preparatory resource.

    I would definitely say it is not a matter of what you don’t teach, but much more what you do teach – and that is a love of learning from a very young age. I believe most parents start out that way, but we grow weary of the questions and the sacrifice of time and energy. It is so worth the effort, though. Our oldest works for a gaming company and is learning about countless other areas and teaching his “old parents” things all the time. He does it with great enthusiasm, I might add! Our second son is in his fourth year of medical school at UT in Houston to be a trauma surgeon. Our third son is getting his master’s in geology/ archaeology and just got back from a “dig” in Russia. Our fourth son is pursuing a television/media major and iscpnsidering a minor in chemistry. Our fifth is a daughter who is wanting to get a degree in animal behaviorism.

    As you can see, they have each pursued their own interests, but they required both structure, freedom to learn, and guidance. The answer to schooling is never simple or “one answer for all”. It can be, however, rewarding for all when done with patience, commitment, and prayer. Kay Crislip

    such as biology and chemistry; algebra 2 and calculus; Spanish, French and Sign Language. We would highly recommend One Day Academy as an excellent resource for college prep.

  41. Lots of comments. I have been a principal or teacher for about 18 years and I am done with the modern factory school system, public or private. I hated school when I was a kid I am not going to inflict the same failed approach on anymore children. Modern education was designed to create a passive, compliant workforce. The system is especially designed to keep children from learning, to destroy any love of knowledge. There is nothing good about taking a bunch of five year olds and processing them through a system at the exact same pace with the exact same curriculum (at least till high school, but by then the damage is done) There is nothing good about taking boys and making them sit still, in rows, for thirteen years, ask permission to talk, go to the bathroom, step outside. Nothing good unless your a 19th century robber baron worried about the people revolting over having to work in their mills and live in their slums. Teach them to mind the bells and mind that woman at the front of the room. If your good, some day you can work in the mill just like your dad.

    Unschooling is a great idea, though all kids are different. Some kids only need to be left alone with great books, tools, materials and they’ll master everything they need to know. Some kids are geared another way, may need more direction to say the least.

    The one room school house was the next best thing. The multi-age environment prevented the teacher from spoon feeding the kids. They largely were on their own. They learned from the other kids. Nothing was holding them back. Nothing was pushing them along except their own interest and possibly a little shame if they were far behind.

    I am starting a one room school house next fall. Multi-age, very flexible curriculum, a masculine curriculum with me as the head teacher. I hope to be on a farm type setting in a couple years so the students can be working on projects, building stuff, growing stuff, playing music and learning all along the way. My neighbor has an old Triumph that some boys might enjoy restoring. You could learn a lot restoring an old car: how to learn, perseverance, real self-esteem and confidence. I could go on, but I better stop. Read Gatto, get your kids out of the age graded schools, unplug your children from TV and Video Games. Buy them tools instead of toys. They need to work at their fun.

  42. I’ll not defend school too hard here because I believe much as you do.

    However I will say that I had an enlightened high school. We had a gifted program where basically my teacher (who I still keep in contact with on Facebook) was free to show movies, teach religion, talk about controversial topics like euthenasia, etc. We were allowed to come up with our own topics for and got the freedom to either present them as a paper, in front of the class or otherwise. We never took a test and the grade was given upon observation. If we were working and not goofing off and if we participated in round tables we got good grades.

    It was a great class and really there were no huge limits on who could be there. But most kids chose not to take it because it was the “nerd” class. Guess they should have called it something different.

    Jason

  43. @Jack

    1. My comments weren’t directed to you, they were directed to the person who posted about drawing, Dual Survival and bow drills.

    2. I haven’t even listened to the episode yet.

    3. I was quite clear that I don’t know enough about “un-schooling” to have an strong opinion for or against.

    4. Never doubted your success in the “survival” niche. However, we’re a long way away from that being a viable industry in this country. To suggest otherwise isn’t really worth of a serious reply. Somewhere in this country there are successful circus clowns, manure salesmen and madames in Vegas too. So what? Correlation doesn’t imply causation…

    Lastly, you often remark that the best piece of advice your father ever gave you was how to take advice from other people. I paraphrase, “don’t ever take advice in a particular area from people that are less successful than you, in that area.”

    Applied in this instance, how do you think really successful people educate their kids? You are proud of your business interactions with Trump University. You think Donald let his kids sit around the kitchen table doodling on a sketch pad, followed with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum and then called that “learning?” Doubt it…Donald had the money to educate his children in any manner he wanted. Yet, he sent them to extremely rigorous, yet traditional primary and secondary schools. Then, he sent them to UPenn and Georgetown–two schools that are as buttoned up and traditional as you can get. You think the halls of the really elite universities in this country are filled with kids whose parents aren’t successful? Also doubt it.

    We live in a country that has to import engineers, doctors, programmers, scientists and other technical specialists from all over Asia and the Indian sub continent. You really think that the solution is “un-schooling?”

    Public education is clearly broken for most kids. No argument there. However, the solution is less about exobiology, self directed drawing and Dual Survival, than it is about stopping the dumbing down of standards and teaching to tests that are misguided metrics for success.

    • Modern Survival

      @Maurader you don’t think the survival industry is a viable industry. Well that makes your response not worthy of a response. It is a multi billion dollar industry. It seem unschooing is not the only thing you are not totally familiar with.

    • @Mauder -
      Why can homeschoolers/unschoolers not be engineers or doctors? I did not learn computer engineering in grade school. I learned computers as a teenager messing around with my own PC. Then I took that interest and worked for parts at local shops in highschool. Then I started learning C and HTML and JavaScript my Jr year of high school at home. The software engineer that sits next to me at work was home schooled. His wife that is a nurse was also home schooled.

      The unschooling point is being missed I believe. You take the interest of the kid and use it to teach other things. Remember a bow drill is nothing more than physics. Art can be used to teach history and computers. I do know the public school isn’t reaching him, so should I just that’s your best option so stick it out? If my daughter is reading, counting and doing math at age 4 do I just chuck her into 1st grade and say sorry just live with being bored? Maybe they can give her some drugs for it?

      To the Donald Trump comment, Thomas Edison was home schooled. Now your turn. See we can pick and choose people but you can’t make that apply to society. What we do know is that our system is broken and gets worse no matter who’s running it. It just takes more money and the students we crank out are worse off each year yet technology is making things more efficient all the time.

      We know that this system came from the Hessian state (Germany) because they wanted a drone working class of people and a management class to manage those workers to run their society. They wanted a people that would not question their wars or leaders. A hundred years later you can see why the German people let the Nazi party do what they did. It was brought to this country because we needed factory workers who could sit still and accept authority.

      Is the importation of engineers, doctors and programmers about schooling or more about costs? I know at my previous job we were insourced because they didn’t want to pay benefits and wanted to cut them at any time. Then we were outsourced because the bean counters thought that made better sense. Very few of the insourced or outsourced engineers could do what we could do. You also have college costs. Would you spend 100-200K to go to college to be a doctor? Would you be an engineer if the media constantly told you that you were being outsourced?

      Also, if we are having to import these jobs, that in itself kind of makes a statement that this system just isn’t working anymore and we need a revolution in education not a tweaking. Therefore, unschooling, homeschooling, mentoring, etc… is part of that revolution. The literacy rate was higher in this country before we implemented pubic school, so to me the argument that if you removed it would create useless people roaming around, is invalid. Plus, there are plenty of those roaming around now. Then your argument is we would just have more? This argument in all areas of life grows tiresome to me.

      I will agree though Jack is kind of rough with his responses :)

  44. @Jack

    Define the “survival” industry specifically. And link a credible source documenting “industry” wide revenues.

    FY 2010 US GDP was $14.66TLN USD. A 2 or 3 or even 10 billion dollar industry is the loose change in the couch cushions. I’m happy it pays your bills. I’m not quite ready to encourage the next generation that it is a viable outlet for their professional endeavors–which was clearly my point. You have a habit of taking anecdotal evidence and applying it as fact. Your individual success in the survival industry–which was your initial reply when the issue was raised–does not prove much of anything. Other than you are and have been a successful business person, regardless of industry. That is the real point. That is the point the limos.com guy made at the end of the show. He wouldn’t go on the record as saying the hypothetical kid should skip college. Why? because he knows statistically, that is a losing suggestion. Most other highly successful people do too. The thing that you don’t tell people often enough, is that you would be successful selling ice in Alaska or tanning booths in Rio. You are a business builder and a once in a generation talent at SELLING a product–in this case a lifestyle. You are closer to Martha Stewart than you are to some guy teaching people to pitch a tarp and boil their water.

    I have a lot of respect for you, despite our many disagreements on this particular venue. But I have to say that more often than not, you come across pretty abrasive with anyone who disagrees with you on the blog.

    • Modern Survival

      @mauraduer – I think I will take my own advice here that you previously mentioned. You don’t think a 10 billion dollar industry is a drop in the bucket, seriously?

      Do you know how many people are employed by industries that are small compared to the GDP? We are also talking about a growth industry, the reality is TSP isn’t 1/10th of 1% of the survival/preparedness industry.

      You have chosen your view and the reason I am “rough” in my responses is you are…

      1. Talking nonsense in that something as large as the industry we are discussing doesn’t offer opportunity.

      2. Your objections have no connection to what we have been discussing here.

      I respect you personally but you view of a multi billion dollar industry is just ridiculous. The problem is that people such as yourself are still caught in 1980s thinking, THERE IS NO INDUSTRY, NO NICHE, NO SUBJECT that exists or will be created that a person can’t build an income with today, not a single one.

      Besides as I said, no one here is for letting kids screw off and not learn fundamentals. Oh and you were the first one to use the term, “not worth of a serious reply”, LOL, I just responded in kind. I stand by that response. We can disagree all we want but your belief that there isn’t opportunity in any subject or niche today, must less an established one is simply wrong, it is proven wrong every day but countless people.

  45. Modern Survival

    @all I am not done responding to objections that don’t reflect the actual subject we discussed here and on the podcast. I am tired of responding to people telling me “but the sky is blue not purple”, when I never said the sky was purple.

  46. My daughter, just starting high school, is hating reading more all the time. English and Tale of 2 Cities. I think much of her dislike is the way it is taught. Here are questions to answer, read and answer at home, then we’ll have a quiz (which has nothing to do with the questions he copied from the internet for the worksheet). Teacher doesn’t discuss the book in class, or even check to see if answers to homework are correct. I believe if they discussed what went on in the book and applied it today’s issue she’d find it much more interested. It is a dreaded chore taught this way. (Close to 200 homework questions for the book, 2 pages of words to define (2-3 columns per page, single spaced, reason, because these words from the book are often on ACT and SAT tests). Again, not relating required learning tasks to real life tasks.

    I found a “tomato” worm that was eating up the leaves on my pepper plants. I brought it in to show. (Daughter was supposedly working of homework) She looks at the worm, goes back to her room, 10 minutes later she is back with an unasked for verbal report on the worm. Most likely a tobacco worm. How it’d be ideal if a certain wasp laid eggs on it, etc. She was curious, wanted to learn more, quickly found it, had fun learning, excitedly shared with all. Reading on a computer isn’t reading she says, it is learning stuff. Which also got me thinking, I grew up with books as a major source of knowledge, for kids the internet is their library, and often texting and facebook their study group. If she was looking up the same information in her science book, it’d have taken much longer and possibly still no answer.

    Why the term unschooling in the first place? would have been better labeled self-directed learning. As we don’t have the option of switching out teachers, I need to talk to this one. Some are very good, some aren’t.

  47. Jack,
    Your thoughts on education are extremely important to the survival movement. When those of us who are parents think of survival (as you define it) it has to include educating our children and education is so much more than a bunch of subject matter, but character, work ethic, confidence and initiative. The public school system especially does just the opposite. The modern factory school system is designed to produce followers, weak people, dependent people. Not people who take matters into their own hands, who don’t count on the system to survive. Private schools and even home schoolers often copy so much of the modern approach that they ham string their students too. I could go on, but I hope you keep beating this drum.
    SteveW

  48. BEST CLASS I EVER HAD. I never did well in high school when it came to algebra, C’s and D’s, it was just too boring, no relevance to life. Then I enrolled in a community college Agricultural program where they had an Ag computations class. There was no textbook, just a set of modules that was created by the teacher himself. It was set up to reflect real life problems in farming and forestry and how to solve them using mathematics. I never realized it at the time but I was using algebra in determining the time and resources required to get a field planted or how many board feet of lumber were in a stand of trees. That class helped me more than any I have ever taken as it caused me to “think” and “problem solve”. I passed that class with an A. That set of modules is probably the most valuable thing I ever bought in a college bookstore, and the cheapest. That teacher, in my opinion was probably the most underpaid in the college. Thanks for the show.

  49. @Jack

    At the risk of turning this dead horse into dust…

    1. You continue to miss my point re: the survival “industry.” I didn’t say that the industry does not provide opportunity. What I did say was that the industry–and you still have yet to define that for me, and there is a reason I ask–is not at the stage where I would recommend an 8 year old focus their energy as it relates to education. I’m not sure why that is hard to accept. We are at a unique point in this nation’s history that has allowed the “survival industry” to experience unprecedented growth. The logical question is two fold. For mainstream America, is this a fad or the real beginning of an industry poised for a multi generational expansion. Secondly, how much of the “industry” is simply co-opted from other industries? In other words, are you counting backpacks? hiking boots? ammo? guns? water filters? in your calculus for “multi billion dollar industry.” That answer matters.

    Second major point. As evidenced by the replies following our exchanges. This board has MAJOR issues differentiating between correlation and causality. Little Johnnie teaching himself C+ in his bedroom at night is not enough info to create public policy. Uncle Jack creating TSP is not evidence that an 8 year old watching Dual Survival has a future in the “survival industry.” The sooner we get past that mentality, the quicker real discussions can take place about real policy.

    I could have easily replied that I went to very rigorous, yet traditional schools. Went to what many would contend is an “elite” university. Subsequently, I followed my “passion” into cooking school and a very successful career in the restaurant industry. Subsequently sold a self created, grown and nurtured restaurant group for well into the 7 figures. Now, I sit in a graduate school program in what many people would also consider an “elite” university. All at the ripe old age of 36. But in the context of 325mil people, my story doesn’t mean bupkus to anyone but me and my family. My point is, it doesn’t prove anything.

    Thomas Edison? please. A once in a 1,000 year talent. And I’ll counter your Edison with Einstein–traditionally educated. The fact of the matter is, for every Bill Gates drop-out, there are 1,000 Warren Buffets–traditionally educated including Ivy League business school for those that may not know.

    I’m willing to learn about un-schooling. My only suggestion is that we temper the excitement about busting up the “entire” system–which does work quite well for large numbers of kids–just out of a desire to be revolutionary. A “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” approach.

    On an individual level, I think parents have every right to educate their kids however they like. Call me selfish or aloof, but I could care less how you educate your child. If it works, society will benefit. It it doesn’t, that is one less kid my kids need to compete against. I simply caution people from using anecdotal evidence from guiding their decision process. We wouldn’t do it when buying a handgun or deciding when to plant our squash. Why we would do it when determining how to educate our children?

    • Modern Survival

      @maruder, in this case,

      “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s just you and me and we just disagree”.

      Seriously though I can’t respond because once again your objections do not even come close to the reality of what is being discussed. Your view on this IS NOT what we discussed here, it isn’t even close.

    • Since you bring up Einstein:
      “It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry…. I believe that one could even deprive a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness if one could force it with a whip to eat continuously whether it were hungry or not…” – Albert Einstein

      The reason you have a thousand Buffets for each Gates is because our culture is so overwhelmingly caught up in the mantra about formal education.

      One your second major point: yes, two anecdotes doesn’t make a case, but it does give one cause to consider the point made. But how about this: how many adults, especially those of us who came of age before computers were common in schools, how many have learned to use a computer fluently without any formal instruction. I haven’t seen any data, but I ask the question a lot, and it has to be a substantial majority of adults did not become proficient in computers through a formal class. They learned it unschool style. (I know that’s not sufficient data for a scientific conclusion). Yet so many of these same folks have come to me and asked for me to create a computer instruction program for their children (I am a school principal). I tell them to leave the computer alone with the kids and they figure it all out without any stress or effort. If we tried to teach computer usage the same way we teach math, we would have to have remedial computer classes. I have never offered such a computer program, and I have never had a student who struggled with using a computer.

      You talk about folks who want to be “busting up the “entire” system–which does work quite well for large numbers of kids–just out of a desire to be revolutionary.” The system doesn’t work well, unless you want a passive workforce and citizenry. Modern factory schooling is something that has been around for a little more than a 100 years. What we think is a traditional education is actually an experiment and it has failed. Badly. I have a collection of antique text books and it is breathtaking what those students could accomplish. Most college grads would be hard pressed to read and comprehend a sixth grade McGuffy reader, and it is not just a matter of complex sentence structure and rich vocabulary; it is a matter of complex ideas. If you doubt my observation, buy some antique text books off e-bay (1880s and earlier, the decline sets in before the 20th century) or check out this excellent article on Lew Rockwell’s site, the comments on education are about 1/2 way down.

      http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north289.html

      What was going on before the government took over schools? Home schooling of course, lots of one-room school houses, some students were largely autodidacts and their were some formal schools, but a key feature is that they advanced according to mastery, not age. There were no report cards until the early 1900s. Your teacher let you go forward in your studies when you were ready, not according to a timetable set by a bureaucrat a thousand miles away. This is a key issue in restoring education. Age-grouping kids also creates serious social issues. I am not necessarily an advocate of any particular form of education, though I am absolutely against age-graded classrooms for any students.

      My main thing is that every child was created differently. Different abilities, different aptitudes and attitudes. Some kids just need to be left alone with some good books, tools and materials and they’ll go get it. Some kids aren’t going to accomplish anything without a whip at the back. Most kids are somewhere in between those two types. Education should adapt to the child, much more so than the child should adapt to the education.

  50. @Jack

    It’s all that’s been discussed in this thread…Every example I used, was pulled from this blog post–other than my own story.

    • Modern Survival

      @marauder, nope there is no “post” these are notes not an article. You are like a person trying to discuss Romeo and Juliet with people that read the entire play while you only scanned the cliff notes on one of those little yellow books.

  51. Hey Jack,

    Have you heard of this film: http://www.racetonowhere.com

    “Race to Nowhere points to the silent epidemic in our schools: cheating has become commonplace, students have become disengaged, stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant, and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired.”

    • As adults, we don’t call it cheating. We call it cooperation or good research. Your boss will not punish you if you had to look up the answers instead of pull them from memory. I don’t remember 99% of what I studied in school or college, but I can look it up when I need it. I’m considered a good repair tech. Not because I remember everything, but because I can troubleshoot and find the answers I need.

  52. Awesome show, Jack!

  53. I am ADHA and the major issues I had in school was being a square peg driven into a round hole. I could not focus on BS stuff I knew I would never use, and not being allowed to focus on the things that would help me. If kids were allowed to focus on a handful of interesting topics instead of forcing them to be an information jack of all trades, we would have kids that are subject matter experts with useful knowledge and skills. You should introduce kids to all subjects but allow them to pick which ones they are interested in and likely to succeed in.

  54. I understand that I am late to the party. I am catching up on some episodes I have missed. This one in particular hit home.

    My high school experience went a little like this:
    Most of my classes required minimal effort. I completed the bare minimum to pass, which usually only required study before major tests and completing major projects last minute. I completed all but one class of my graduating requirements by the end of my junior year, so my senior year was spent attending only the one English course and skipping the others. It was a wasted year.

    My son, who is now twelve, began having difficulties with traditional school from the start. From Kindergarten through third grade, the parent teacher meetings included the teacher telling me that there is no concern with my son’s academics, but he just wouldn’t conform to the class rules (i.e., sitting in his seat quietly). His third grade teacher made a number of concessions for him. When he was distracting the children around him because he talked while doing his work, she moved his desk next to hers. When he was feeling bored with the subject matter, she would allow him to sit in the corner and read because he could pick up on the materials so quickly there was no need for him to follow along during class time. While these strategies worked well in third grade, they back-fired when he entered fourth grade where the teacher was unwilling to make any such concessions.

    Of course the first parent teacher conference in fourth grade went like all the others: no academic issues, but your son doesn’t sit quietly in class and follow the strict rules. I mentioned to the teacher the minor changes made to my sons learning structure in the previous year and her response was, “I don’t treat any of the children differently. They all have the same rules.” In addition, she told me that the book that my son had chosen to read for a report, Call of the Wild, was too difficult for him, and he should choose another, yet easier book. Her opinion on his abilities was completely incorrect as he was tested the following year for gifted and talented and was reading at an eleventh grade level. After that particular conversation with this teacher, I struggled with the principal and eventually had him moved to a multi-grade classroom.

    In fifth grade, we changed school districts and the same items were discussed at the first parent teacher conference: smart kid, no academic issues, won’t sit still and participate as directed. Over the preceding summer, my son had received a diagnosis of ADHD which opened the doors for him to have certain accommodations in the classroom. In addition, my husband who worked in the school district put a bug in the ear of the gifted and talented teacher, and my son was tested for the program. So there we were with a brilliant child accepted to both the gifted and talented program and special ed. It took most of the school year to get to this point, and all the agreed upon accommodations where taking an extremely long time to implement. At the final meeting I had with the administrators of the special ed program, I indicated my frustration that my child was not working up to his potential, but was stagnating in mediocrity. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was not the schools responsibility to see my child excel, but to make sure he was in line with the other students. We attempted to have him skip a grade and move to seventh in the following year rather than sixth; when that didn’t pan out, I moved him to a small private school nearby.

    I was lucky to have such a wonderful school close by and with such reasonable tuition. Poland Spring Academy’s motto is, “Individualized Learning at its best”. My son has flourished in this environment. The teachers work very hard to structure the child’s curriculum to the individual interests and abilities. Beginning this school year, my son is earning high school credits as a twelve-year-old freshman. He enjoys going to school everyday, yet at the public schools I would get repeated phone calls that my son had a stomach ache. I have not had any concerns for the past year and a half that my son is bored in school and loosing out on the opportunity to learn well. While the Academy does not call their style of learning “unschooling”, it does follow the underlying principle of allowing students to guide their own learning through their own interests.

    Thank you Jack for this episode.

  55. Pingback: Podcast for Thought « Focused Ramblings