Saturday, July 24, 2004

Freedom to learn vs. control

"It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiousity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty." -- Albert Einstein
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As an unschooler, I firmly believe that children will learn what they need to know, when they need to know it, and will find the best way to do it. They do not need us pushing them. Why do some parents push them? Is it the fear that if the child is not pushed [not given an external motivator] that the child will never learn? End up on the dole? Won't achieve his potential? This assumes the adult knows better than the child what the child's potential is and what his aptitudes are -- that the parent can help him to accomplish it better than he would if left alone. Isn't part of childhood about discovering for yourself what you're good at, what you enjoy, what you want to do with your life? Why would anyone want to rob their child of that? Is it the misguided notion that they are easing their child's journey -- its their journey, let them have it. Homeschoolers are often criticized for protecting their children from negative socialization in school -- well, parents who push their kids are trying to protect their children from the inevitable bumps and uncertainty of the child's journey to self-awareness and fulfillment.

Are they afraid they won't learn unless pushed -- is it a fear that the child is not motivated? If the child is not motivated, perhaps the parent is trying to push the wrong subject. Let the child find his way -- he'll do a better job of it.

Is the parent simply arrogant in assuming that they know better how to make the child learn? Let the child live his own life and do something with yours. Remember when you were young and whether you liked living under the pressure of your parents' and teachers' expectations.

Have faith in your child.

As John Holt said in How Children Fail, Revised Edition:
Many parents and teachers have a belief about children in general that is both profoundly disrespectful and untrue. "It is that they never do anything and never will do anything "worthwhile" unless some adult makes them do it.... The only triumphs of [the child] that [the mother] savors are those for which she can give herself most of the credit. Children sense this attitude. They resent it. By what right do we assume that there is nothing good in children except what we put there? This view is condescending and presumptuous. More important, it is untrue, and blinds us to the fact that in our clumsy and ignorant efforts to mold the character of children we probably destroy at least as many good qualities as we develop, do at least as much harm as good. No -- we do far more harm than good." pp.267-68

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