Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finding Balance

Often times revolutionary movements are reactionary (I don't have any data to back that up, but let's just go with it). The People become frustrated with the status quo and when they are sick and tired and had it up to Here, someone stands up and says NO MORE! We know this isn't right, we know there is another way, we know that we can all move closer to this working for more of us. We are now dreaming very loudly in public of a different way; a different world.

Some times we go overboard and dive headlong into the other extreme and that doesn't serve anyone either.

Then we sit back - or are deep in the trenches - whichever you prefer, and watch the pendulum sway back and forth until it comes to the middle.

Some times... if we're lucky.

I am in the middle of some pendulum action right now, myself. I wouldn't even try to deny that I began (might still be) in a reactionary mode to the ills and evils harmful practices of the current model of education. (By "current model" I mean the mainstream way.) It began as a movement against "The System" for me. I find now, however, that while i recognise the shortcomings of the school system, it won't serve anyone if we go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and create a new system that is completely focused on the child/learner. Children have rights, that goes without saying. Learners have rights - this does not go without saying. We really need to put the 2 and 2 together on that one.

What I hope to move toward is the ever-elusive Happy Medium (not mediocrity!) where learners have a voice; have time at the helm of their destiny while they become familiar with driving the ship WITH adults who lovingly guide and help the learners navigate through the tricky spots knowing when to hold on, when to help and when to let go. Like John Gatto, I do not believe that teachers need to be an accredited group. We need deeply passionate individuals who want to be there, who have something to share, and who know about the folding and the holding and the walking away and all that. [Edited to add: Like this fabulous teacher who's blog I read this morning and thought "AHA! Like teachers that!")

We need places of learning - spaces - where learning is directed by children and adults. Because, in my humble (maybe not as humble as it needs to be) opinion, there are so many things children would miss if we didn't gently nudge them into the places we believe would be good for them.

I have spoken to adult unschoolers and free school grads alike and asked them what, if anything, they wished was different. The most common answer I got was that they wished someone had sometimes insisted that they follow through with one thing or another.

You see, even though I believe in the inherent value of democratic education, I also believe there is a place for some benevolent dictatorship. But I believe that the balance is difficult to articulate -even in my own mind. I am, quite frankly, uncomfortable saying out loud that I think some "bossing" needs to happen. (By "bossing" I mean "pushing/encouragement to carry on" or "try this thing that I really think you'd benefit from".) Because I don't trust adults to use that wisely (myself included).

For now, my best version of a happy medium - even as the pendulum swoops dangerously close to my head and my ideals - is to mix the methods by incorporating a structural framework upon which to build curiosity driven, free-spirited learning. Sound paradoxical?

Yes please!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cian!
    It's nice to meet you here on the same boat! I CONSTANTLY struggle with the guidance vs micromanagement issue in being with learners. It's both aggrevating and invigorating.
    I'm a social justice activist, and wistfully think about how many minds would change if community service were mandatory in schools. But maybe few minds would change because many would be bitter about being forced into the whole thing. I'd love to have the opportunity to experiment with that!

    How do you maintain the structural framework with free spirited learning balance? How does that look in your home?