Thursday, April 13, 2017

Schools are like flip phones

"My mother taught me to read before I went to school, so I was pretty bored in school, and I turned into a little terror." ~Steve Jobs

Whenever I advocate for alternatives to school and the disentangling of schooling from education, I hear the same array of comments: "Well, not everyone can be unschoolers." "Not everyone can afford a progressive private school." "There aren't enough schooling alternatives available in my area to make it work for more families." 

And my personal favorite: "We should just be working on making conventional schools better rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

The inference in all of these statements is that because alternatives to school may not currently be widely accessible to all families we should not bother pursuing new pathways in education. 

It's interesting that we welcome innovation in some spheres but not in others. What if Steve Jobs was told that he shouldn't invent and market the iPhone because it wouldn't be accessible to everyone? Just keep your head down, Steve, and plug away at making those flip phones better. 

Innovation and creative enterprise often lead to ideas and items that may initially be niche but that ultimately become widely accessible and culturally transformative. As Steve Jobs said: "The over-all point is that new technology will not necessarily replace old technology, but it will date it. Eventually, it will replace it. But it's like people who had black-and-white TVs when color came out. They eventually decided whether or not the new technology was worth the investment."

Schools are like flip phones, but the iPhone is here. Conventional schooling is stuck in an antiquated, 19th century education framework that values conformity over creativity. Alternatives to school, including unschooling and various types of child-directed, progressive education, show what learning can and should be. The more we encourage their growth and influence, and remove the current barriers to education innovation, the more accessible they will become to everyone. 

As Steve Jobs concluded: "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this article. I think that it gives a compelling argument for the future of innovation in alternative schooling. Do you have any articles on community development through alternative schooling? Although my children are still a few years away from school age, I know that the elementary we are zoned for is the lowest performing in the district (also, it has 100% free/reduced lunch rate). What alternative schooling model do you think would best serve my children and my community together?

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