Irreparably broken … but hard to leave

Published by Lori Pickert on August 8, 2011 at 12:53 PM

I’ve had a number of parents tell me that as much as they truly believe the educational landscape is changing, it’s hard for them to sanction their own kids being a part of that change. “To some degree I lack the courage of my convictions … I’m developing very strong convictions that the existing system is fundamentally and probably irreparably broken, but I would not yet take my kids out of their school,” Albert Wenger at Union Square Ventures said. “It’s one thing to experiment by investing money in start-ups or reading books, and it’s another to experiment with your own children. — Anya Kamenetz, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, via Will Richardson

Is it any wonder they can’t “take charge of their own education” when that self-directed love of learning on their own was driven out of them by second grade, when no one has ever allowed them to or taught them how do that? — Will Richardson

I know that when I talk about my aspirations for my own kids, and I start going down the road that the traditional college degree is only one of many options for them, that they may be able to cobble together a more meaningful education (depending on what they want to do) through travel and apprenticeships and self-directed experiences and not end up in mountains of debt, most respond with all sorts of reasons why not going to college is a risk, “especially in this job market.” — Will Richardson

8 comments

Comment by Lynn on August 8, 2011 at 02:54 PM

"...they may be able to cobble together a more meaningful education (depending on what they want to do) through travel and apprenticeships and self-directed experiences and not end up in mountains of debt..." Yes, yes, YES! This is what I would love for my boys (I with my fancy higher education and my college professor mother!).

(It's so nice to have you back, Lori.)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 8, 2011 at 03:43 PM

thank you, lynn. :)

once you experience how focused and productive self-directed learning can be, it's hard to align that with paying someone else huge sums of money to arrange your learning for you. especially if you've already gone to college yourself and feel the education was not stellar.

even bill gates, who is so famously focused on fixing education in our country, said that in five years you could get a better education online than in a university. (paraphrase!)

Comment by Kimberly on August 8, 2011 at 04:31 PM

I read your blog regularly... thank you for leading me on all sorts of thought provoking expeditions! Today's post is near and dear to my heart, is a topic I consider on a daily basis, and so, another thank you.

“It’s one thing to experiment by investing money in start-ups or reading books, and it’s another to experiment with your own children.”

I have been "experimenting" for the past 15 years and want to encourage you that the landscape is tremendous. My four children, who range from 11 to 21, are passionate about learning, excited about shaping an idea, and actively pressing into their unique abundance.

But I know what it means to face an unknown, completely understand this parent's heartfelt conflict:

“To some degree I lack the courage of my convictions … "

Ultimately it was my examination of the known landscape that gave me the courage to plunge into unknown alternative.

For the past 15 years, I have promoted alternatives and reform in education. Because I believe wholeheartedly in the potential for genius in every child, and am concerned that status quo options aren't equipped to protect and promote this potential, I wrote a book, Habits of Being: Artifacts From the Classroom Guild http://www.blackbirdandcompany.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=21&products_id=222
to share snapshots from the lesser known landscape.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 8, 2011 at 05:27 PM

thank you for sharing, kimberly.

Comment by Anne T. on August 11, 2011 at 01:37 PM

I don't understand all this fear surrounding not going down the current public school path. To me, it's exponentially more scary to end up with a child that hates books, hates school, has lost the internal motivation to learn, than end up with a child who can learn anything he puts his energies toward, but may not have a standard transcript to hand to a college, or a college degree to show to a corporate employer.
Relying on a degree to be a guarantee to a good job in the future economy is looking more and more like wishful thinking.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 11, 2011 at 01:51 PM

for a lot of people, going against the group is incredibly scary. they have no idea what's out there. they don't want to leave the safety of conformity.

then, i think there is a lot of fear about exchanging a known quantity for "whatever's behind curtain 3". they are uncomfortable doing something new that is going to challenge their beliefs about education and learning .. and maybe even more of their beliefs. it's like tipping over that first domino -- who knows that will happen next?!

finally, it's just easier to abdicate your responsibility. if the school system is responsible, then you can tell yourself that they know what they're doing (they ought to) and at least everyone is in the same boat (except of course we're not -- some of us got out at the last port).

agree with you completely about a degree not being a guarantee of anything. but many people seem to fail to realize that a degree is only part of the puzzle anyway -- what if their kids lack all those intangibles that you touch on? what if they don't know what they want to do and don't know how to do it? i would, as you say, much rather have a child who was a ninja at learning and communicating .. i would trust that child to figure out what he needed to do to meet his goals.

Comment by Anne T. on August 11, 2011 at 02:40 PM

My MIL is currently finding it perplexing why her argument that "he'll be so different from everyone else!!!" is not swaying me to abandon our plans to homeschool. It just doesn't bother me to be the weird one. :)

My husband's niece graduated high school this spring. She's had a 4.3 GPA, but won't touch a book unless it's for class. She's going to a well-known school and already has a whole plan how she's going to be making all this money based on her course of study. Anyway, at her graduation party somebody asked me about my college education. I told them I hadn't finished. They asked if I regretted it. I said not really. What I was studying was not something I ultimately ended up doing, and if I had finished I'd be paying off student loans forever for something I'm not using. Not the most popular answer. There was a lot of attempts to get me to qualify my answer to make college sound more necesseray. Now, I may go back when my children are older, but I will have a better idea of what I really want out of my higher education than I did when I was 19.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2011 at 02:29 PM

> It just doesn't bother me to be the weird one. :)

me either. :)

i know so many people who returned to school for other degrees once they figured out what they *really* wanted to do. the system is obviously not organized in an optimal fashion if you really learn on the job *after* you get your degree and you really figure out what you want to do in your 20s *after* you get your degree.

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