Q&A re future of education (2)

QUESTIONER: David, how do the children learn basic skills like phonics, writing, reading, grammar, counting, etc with the Eduspire Paradigm? My understanding is they learn from natural environments, which is so wonderful, but these other skills need to be practised through drill in order to learn, at least in the beginning. Until we become a telepathic society again, these skills will still be needed here, so how do they learn them?

DAVID: Could it be that the very idea of “drill” was drilled into us courtesy of our own schooling? Practice by drill was a requirement of the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age has come and gone. The Information Age has come and gone. We are now in the Innovation Age. And yet we still cling to Industrial Age principles. We are running Education 1.0 software in a Society 3.0 operating system.

I observe that a baby learns to walk and talk – the two most complex learning processes that any human being undergoes – without formal instruction. Babies don’t attend walking and talking classes led by walking and talking experts – in which they practise walking and talking by drill. Of course, the child receives role modelling and encouragement from his/her parent(s), but the desire to master these complex skills comes from within the child. There is an innate curiosity, an intrinsic motivation to replicate the behaviour of grown ups. What if we were to allow learning to continue unfolding in an equally natural manner throughout childhood? I recommend checking out the work of psychology professor Peter Gray. In his wonderful book “Free to Learn”, he talks about how children in indigenous tribes learn and how everything we do in school is diametrically opposed to what comes naturally to human beings. There is no formal teaching in these indigenous communities. Children learn “the basics” through observation and play.

I would also encourage you to read about the experiences of students at Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. (Peter Gray’s own children attended). This is an excellent example of a natural learning environment in which students (aged 4-19) mix freely and initiate all of their own learning. The school opened in 1968 and has inspired the creation of a further 60 Sudbury schools around the world. In its 48-year history, SVS has not encountered a single child with dyslexia. How is that possible? Because they don’t “teach” kids to read. The kids teach themselves – in their own way, at their own pace, WHEN THEY ARE READY and sufficiently interested. This is the biggest issue with conventional school: it forces children to do things they would otherwise CHOOSE to do if given the freedom to do so.

When children are in an environment that affords them authentic freedom to pursue their own interests and passions, they pick up the basics naturally. Consider, for instance, a child given the freedom to follow her passion for cooking. Weighing and measuring ingredients. Reading recipe books. Researching food of different cultures. Planning a trip to the supermarket. Comparing prices and brands. Creating and recording new recipes. Planning the menu for a party with a group of friends. Organising and running a cake stall at the community fete. She will naturally pick up all manner of skills – not because she has been ‘told’ to, but because she either perceives the need to, or because a desire is born out of her own curiosity/interest.

All of this comes down to TRUST. Most adults have a hard time trusting their kids because they don’t trust themselves. We were taught, as children, that we could not be trusted. And so we pass this distrust on to our own children. I am here to break this self-perpetuating cycle of distrust by reminding humanity that children CAN be trusted. How do I know this? Because I trust MYSELF – unconditionally. I know who I am. Human beings are not fundamentally inert. Every child is born innately curious. Every child possesses a natural drive to learn and to master life on this physical plane. This innate curiosity and creativity is crushed by the tyranny of adult theories. These learning theories are based on institutional wisdom, not nature. As writer and filmmaker, Carol Black, writes in her recent blog post (A Thousand Rivers), “Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behaviour in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behaviour at Sea World”.

As for phonics, governments around the world have invested billions in brainwashing schools into believing that this is THE way to “teach” reading. This is the source of the entirely fictitious condition dyslexia. Dyslexia is a visual learning preference. Simple as that. Kids with dyslexia have profound imaginations. They are born with a stronger connection to the right hemisphere of the brain (the visual, creative, image-inative part). They are evolved beings. Phonics is an auditory teaching approach. For visual learners, this approach goes – quite literally – in one ear and out the other. And then we hand them a learning disorder label. As a confidence and self-esteem coach for kids, I spend most of my time un-doing all the harm caused by the “phonics” scam and assuring these kids that they gifted, not disordered.

I could say much more, but, ultimately, it comes down to trust. Our willingness to trust children to be responsible for their own learning is always determined by the extent to which we trust ourselves. Many thanks for your question and interest.

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