Americans have been undergoing a systematic process of educational brainwashing. We have all been led to believe that we must give up our intellectual life to assembly line education. Formal education has become an industry that supports textbook companies, test writers, psychiatrists, nutritionists, other aspects of the food industry, the legal profession, the police, the courts, all employees of the courts, municipalities through the fines collected by the courts, the training professions and many other things.
I am reminded of the military industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about so many years ago. I now say to you beware of the education industrial complex that impacts every aspect of our children’s existence. Schools now outsource what used to be counseling, teaching and discipline to the police and the courts. Whole industries, bodies of law and regulations are being built on the backs of our children. Americans, indeed, have been convinced that on the education industrial complex can educate their children.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The time has come to take back control of your own or your child’s educational development. Americans have bought into the propaganda that would have us all believe that learning is hard. And, Americans have been trained to believe that the only people who can teach kids are certified teachers; members of the education industrial complex. On the contrary, learning is natural, easy, and cannot be avoided.
We are well and truly brainwashed. Eric Weiner tells a story in his brilliant book “The Geography of Bliss”. The story concerns and experiment in which a dog was placed in a cage. First, One side of the cage was set up to deliver an electric shock. The dog would then go to the other side of the cage where it found safety. Then the dog was put in a cage where he would be shocked by both ends of the cage. Weiner tells us that the dog was returned to the cage where he could not escape the shock but there was a low fence which provided escape to a completely safe cage. The poor dog did nothing. While there was safety on the other side of the cage the dog could not comprehend it. Americans, the most independent creative people on the planet, have accepted their educational fate and that of their children.
The safe ground of independent learning is over that low fence. But we have been so brainwashed that Americans have come to think that there is no hope so they stay in losing situtations and appallingly bad schools.
The time has come for a new “manifesto of education against the education industrial complex.” And so we begin stating the Manifesto.
Formal instruction is not the best way to learn. Children in school are held to the pace mandated by the school district whether they are ahead, behind, or right on track. The fact is that we learn best when we are developmentally ready to learn. The child who learns to do long division at eight and the the child who learns long division at twelve are equally skilled at the age of fifteen. But the one who learns at twelve is often labeled learning disabled or slow. That label sticks with the kid. The kid even believes it. The label then defines the child instead of the actions of the child providing the defining characteristics of the child.
Age means nothing when it comes to learning. Never believe that there is a single right age to begin learning any particular subject or skill. Nothing matters less than if a skill is learned at ten or fifteen. The end result is the same. But there are children who need to start later at something than they could if they were in school. Nothing is wrong with them. But, the education industrial complex will tell them something is wrong with them. They will receive the latest label so the school can get a bit more money for that category.
School often destroys the most creative and effective people; both teachers and students.
We are in the era of the standardized, high pressure test. Even the most brilliant teachers are told exactly how to teach, when to teach, and how to teach. There is no room for creative teaching techniques because of the pervasive belief that you can force feed all children the same educational diet at the same time. Children are excruciatingly bored because the work is invariably simplistic, unreasonable, and is being done for an exterior motivator only; the good of the school through the test scores.
There is no limit to what can be learned independently. Teachers do not actually teach anything. The best ones use the natural novelty of a subject to motivate someone to learn. They can also tutor motivated students. But they cannot actually cause learning. The worst ones destroy all motivation to learn. Bad teaching may cause a child to become so damaged that the child may come to believe that learning is impossible.
Independent learning’s best friend is a good library Libraries contain everything needed to facilitate any kind of learning. One can locate texts, original sources, serious books on a subject, popular books on a subject, magazines, dvds, videos and computer resources of all sorts.
Follow the question All learning evolves from a question. Each question leads to many other questions. Following the question leads to the entire world. Develop new questions as you answer other questions. The process works like the internet. Questioning leads out into a web of learning the will only stop when you want to stop.
Concentrate on the story Subject matter like history is best learned by focusing on the story. Dates are wonderful. But we remember facts in a context that has meaning. A few years ago I saw the movie “The Patriot”. I can almost recite the story. I can also see the scenes, feel the emotions portrayed and quote some of the lines. Facts out of context are almost never retained. Facts in context presented in an entertaining way contained in a web of connections are almost always retained.
Concentrate on the practical use Recently I met a young man who had failed algebra miserably. He could not make any sense of the use of equations. They had no practical purpose in his mind. We started with something very simple. I had him set up a simple equation to determine how much a fence repair job would cost. He had to determine how many boards would be used, how many nails would be used, and calculated the cost of the job by setting up an equation. At the end of the session he understood they why and how of equations. He had a practical use for Algebra.
Teachers can’t actually teach anything, they can only coach Just forget the idea that anything is taught. You are the only one who can learn. Every individual now has the power to select the way he or she best learns. After thirty-six years I know that I never taught anyone anything. I did coach and tutor. But at best I was an information provider. When the era of high stakes testing came into being I knew the joy and fun of learning was over. The next step in my growth was the realization that no matter how many notes I gave, how brilliant my lectures were (and were they ever brilliant), or how elegant my lesson plans were I really didn’t teach anyone anything. I realized that my best function was that of a coach, guide and tutor.
The world is now the classroom In the not too distant past there were few options to learn a new skill. Now the options are almost limitless. The internet brings the entire universe of knowledge into each and every home. Certainly, you won’t learn to perform brain surgery from the internet. You learn that from a coach. Formal settings still exist for information best learned with a learning coach. Libraries are now available free of charge in every community. And they are no longer your dad’s library. They provide films, cds, programs, computers, classes and a wealth of other resources. New and used bookstores, eBay and stores such as Amazon provide access to anything ever published. And digital projects like Project Gutenberg provide rare resources that are difficult to acquire anywhere else. Then there are natural areas like parks, refuges, historical displays and many other things. Yes, the whole world is now the classroom.
The learning singularity is here now. A singularity occurs when many different pathways converge on one point. The pathways to learning any discipline or skill represent a spider’s web. The center of the web is that which you want to learn. The strands represent the myriad paths one can use to reach the singularity which is where and what you learn. Now, I think I will travel this strand right here.
John McGeough is a professional teacher, change agent, and child advocate since 1973. John has had the career of a renaissance man. He has been a professional trumpet player, a professional conductor, a successful music instructor, a biology teacher, a successful middle school music and science teacher. He is now a youth pastor serving children of all types from his ministry. He is committed to making the world a better place for children from all backgrounds. John believes that the era of mass education is dead. It just hasn’t laid down yet. John believes in the concept of the independent American responsible for himself, making decisions for himself without the help of pervasive government interference.