Monday, May 14, 2012

School closure? A golden opportunity.




What children need is not new and better curriculm but access to more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them." John Holt



Three high schools are closing their doors in my city of Hamilton and no, it's not so that kids can unschool.

We are told that there are not enough students to fill these schools. So what do they want to do? Build a super school down town that students from area catchments will attend. The school will cost a pretty sum of 32 million dollars.

Humm. While I agree that these under-populated schools should be closed down, I think it is wrong that kids will have to travel outside of their neighbourhoods to attend school.

Here's what I propose.

The new school? Unschool.

We are living in the age of information. Everything we want to know is available to us at the tap of a finger on a tracking pad. It's magical, isn't it?

All we need to do is search google for the information. Do a bit of digging about. Find links. Get resources.

Then why, why are we still using an antiquated approach to education that in all honesty,  is rooted in the Industrial Revolution era philosophy of 150 years ago?

Frankly, our times demand a new approach to education. Think modern, modern, modern.

Forget the school building. Hell, forget school.What we need for the 21st century is an 'open source' approach to learning.

We have heard of the concept 'open source' in internet circles; anything can be learned over the internet. There is a new openness to educational resources; for example MIT (Open CourseWare) is now offering up to 1800 on line course materials for free - their motto being "unlocking knowledge, empowering minds."

'Open source learning' as coined by author, John Taylor Gatto is based on extending this idea to all learning, to everyone. The underlying premises of open source learning is that learning is available everywhere in life and not restricted to 'places of learning'-namely schools.

Resources are every where to be found in the day to day world; people, art galleries and science centres, businesses, professional schools, museums, community centres, libraries, the internet, and so on.

Why not try opening small learning cafes and learning centres right in the neighbourhoods? Library style.

Give the kids the tools they need- the computers, the paper, the printing press, the gardening tools, the art studio, the sewing machine, the video cameras, the kitchens. Give them the teachers, the instructors the mentors (seniors would be great for this).

Give them access to institutions of higher learning and the professors therein.

Give them the community!

Everyone has some facility-something they can excel in. We need to enable ability and talent by giving youth the opportunity to be active participants, captains of their own education.

3 comments:

Denise said...

I wish! That would be so amazing... instead they will spend untold millions building a school, busing kids back and forth (so they can now be away from family for an extra couple of hours that they sit on a bus)... it's ridiculous. And very sad. If only a fraction of that money was put towards learning the way you are proposing, it would produce children much richer in their learning and life experiences. I shudder to think of the life experiences they will gather in the back of a bus unsupervised.

rfs said...

@Denise-we really need to start hustling for real alternatives in places to learn at. Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. Could work but people want to see their kids in school buildings-not relaxing in a cafe.

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