In Defense of Self-Directed Learning

I was listening the School Sucks Podcast this morning and something bothered me. He was interviewing a young man who had dropped out of high school to learn on his own. The conversation was interesting, but I was dismayed when they started talking about “Self-Directed Learning”. You can listen to the podcast yourself for their take on it, but here are my answers.

Is self-directed learning for everyone? I believe it is. There is no one that doesn’t see what they want and make attempts to get it. I believe that public schools as they are ruin this for us. They teach us from a young age that what we want to know is irrelevant and that there is a set of information that we must memorize to “graduate” to the next level and that that is what education is. If left to our own devices, we all acquire the knowledge and skills we need to get what we want. And that is easier to do now than it ever has been in the history of the world. We can be exposed to the whole world through our computers and televisions, practically free. And any information or learning can be had, practically free for the taking. Add to that the loving guidance of a mentor or parent and you have a recipe for greatness across the country. And by guidance, I mean someone watching over you to offer up physical help and share ideas with. I mean someone who really cares about the person you actually are instead of the person someone wants you to be, and offers suggestions and ideas from their perspective and experience.

Will there be some people who grow up and live their whole lives not learning what someone else has decided are the basics? Will there be people that live beneath your level of expectations? Yes, there will be, there already are, and there always will be. As it is, we are creating more of this, not less. Each individual has an innate drive to live their lives the way they see fit. A drive for independence is something you are born with, just ask any parent of a two year old. Our current authoritarian style drives it out of most people. If we leave them alone to develop that, they will become the person they were born to be, not the person society needs or thinks is best. I believe this is the epitome of efficiency.

Is there an academic core that everyone in society needs? I don’t believe so. And even if there was, who decides what it will be? I believe everyone can discover and achieve the academic skills they find they need in today’s world. It does not need to be the same for everyone. To me, a common core of social skills and morality is far more important and the only way we get that is by interacting with the world around us. It cannot be taught but it is learned, learned by experience. We cannot learn it by being segregated by age in a sterile classroom for eight hours a day. We need to be out there at the post office, the grocery store, the amusement park, the museum, the art gallery, the real world.

What about so called “learning skills”? Reading, planning, etc. You can academically sort them into piles and label them, but you cannot teach them to people who do not want them or see the need for them. But we all (if left alone about it) come to our own understanding about them that helps us get to our own decided goals.

I have watched my sons grow this way. I know that it works. And it can work for anyone in the world we live in now. If each person would learn to know themselves, focus on giving themselves their own education, and love and care for the people around them instead of controlling them, this world would be a better place. Our society would create more wealth and have more to give those around us. Stop trying to control the world and just live in it.

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