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Richard Florida on “The Long Road to Recovery”

Great article by Richard Florida in the new “Cities” edition of The Atlantic magazine: The Long Road to Recovery – go read it now.

Not mincing words, Florida warns that this recovery could easily take a generation – up to 25 years, in other words – to kick in.

Scary prospects.

But what really caught my eye, battle-scarred as I am from, literally (as a homeschooling parent), routing around industrial-age education, was this paragraph:

…crises inspire substantial upgrades in our education or human capital system. The economic crisis of the 1870s and 1880s coincided with the rise of mass public education. The Great Depression and its aftermath saw a vast expansion of primary and secondary schooling, while the GI Bill made higher education more accessible than it had ever been in the post-World War II years. Talent is our most precious economic resource and we can’t afford to squander it. It will require substantial investment—bigger than those of two previous crises combined—and new approaches to retool our educational system. But it must be done. We need schools that foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship across the population, not just develop rote skills. (link)

I’m an academic, a researcher. And I’m a former sculptor / artist (not to mention, therefore, a slut for beauty, which I believe trumps everything).

I’m also not a stranger to making trouble.

And yet I’m loathe to describe myself as an educator – and maybe that’s a problem, because maybe I need to make people listen to my experiences with k-12 education (and beyond). Maybe I should put myself out there as an educator, because I’ve sure as heck spent a lot of time educating other people, …not to mention educating myself.

Self-education is the key thing. (Key thing, as in keystone.) Self-education of our children is not going to happen with a bureaucracy that’s intent on “teaching” it, though. Nor is it going to happen with a system that’s modeled on industrial-age methodologies.

When we were homeschooling, from 2000 to 2008 (the year that my youngest child decided, at age 14, to “do” grade 12 at Oak Bay High School, from which she graduated at 15 to enter UBC on a National Entrance Scholarship: she’s currently, age 17, finishing an 8-month co-op teaching ESL in Weifang, China, after already accruing many hours of volunteering as a math tutor in Vancouver’s Downtown Lower East Side middle schools), we sometimes heard other (usually fearful) people ask the “What about socialization?” question. …As if being homeschooled meant that you were being kept under a bell jar, in a cage, in a lab, in sterile circumstances.

Say what?

That way of thinking about the alleged value of socialization in schools is just so screwed-up I don’t know where to begin to dismantle it.

Let’s just start with this: are you an adult? Yes? Well, then: how would you feel if you were told that henceforth, for the next twelve to thirteen years, you would only be allowed to “socialize” with people your exact same age for five to seven hours each day?

How would you feel if you could, seriously, only interact with your “peers,” if peers meant (more or less exact) age-mates?

But that’s the ridiculous – not to mention toxic – situation we’ve set up with our industrial-age model of education. That model says, “Oh, you’re five? That means you interact with other 5-year-olds.” Insert whatever age, and off you go to the races. To the deep end. The Kool-Aid. The toxic dunk.

This model is deeply fucked. There’s no other way to put it. It’s insulting to the child/learner. It’s insulting to the people who are supposed to teach them. It’s insulting to society, which could be so much more.

Seriously. You’re twelve. So you get to screw around with other 12-year-olds for …oh, six hours each and every frickin’ day.

How’s that working for you, you poor kid?

This is where you get the toxic soup. Today I saw a tweet by a friend, Raul Pacheco-Vega (hummingbird604), who was moved to tears by the news that 14-year-0ld Jamey Rodermeyer, who made one of the ‘It Gets Better’ videos, committed suicide due to bullying at school.

And to think that “normal” parents ask innovators like us homeschoolers about “socialization”… Seriously?

Self-education. It has to start somewhere. It’s not going to start in the kind of toxic legacy peer culture we’ve created out of industrial-style education.

I could go on (but fear the wrath of hipsters everywhere whose laconic “drtl” would cut me to the quick), but just consider how much easier it is to sway a population that’s not used to self-education or critical thinking, a captive audience that’s totally immersed in so-called “peer culture,” toward idiotic pseudo-science and general political quackery.

Current educational practice, modeled on industrial-age/ Taylorist methodology, is like the lottery: win some (rarely), lose some (often). Not the most reliable way to get any economy up and running these days.

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