What I've Been Reading Lately: Schooling Edition
Peter Gray, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Gray’s son went to Sudbury Valley School, where education was kind of a free-for-all in which self-organizing patterns emerged. I’m struck by two things. The first is the fact that enthusiasm for schooling as it is usually done is probably a function of status quo bias. As we’ve homeschooled/unschooled/whatever-schooled our kids, we’ve been struck with just how much they flourish within the loose confines of the framework we’ve developed. There’s a daily reading lesson and we spend a lot of time together, but we don’t have the regimentation that students would get in a more traditional environment. We’re experimenting with different combinations of carrots and sticks in order to encourage pro-social and discourage anti-social behavior, but I’m very optimistic about the future of treating kids as “small people who don’t know very much” rather than “pets who can talk,” to borrow terms from David Friedman. We already spend a lot of time reading, we can probably spend more, and I’m considering the possibility of offering small amounts of money for book reviews.
Second, my sense from reading the chapter on Sudbury Valley School–at least, what I’ve read so far–is that it very closely resembles what most of us think of as the ideal for the University, at least on the faculty side: a self-governed community of scholars where we basically make our own decisions about what to do, what to study, which questions to ask, and so on.
I’m just over 100 pages into a 276-page book, and I hope to finish it this afternoon (see “make our own decisions about what to do” in the paragraph above). A question for readers: how can we better incorporate some of the best practices of homeschooling, unschooling, etc. into the college classroom? If there are any Sudbury Valley grads among EconLog readers, I’d be especially interested in hearing from you.