Adventures in Unschooling

A perspective on motivations for learning in schooling.

Posted on: October 29, 2009

In my opinion Unschooling is the only way that learning occurs for the sole reason of personal growth and satisfaction.

To illustrate this I have created a short list of motivations for “learning” in schooled environments.

1. Fear: I was afraid of being grounded. When I would fail a test my dad would “ground” me from the telephone (which I used seldomly anyways) so that I could focus on my studies. The only way to obtain my freedoms again was to score to his satisfaction on the next exam or two.

2. Duty/Fear: Fear of ending up with a crappy future. Schools tell you the only road to success is through education and good grades. I remember turning down art, a subject I would have loved, so that I could take another more academic class. All of this was done to “keep my options open” so that I could be anything I wanted to be. If only I had known that I can be whatever I want to be without Math 30!

3. Pride. I used to study very hard in high school because I liked getting recognition. The teacher would mention what the highest score was and there was nothing like getting the highest score in the class. And I would always resent my friend when she would beat me by a few percent. I also remember the glare I received from this girl I didn’t like because I beat her as the smartest girl in my Grade 10 class. Then I strove to score better than her just to piss her off.

4. Recognition/low self-esteem: When I was in a position where I was new and didn’t have any friends I would find myself trying extra hard at school so that I could obtain validation from my teachers.

5. Desire to please: Desire to be a “good” child and do what is right and do it well.

Please feel free to add any if you’d like.

But it seems to me that grades and rewards are the reasons that kids learn in school.

They don’t learn out of a desire for personal growth or for enjoyment. And worst of all they begin to view learning as, ugh, work!

Unschooled kids get the benefit of learning for the joy of it. They learn to read so that they can navigate through the world instead of learning to read to obtain stickers of checkmarks. They learn to add because it helps them to become more independent instead of yearning to add so that they don’t look stupid in front of their class.

It seems a better way to learn in a natural way. Learning about the earth by touching it and learning about life by living it.

This is the quote that spawn this post:  “Grades are the carrot and stick that shape obedient employees” – Denis Rancourt

Why did we let our education make us numb to the way that school or work sucks the life out of us?

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1 Response to "A perspective on motivations for learning in schooling."

I believe that real learning must be part of liberation. Real learning starts when we first discover authentic rebellion within ourselves – the “authentic rebellion” described by Paulo Freire. We act to change our circumstances and thereby initiate a praxis, a cycle of growth, discovery, and liberation… Traditional schools have the advantage of offering an overt system of repression with which the student must contend. This offers an occasion for the student to experience institutional oppression and to develop her political dimension, an essential dimension of the complete human being.

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