More School or Less School?

The 1950s model of scripted industrial schooling producing "Organization Kids" seems obsolete. But the Amy Chua "Tiger Mom" model is the exact same thing with dubious Asian work-ethic justifications attached. In this inaugural issue of the Breaking Smart newsletter, I argue we can do better. Make sure you allow images to be displayed. This newsletter will have visuals.

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1950s Organization Kids versus 2015 Tiger Kids. Illustration by Grace Witherell.

1/ Software eating education is often (justifiably) reduced to the litmus-test question of whether or not to drop out of college.

2/ On the one hand, there is more to learn and people live longer, so there is a case for more education.

3/ On the other hand, the world is more uncertain and self-learning has become easier, cheaper and broader in scope.

4/ While there will always be learners who prefer and choose classroom instruction, one size no longer need fit all.

5/ Enforcing it for all turns formal education into a signaling arms race, with learning taking a backseat to credential scarcity.

6/ J. J. Arnett proposed a new lifestage (20s), emerging adulthood, like adolescence ~100 years ago. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.html

7/ With adolescence, high school emerged as an aspirational, universal schooling stage beyond primary and secondary.

8/ But a new life stage need not mean a new educational stage. Arguably high school is needless detention of capable self-learners.

9/ Proposition: the total time-fraction of learning (not "formal education") remains roughly constant at about 30% of lifespan.

10/ But this 30% need not be crammed into the first third of life, or cast in the form of classroom instruction.

11/ The distribution and nature of schooling across a lifespan can change. My preferred model is formal schooling till age 14.

12/ Another 10-20 years of self-directed learning across the next 75 years, in small doses adapted to circumstance, need, age.

13/ The parallel debate between Montessori type learn-by-doing versus classroom instruction is also reductive.

14/ Both modes, plus many more -- such as self-study, online fora, sabbaticals and experimental living -- make sense.

15/ How do we navigate the complexity? "We" don't. Authoritarians love to take control over education with "we" manifestos.

16/ Complexity is best left to the individual learner to navigate. Early formal education has a natural role: teaching steering skills.

17/ Industrial age education was authoritarian ready-aim-fire. Internet self-learning is risky ready-fire-aim. The future: ready-fire-steer.

18/ School <14 can be RERO: release early, release often; keep learners in the highest-autonomy environment they can handle.

19/ Some will be able to handle high autonomy early, others will seek guidance for longer, depending on learning style.

20/ By paving the cowpaths of an increasing variety of self-learners, education can be slowly freed from its Procrustean bed.

_Check out Breaking Smart Season 1 for the deeper context behind this newsletter. If you're interested in bringing the Season 1 workshop to your organization, get in touch. You can follow me on Twitter @vgr

And don't forget to share this newsletter to people who might find it useful._

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