Thursday, August 11, 2011

People Grade

"Be great in act, as you have been in thought." - Jean Paul

Yesterday was Freshman Camp, so the debate team and I showed up with out trifold board and fliers to attempt to recruit new members. 

After the morning session for those whose last names fall at the beginning of the alphabet (How I loathe thee!), a few of us decided to walk down the street to the Dairy Queen to get lunch. On the way there, we were talking about some of the stuff we've been doing this summer-- more specifically the things we've been learning on our own.

This post spawns partially from that, and partially from my mother's recent observation that I have befriended a lot of homeschoolers in the last two years.

While I am a public-schooled child, I will never ever say that it within itself is a perfectly sufficient way to gain one's education. As someone I know said last night, "I come from a good branch of a flawed system." I love my school, and I do believe there are advantages to all forms of schooling, but the advantages of public school unfortunately do not make up for the disadvantages if learning is abandoned at 2:15 every day.

My debate team friends agree with this. A quote from one of them: "Doesn't everyone (teach themselves stuff outside of school)?" And the answer, sadly, is no.

I'm not going to make any statements about whether or not there is a single system (or lack thereof) that is enough, but there are a lot of people who learn faster than their classes are taught (and who have interests outside of said classes). The school isn't going to accomodate that, so we have to take it upon ourselves to explore the world on our own time--while still making sure we do our homework.

This is why I read several physics books last fall. This is why I just finished a book about cognitive neuroscience, and why yesterday's post came from a conversation with my dad about evolutionary biology. This is why I'm finishing up the first draft of my second freaking novel. This is why I'm currently reading Harvard's most popular course (Michael Sandel's Justice) in book form, and why my friends and I discuss supposedly "academic" topics without prompting: because public school simply isn't enough.

And I'm sure a lot of conventionally homeschooled kids are the same: they do their schoolwork, whether it be assigned by their parents or an online teacher, but that doesn't mean they stop there.

I'll be entering eleventh grade in two weeks, but I'm also, as I now refer to the status of my unschooled friend, in "People Grade."


  1. It seems like you would have to try not to learn anything outside of school. That said, the learning might not be of an academic nature, but isn't developing sports skills or familiarity with pop culture a type of learning (just to list a couple of the many learnings that I lack.)?

  2. That's what my sister and I discussed over breakfast after I wrote this. She protested that it didn't apply to her, and pointed out that her runs in the morning still count, since school isn't giving her what she "needs."

    While I primarily mean academic learning...

  3. So, is there something about academic learning that makes it somehow more worthwhile than other forms of learning? A reason why we should concern ourselves with whether or not people continue to pursue academic learning beyond the school day/school years?

    I think the answer is yes, and further propose that the self-reflective nature of academic learning is one thing that might make it so. As nice as it may be to be able to run a 5 minute mile, or know all the Backstreet Boys songs, it isn't until we start trying to use our academic learning that we can try to figure out how these things are useful to know, or make our lives better to know.

    In other news, I think I'm going to read Justice, because I need to get over my fear of non-fiction, and it sounds really interesting and somewhat up my academic alley.

  4. I'm biased toward academic learning, but my conversation with my sister made me think that school doesn't do the trick for other stuff as well. Sports, pop culture, and even people themselves. There's the entire community of non-public-schooled people out there to meet, plus those simply from other schools. You've got to go and do community things rather than just school-based things in order to meet them.


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