False Success

Much time is spent talking about the kids who, in a traditional school setting, flounder and fail. These are the kids that concern the parents and politicians, and are often our impetus to find another way.

But, since I have a habit of comparing my now 9-month old son’s activities and learning experiences with that of school-aged children, I stumbled upon another metaphor.  And this one speaks to those kids who succeed at the game of school.

When you have a baby, numerous toys and activity “centers” are thrust at you, and you must decide, post haste, whether you believe they will help or hinder your child and your life. One such device is the walker.  At this point, most parents don’t have them around. But, you will run into a few who really don’t see any problems with it, and they invariably want to give you one.  Well, if you’re not a parent, or if you’re a parent who sings the praises of the walker, let me explain.  (A walker, my non-parent readers, is that contraption that allows non-walking infants to push themselves along the floor, a la Fred Flinstone.)  Aside from the tremendous safety risk posed by walkers (i.e. they can easily topple over, or worse, down stairs; your child is much faster than he should be and you suddenly find him headed straight for the open oven door, etc.), these devices have been shown to impede the development of actual walking. So, the child is given the benefits and rewards of very fast walking, without doing the work to attain it. They therefore have no motivation to actually learn to walk.  It’s a false success because once the walker is removed, the child no longer attains the same performance.

The system of grades and commendation within the school system can nurture the same false success for those students who excel at it. How many students do you know who received excellent grades, high test scores and top-notch class rankings, and when they graduated had a hard time succeeding in their job? Or, even more common, were directionless and unable to find something they truly enjoyed?  The school system is like a walker for babies. We can clap and say, “Look how fast you’re walking!” but once that system is taken away, many just collapse on the floor, unable to move. The system isn’t only unhelpful, it is actually detrimental to development. Schooled students end up years behind unschooled students in maturation and “real world” capabilities.

Children should learn life by really living, just as they learn to walk by really walking.

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One Comment on "False Success"


  1. uberVU - social comments 05/01/2010 at 10:18 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post... This post was mentioned on Twitter by unschoolmommy: How is learning like walking?…

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