The Validity of Being Wrong

I really enjoy reading blogs of other unschoolers – both kids and parents – and I often get sparks of ideas from one thing, which leads me to write a post on a completely different topic. Such as it is with today’s post about the validity of being wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Adversarian’s blog post entitled Turning Seasons.  She is, in her own words, “an unschooled teen recovering from public school.” In this post, she marvels that, “I can read books out loud and laugh over mispronouncing new words without worrying! I *can* let myself be wrong.” I love this sentiment. In life, there is so much value in being wrong, and yet this is something that is not valued in school.

My husband is a data warehouse manager, which is completely complicated and has to do with a lot of formulas and programming. Every once in a while he tells me about how he messed something up. Just today he told me that he found an error he had made and that he had to work on fixing it and the data that was wrong because of it. Yes, these mistakes are frustrating, but the fact that he finds them and fixes them is sometimes more valuable to his learning process than if he never made them in the first place.

If kids are allowed to be wrong, to, as Adversarian says, “laugh over mispronouncing new words,” they will also be allowed to correct themselves down the line and really learn about those mistakes. Those mispronounced words will become integrated into their vocabulary because they set about learning how to correctly pronounce them and what they mean.

It seems to me that the school system is designed to criticize wrongness; to point out errors and shame students for making them. I mean, isn’t this what grades are? There is no grace. There is no laughing at mistakes. There is only a test score or a letter grade that says, “You were wrong. That is bad.”

Allowing inaccuracies and errors is freeing. This is what learning organically is about. Anything you know really well, probably messed up on a lot at the beginning. That’s life. But, that’s not school.

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