What Changed?

As a mom of a 7-month old, I am struck by something. It is common for parents, educators and doctors to realize that babies learn through play. Just today my son pulled himself up to his feet all on his own. How did he learn to do that? Did I teach him? Did I hire a tutor? No, he wanted to pull himself up because he was exploring and he wanted to see more. He was playing and he discovered how to do it on his own. The same goes for learning the meaning of words, the way things feel and taste, how to roll and crawl, and it goes on. This will never be disputed by anyone. There isn’t a person out there who believes that a child needs instruction on how to sit up.

So, what changes? Why, when a child reaches the magical “school age” of five, do we suddenly assume that he needs formal instruction? Why is learning suddenly taken out of the realm of everyday life and plonked inside the four arbitrary walls of a classroom?

I was just reading Sandra Dodd’s article on Deschooling (def. the process of removing school terms and assumptions from our lives and vocabulary, and also recovering from the damage inflicted by school), and was struck by this oddity. When in our history did we decide to create this construct of institutionalized learning? This is not the way humans were made to learn and it’s depressing to see that it is normalized now, when in fact it is decidedly abnormal.

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