This blog is about alternative education – learning outside the box, outside traditional school systems. One question that comes up often: Why?
Why do we need alternative education? What’s wrong with the current system? Can there be “alternative” education?
The first assumption people make is that education equals schooling. This is false. Education is the process of learning and understanding; this can come from many other places besides school. Personal experience, experimentation, reflection, communication. Not all of them need a school context to be educational.
Museums are educational. Newspapers are educational. The guy at the coffeeshop with the interesting job is educational. Thinking about previous actions is educational. None of those are schools.
Schools are not always the right answer for everyone. Ideally a school would be a place for people to gather around and share knowledge, learn from various avenues, socialize with diverse groups of people, and grow into better human beings. Instead, schools too often become a place of conformity, of following someone else’s idea of “learning”, of rote memorization without understanding context, of not being able to relate with the rest of the world and using school as a crutch.
There are some amazing schools out there that aim to bring back education to what it was meant to be – Steiner schools, Montessori schools, the Summerhills schools in the UK. But also, these systems are not for everyone. Some people work better with the structure of school. Some “normal” schools are better than some “alternative” schools. It all depends on the school, the area, the people involved.
And then there are people who function best outside of a school context. They prefer to set their own structure, design their own learning, learn from experience instead of being spoonfed. School would only stifle them; they would hardly have any control or say over their educational experience, and may turn off out of spite. But this is where alternative education comes in – unschooling, homeschooling, private programs, self-study. The options are endless.
Not all schools can teach all things. How many regular schools have regular cooking classes? How many have classes on esoterica? How many have more than 2 languages, some of which are not that common? Alternative education provides options for these sorts of learning – classes and opportunities are available to learn about anything and everything. Some are run like traditional schools; some are very unique and nearly eccentric. But there’s something for everyone.
Providing alternatives give people choice. It allows the freedom to learn the best way you know instead of being forced to take in information without fully processing and understanding it all. It gives an avenue for the mavericks that don’t fit the system and those that want to try something else for once.
Choice, freedom, personally-designed learning. This is what alternative education is for.