Education can work better outside the classroom

This blogging thread ( was initially a teacher’s response to a list of student criticisms which then received a response from Dale Stevens, one of the leading voices of the movement and a 19-year-old college drop-out who speaks and writes far better than do most high school teachers, one of whose speeches to a university audience has been posted in our classroom.

Please read the postings. How many SAT grammar and style errors does the teacher make?

I could not resist adding a comment of my own:

This is an interesting discussion with many excellent points made, but to the homeschooler/unschooler, repairing or improving the existing system really seems rather pointless.

Dale’s response it spot on, particularly his contention that everyone involved is responsible for the education that takes place, and that alternative approaches to education may well marginalize the traditional teacher and classroom.

Those who have seen education at its best cannot but despair of ever achieving anything remotely comparable in a traditional classroom. The Learning/Time quotient in a truly benign educational setting is orders of magnitude greater than the best levels encountered in public school and is achieved without the onerous hours of confinement, drudgery, busywork, waiting in line, and the “being mocked for being smart” that characterize every day of school.

It is not at all uncommon for homeschoolers to start taking college classes at age 9 or 10 (if they see college as having any value to them) and to test out of highschool requirements as soon as they reach the age limit (passing The California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma and homeschoolers routinely breeze through it — often despite unfamiliarity with standardized testing.) My daughter celebrated her high school and community college graduations simultaneously at 16.

This extremely effective learning process is certainly not to be found universally in homeschooling environments, but drudgery and mediocrity do definitely seem to be all but obligatory in public school education and it would be very difficult to do worse with an alternative approach.

It must be clearly understood, however, that many of the shortcomings of education stem from the constraints within which the teacher must function. Even a superb teacher cannot accomplish much under these conditions and most teachers remain utterly oblivious of what could be achieved were these constraints lifted.

The mass production classroom system is destined to provide only minimal value and to do so at enormous expense in money, time, misery inflicted and in the lingering damage to poor young minds that might, given a tiny fraction of those resources, have blossomed and developed in amazing and unexpected ways. The unexpected is virtually extirpated by public schooling.

As Dale points out, there is an immense field of alternative approaches to education that will permit the aspiring learner to bypass the plodding quotidian regimentation of public school. My preference is the small 4-8 student mixed-level collaborative homeschooling semi-virtual environment but there are many other scenarios that may be equally effective.

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