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In Memoriam 2015

January 1: Donna Douglas: Played daughter Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. (Age 82). 1: Mario Cuomo: Governor of New York (1983 to 1994) (Age 82). 2: James Cecil Dickens: Known as Little Jimmy Dickens, best known for his song May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up ...

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The disappearance of misc.activism.progressive and the emergence of Thought Crime Radio

Almost four years ago, the articles in the USENET newsgroup misc.activism.progressive ground to a halt, and moderator Rich Winkel has all but disappeared from the USENET, whom I learn resided in Harrisburg (up until 2010, at least), a half hour or so drive from his ...

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Sounding off on the end of CanCon and the CRTC

I guess with the recent decision to axe all cancon requirements for daytime programming in Canada, the CRTC is crawling toward its own irrelevance. Let's not be naive, Canadian culture is that much more weakened without the protection it partially enjoyed from American influence. With ...

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Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map … barely

Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map ... barely

I've written about obscure Saskatchewan communities before. Here is another community far to the north of Unity. My ancestors from France settled here. Many of my ancestors were pioneers that broke new farming ground nearest to a community called Eldred, Saskatchewan. Eldred was about 10 km ...

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Once upon a time, around the year 525 during the reign of Pope John I, a monk named Dionysius invented the idea of Anno Domini by producing a calendar which marked the time since the birth of Christ. The numbering of the years was adopted ...

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Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

You know, I was minding my own business in this classy Chinese restaurant, engorging myself on their copious buffet, had my fill, and was handed the bill with an accompanying fortune cookie. This fortune cookie (the one to the left) really existed, and I never saw ...

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Getting f(x) notation to work in Maple

Getting f(x) notation to work in Maple

Maple is a robust math environment which can graph, solve equations, and solve for the unknown with the aid of its computer algebra solver (CAS), which is capable of computing exact roots of cubic functions, for example. I wanted to demonstrate for myself that Maple could ...

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Kudos to the 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Kudos to the 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Recently, I've been hit (my website that is) by someone possibly checking his plethora of links from his/her website, and when I back-traced it, I find this cool blog which acts as a convincing historical shrine to the late great 1050 CHUM Radio in Toronto. ...

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The Obfuscation of Electronics: The Behringer Xenyx 502

The Obfuscation of Electronics: The Behringer Xenyx 502

This is more like a meta-review. I have gone to Canada Computes where nearly the entire Behringer line is sold, and was impressed by the specs. But does it do what I want, the way I want it? I face a number of obstacles, being a ...

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Schooling and Unschooling

It is not clear as to whether Dayna Leigh Martin has the lock on the market of ideas comprising the “Unschooling” movement, however, her meandering explanations, when put together, make it unclear to an onlooker such as myself as to whether this is viable, and if it is, whether it is something every family can do.

Well, Ms Martin is not even close to being the only one advocating unschooling. In fact, there are many in her company that have their own radical ideas.

I like radical ideas. I agree with her sentiments. Personally, I sucked at math until I was out of school and taught it to myself. That included calculus, also. I am also largely self-taught in computer languages, have built my own computers, and also have enough knowledge of my car and my moped to do minor to mid-size repairs. I am living proof that learning is just what humans naturally do, and it might appear that school is unnecessary.

But of course to say so, I misrepresent the facts. If we only look at my numeracy, technical, and trades knowledge, I clearly benefitted from unstructured, independent self-teaching. But without school I still would not have had the facility I have for literature, for Shakespeare, would never have bothered with Chaucer (but was glad someone had exposed me to it), for the importance of keeping up with current events, and for rounding out my literacy generally. Without my teachers in early school, I probably would not have had the confidence I had in adulthood to fill in my own gaps in math.

Self teaching is not for everyone. For one thing, as I understand it, only a teacher can grant credit, leading to graduation and a grade-12 equivalency to proceed to college. But even so, not everyone would have had my patience or persistence in teaching myself the basics of the math I failed to learn in the earlier grades.

Martin has confidence that if learning feels good to a child then that is the learning that should be facilitated. However, a child cannot see the future further than their own nose, and sometimes, if they want to become an oceanographer, for example, then that requries study in a surprising number of fields, many of which may seem unrelated to their topic as a child. Sometimes the learning experience may be unpleasant, since it may require the learning of things the child perceives as boring. There are many kinds of learning which may seem unpleasant at the time, but the rewards were delayed until later. I found this for teaching myself computer languages. You could try compiling a program literally hundreds of times before it would work, but once it did, it was a great feeling. There is a lot of learning that in this way, involves tolerating a great deal of frustration and not giving up. I am unsure if a child would see that on their own.

Children also change their minds, as well. Today’s budding oceanographer becomes tomorrow’s budding astronaut. Is a parent really going to follow the whims of the child around that much, or will there come a time when today’s lesson will be on “focus” and “persistence” (a lesson that the child may not want to hear)? A child in a public system can accomodate the changing of a child’s mind more easily than a parent.

Another problem I have is that for the most part “Unschooling” takes as its basis an assumption (not enitrely untrue) that schools act as enforcers of social norms and of a pecking order in society. Seen from this perspective, schools teach obedience, and there is an overwhelming consciousness that this is the way schools always were.

This is far, far from the case. Schools have been around in its present form for less than 200 years. Unschooling, as I see it, is a return to the days before organised schooling, when parents passed their knowledge and literacy, and skills on to their children. This was a necessity on the farm, as well as at the Blacksmith shop in town.

The family, thus, had an exceedingly important role that nowadays is being invaded by psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, counsellors, test-taking agencies, and even marketers, who have jointly acted to remove that power from the family. This saddens me, and in the past decade, the Internet, cell phones, and other electronic gizmos has further invaded their consciousness, even minimizing further the sphere of influence of parents. It is becoming apparent that nowadays, parents feel they have so little to pass on to their children that they become as disposable as cogs in an assembly line which must make way for next year’s model of car.

Also, children learn better in an environment where they are not judged. In a school they are passed, failed, diagnosed with ADD and the like; they compete for attention with 24 other children, and the teacher is somehow expected to reach all of them. But I don’t think that will even happen in the best classrooms of that size. In a family setting, they are more likely to be understood on their own terms and judged less often. Making mistakes becomes less of a public embarrassment and more a part of the learning process.

But not every parent believes that “not controlling” their children is the way to raise them. I can see many parents having a problem with that mentality. Obviously, you have to know what you are doing, and what is it exactly do you mean by “control”, anyway? Children have a kind of wisdom that is unburdened by later biases and indoctrinations; but at the same time, they do not have the gift of foresight and wisdom that allows parents to pass on worldly knowledge to the young which they could have not learned any other way. Far from merely facilitating learning, adults have something meaningful and worthwhile to pass on to children. Discipline is also something to pass on. It gives you the gift of pursuing bigger and better learning goals. The kind of goals you can’t achieve by digging things out of the dirt or by reading a book with pictures in it.

A child who is unschooled can only be as competent as his or her parents. The parents involved cannot be expected to be competent at all subjects. I don’t think I would be competent in all subjects either.

Judging by the blogs I’ve read on the subject, many which have not been updated for some years, for most parents the passion tends to burn out soon enough, and it becomes a fad. Dayna still practices un-schooling, and preaching the gospel to anyone who will listen. However, for whatever reason, one of her websites, http://unschoolamerica.com, has been taken down and its domain parked.


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