THE Agile Learning Centers' website (www.agilelearningcenters.org) contains two short sentences describing their philosophy on self-direction: People learn best by making their own decisions. Children are people.
The first sentence is easy to understand when applied to adults. We practice basic respect for other people's choice of work, lifestyle, religion, recreation and so on. We give advice and suggestions to some friends and relatives but we do not force these on them. They are adults after all, capable of making their own life choices.
The second sentence seems obvious at first, but let's go deeper. Do we really look at children as people? Or maybe more like half-people, or in-the-process-of-becoming-people? Because we force them into this long process called school. Of course, with the best motives and intentions -- for their brighter future and so on.
But do we ever ask children if they want to learn whatever it is they are told to learn in school? And if we do, do we respect that decision? Do we let them draw or play when they want? Or do we tell them to stop and listen to the teacher?
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the entire school system is really about the adult agenda -- not that there's anything wrong with the motive; as I mentioned, we have the best intentions.
However, the effect is that we have produced many young adults who finish school but don't know who they are and don't know where they are going.
This mainly happened because we have failed to let children make their own decisions and instead made the decisions for them. Look at the typical school -- the whole day is basically planned out for them. They are given schedules where they don't have a choice but to follow. 8 a.m. is Math. 9 a.m. is English. Then you have recess, then Science, and so on and so forth. Most schools here require uniforms so even what they wear is not up to them. Even their haircuts and hairstyle are regulated.
At home, children cannot escape school as it piles homework and projects on them -- all entirely against their will. Ask any child if they would rather do homework or go play. You know the answer even before you ask, because you were once that child.
And then we wonder why we have so many adults whose professions don't match their college degrees.
We criticize them for being directionless, with no initiative, and not being able to make good decisions.
How can we expect them to, when we have been making decisions for them their entire lives?
Children are people. Let them make decisions for themselves, learn from their experiences, and they will grow to be better adults.
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