Old School Challenges from the Unschooling Movement


When You Get Into Unschooling, it's Almost Like a Religion by Molly Worthen
New York Times Magazine, September 25, 2020

Molly Worthen’s recent NY Times Magazine article describes the hopes and ideals of the unschooling movement, which has challenged the most fundamental assumptions about what school is. Core values of unschooling include following children’s natural curiosity and questions; doing away with textbooks, tests, and common core curricula; and stripping away even the school building itself. The belief of the movement is that students don’t need to be externally motivated to learn; coercion is seen as failure of the system. Instead, educators need to tap into the innate curiosity of the child. These are age-old criticisms of “school,” but as Worthen writes, such challenges to traditional education take on newfound strength and relevancy given the fact that millions of students are currently learning online and teachers are questioning their pedagogical best practices and educational philosophies. Of course the unschooling movement is not without critics, and Worthen challenges the assumption that, left to their own devices, students will opt into learning and growth. Regardless, there is something to learn, within our own contexts, from this fringe movement. If nothing else, “by throwing off social norms and pushing faith in a child’s freedom to an extreme,” the unschooling movement pushes us “to confront our own assumptions and blind spots.”

Submitted By: David Teller, Fuchs Mizrachi School, Beachwood, OH

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