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Alternative Learning and Back To Nature Press - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Oct. 7th, 2003

01:10 pm - Alternative Learning and Back To Nature Press

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http://www.viviannemoondove.com/albnaboutus.htm

Jason's Biography

I am twenty years old and have been an autodidact all my life. I always found it amazing that every summer (every single day during the summer, in fact) I would learn more than I had during an entire year in school. I remember my teachers explaining the reasons why I had to go to school: to get ahead in the world, to get a good job, to make money, and to be successful. Even though I was very young, this explanation didn't make much sense to me, and I asked myself, "How exactly is school going to help us get 'ahead' when everyone is learning exactly the same thing?" I learned that it was futile to ask such questions so I kept them to myself and accepted them as mysteries of life. I had already learned many of the things that the schools had to teach, simply by being inquisitive in the real world, and so I often sat bored in class while everyone else was taught things I already knew. I was fed-up with this by high school and looked desparately for a way out but there was none to be seen. I was very close to leaving school and doing some kind of self-study (which, as I later learned, is called "unschooling"). However, when I was given the opportunity to attend the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science, a supposedly open-ended school for "gifted and talented" (I hate those words) students, I thought I had finally found a school that would cater to my needs. I learned a lot about myself at the Academy, met some great people, and grew a lot as a person, but I really didn't learn a thing about mathematics or science (with the exception of some senior year courses I took at the university)!



During my senior year, the Academy somehow got the innane idea of assigning us a year-long independent study project on any topic of interest, and at that point, I rebelled. I, at least, had my own interests, and I didn't need an "independent study" project to force me to pursue them! I loved music and guitar and thought about doing a study of music theory, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. We were asked to keep a log of every minute we spent working on the project until it added up to a hundred hours. After about ten minutes of that, I realized I was completely focused on my watch. My interest and passion for music theory had been replaced with a pedantic effort to log the hours spent doing something I loved to do! I suppose some people don't realize that, when you're doing something you truly love, you exist completely outside of space and time, and those are the most fruitful experiences in life. Many a time have I gotten lost in a book, but that could never be possible were I asked to track the hours I spent reading. I realized that the independent study project was ridiculous -- who could be so controlling as to force people to log an interest they freely chose to pursue! -- so I simply gave up. Many students including myself didn't really do the independent study project (we just pretended to do it).

Enraged, I spent the next few months (on my own time) writing seven critical essays on the philosophy of education. I wrote about my experiences, eventually came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with "curriculum-based education," and decided that the best education is based on innate motivation and inspiration. I knew vaguely of the "free school movement," as a friend of a friend had attended such a school, but I had at this time never heard of the concept known as "unschooling," and I had no idea how popular it was. The week of project presentations quickly approached, and the day before they was due, I decided to throw all of my essays into a folder, along with a certificate proclaiming that I was a supporter of the Separation of School and State alliance, make a phony log roughly logging a hundred hours, and told my advisor that there was a little "change of plans" regarding my senior project. Since the entire project was about self-learning and taking control of one's own education, it made sense that I had changed the project at the last minute. When I presented the "project", I made it clear that it made no difference to me whether I got an A or an F, that I disagreed with the premise of the independent study project in general, and that my "project" was actually a rebellion against it. I could have -- I should have -- been more radical in getting my point across. I was given a B (and was almost insulted that they hadn't honoured me with an F).

During my freshman year of college I found a copy of the Teenage Liberation Handbook at the public library. Finally I discovered the philosophy that I have been searching for my entire life, and found that non-curricular education is not nearly so obscure as I had once thought! I am currently attending university of my own free-will but soon after reading Llewellyn's book I changed my major from physics to the unprestigious and impractical but fascinating subject of philosophy. John Holt has said that he never offered information about his formal education because it's the education of real life that's important. In the same way, although I am attending university, usually the best learning opportunities are those I pursue on my own.

Since I left the Academy I have been volunteering all over the place. I volunteered at a summer camp for children in beautiful Vershire Vermont; at Hoetensleben Germany I worked to renovate a section of the former Berlin Wall as a memorial; in Oranienburg Germany I did archeological work for the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen; in Goslar Germany I worked at a retirement and nursing home; in Frankleben, a poor east German town I worked to renovate an old castle; most recently in Delton Michigan I worked at an alternative summer camp/co-op. I have also gotten many chances to travel (the US, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark) and study the German language and literature. In the spring I participated in the Worcester Lyceum and got to know many interesting people in the area (many of whom share my interest in philosophy). I have co-founded a non-profit organization called the "Alternative Learning and Back to Nature Press" with the hope that many of the problems in the world can be solved by helping people grow up and live with a sense of wonder and a love of knowledge. Our main goals are to inspire people to get excited about their lives; and to mesmerize people with the myriad of wonderful learning opportunities that are available to them around every corner; to provide a forum for ideas, resources, and discussion; and to slowly build a culture of autodidacts (self-learners) one person at a time. We are looking into a running a campaign to solarize universities. We are also working on a side-project, the Society Promoting Weirdness, intended to help people take pride in their personal quirks, to be themselves despite so much opposition, and to promote more than just superficial diversity in the world (in short we want to revel in our "weirdness" until being "weird" isn't so weird anymore). In my free time I enjoy reading, learning languages, traveling, distance walking and hiking, whitewater rafting, philosophy, attending folk festivals and renaissance faires, studying mathematics and physics, reading about current events and the Economist, learning in general, and learning about learning. I also write freelance articles. This spring I am considering beginning a farming internship in Vermont to learn about sustainable agriculture.

Comments:

From:janiev
Date:October 7th, 2003 10:21 am (UTC)
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Wow. My life could have been less wasted thus far if only I'd known that there were "others" such as myself. Fascinating.
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From:crasch
Date:October 7th, 2003 12:50 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I wish I had been more aware of this sort of thing when I was younger too. However, it's hard to break out of one's own cultural norms.
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From:futuregirl
Date:October 7th, 2003 10:44 am (UTC)

Many of my friends...

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From the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy feel the very same way.

We're all like this, and we always said that IMSA would have been better had it not been a school. We always learned more when it was after classes, and we were sitting around bullshitting, and someone asked a really neat question. If no one knew the answer, there was only one answer to be had: "Let's find out!"

We'd research, we would learn, and we'd have fun doing it. Classes took away from our BEST learning time. We did a lot better teaching each other (which I'd imagine is pretty true any time you put a bunch of 160+ IQ kids with diverse interests and expertise together in a room) than our teachers did.
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From:crasch
Date:October 7th, 2003 12:53 pm (UTC)
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Very true. It's for reasons like this that I'm such a big supporter of the FSP. We won't have "schools" like that until the culture changes, and it's much easier to change the culture if you have a working model of the "system" you want.
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From:gedanken
Date:October 7th, 2003 05:58 pm (UTC)
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So, you figure out where in NH you're going to move to, yet? I'm looking at Concord (Pierce Law School is there, along with a couple of friends from my law school and Germany days).
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From:crasch
Date:October 11th, 2003 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Don't know yet. My ideal would be five acres near a university (45 min. drive). But I'm at least 3 years before I'll move, so I have some time.
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From:sarahshevett
Date:October 7th, 2003 01:47 pm (UTC)

Now

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We do have schools like this now.
It's called homeschooling.
I know.....
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From:crasch
Date:October 11th, 2003 02:23 pm (UTC)
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Do your kids plan to go to college?
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From:s3nsational
Date:October 7th, 2003 02:34 pm (UTC)
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I love people like this! :) I was an autodidact myself (I read the Teenage Liberation Handbook when I was 14) I applaud his efforts and I'd love to start a satellite group here in San Diego. :)
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From:crasch
Date:October 11th, 2003 02:22 pm (UTC)
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Yes! I wish I had read the TLH when I was 14. It's difficult to break out of your culture.
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From:gikiski
Date:October 7th, 2003 09:16 pm (UTC)
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"How exactly is school going to help us get 'ahead' when everyone is learning exactly the same thing?"

Profundity disguised as a riddle!
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From:crasch
Date:October 11th, 2003 02:22 pm (UTC)
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Indeed.
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From:geek3o1415
Date:October 15th, 2003 11:07 pm (UTC)

I wrote that :)

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Wow! It's amazing to find something I've written right here in your journal! I actually hadn't expected anyone to be reading my biography so soon, so it was only in rough draft stages, but I am so happy that people are responding positively to it. Where did you find my website and biography?

I am new to LiveJournal but have been writing on Open Diary for several years. I am in the process of posting a sampling of entries from my Open Diary to my Live Journal so people here can get to know me more easily.

The ALBN has a Yahoo! group called alternativelearning. The website is currently located (in its rough stages) at http://www.viviannemoondove.com/albn. If you want to contact me via email it's geek3o1415@yahoo.com.

I believe the pen is mightier than the sword. This is even more evident to me upon finding my writing here on your site. I am so excited by your enthusiasm and I hope we can do something about this together.

Arthyen (aka Jason)
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From:geek3o1415
Date:October 16th, 2003 02:39 pm (UTC)

John Holt dilemma

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By the way... since you list John Holt as one of your interests, I have a question for you. In "Teach Your Own," John Holt writes about some American psychologists who go to China to study children. They are amazed to find that Chinese children simply do not misbehave in the way American children do. Holt takes this to mean that tantrums and such only happen because we expect them to happen and treat children accordingly. However, a friend brought up a good point: is it not true that Chinese children are repressed and any misbehavior would be looked down upon severely? If taken in this way, it seems, the story about Chinese children goes counter to Holt's own libertarian philosophy.

Any ideas or references?
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