Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


On her email list, Lisa VanDamme says there are three common ways that educators approach student motivation today. There are,
first, the Waldorf types who evade the problem of motivation because they evade the responsibility of education; second, the Catholic school types who proclaim education a moral duty; and third, the public school types who think gold stars and pizza provide the only compelling reasons to learn.
The assessment of Waldorf seems right to me. In Portland, Waldorf schooling is very popular, and we've had a real time figuring out why college-educated parents want it for their children. It's not just that favorite activities of Waldorfians include: (a) pretending you're a fairy, (b) wearing drab clothing, hand-made entirely of felted wool, and (c) generally aiming for an existence that Laura Wilder would enjoy and Al Gore would enjoy reading about. The clincher comes when a parent tells us, with exquisite excitement, that at the Waldorf school they've just signed up for no one will be teaching their four-year-old to read. (Does the hatred of civilization get any more ironic? Let's pay $500 a month to send our child to be with professionals who will make sure there will be no tainting by advanced human culture.)

Still, I'm left wondering where the Montessori approach would fit into VanDamme's analysis. Montessori elementary is definitely not unschooling, and Maria Montessori was a pillar of the historical reaction against education-by-edict.

Update: David Elmore criticizes Lisa VanDamme for having a wholly determined curriculum; she vigorously defends herself here. I suspect David makes a good point, while Lisa attacks the straw man of unschooling. Her response makes one almost wish that, as children, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and Ayn Rand hadn't been allowed to follow their "juvenile desires."



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