Tag Archives: critique

Roger Dennis article: Learning vs schooling

Most of us agree that education is extremely important, especially for kids of color and poor kids.  But what do we actually mean by education?  Are we talking about real and holistic learning, or are we talking about young people earning degrees?

Well, in a profound way it could be a moot point.  Because there is a road to take wherein our young people can do both at the same time, i.e. learn and grow to their fullest academic and humanistic potentials, AND get accepted into colleges – including those considered the best colleges – at an equal or probably even higher rate than those who stay on the usual education path.

We’ll tell you more about the college piece in a few minutes, but first a question: Why go off the usual schooling path and take the non-traditional one?


(1) The simple answer is because most mainstream schools do more harm than good to most of our children.

(2) Because we want our children to be safe, happy and healthy in life, not only physically healthy but also emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

(3) For our children to be safe, happy, and healthy, many realities in today’s world need to change, AND SOON!

(4) Thus, along with academics, our children should be learning communication skills (how to listen effectively, how to give their opinions assertively rather than timidly or aggressively); cooperation and collaboration skills; how to be empowered and resourceful, and creative problem-solvers; how to respect themselves and others, especially those who are ‘different’; how to think for themselves and search for truth! Etc. And…

(5) Students should not only be learning all the holistic skills just mentioned, but they should be learning about what is really going on in their communities, their nation, and throughout the world.  Both the good and bad stuff.  Of course the focus for most of our younger students should be on all the good things going on in the world, but later on our children need to learn about – and learn how to effectively deal with – the real world and its many challenges.

(6) Throughout their ‘education careers’ our children should be encouraged, and helped, to figure out who they are – what they believe in, what special gifts they have, what kind of life will make them feel happiest and most fulfilled, etc.

If our children spend a significant amount of time in educational settings or learning centers that focus on these six areas of development, pretty much every one of them will end up happier and healthier, and better prepared for life.  They will be more optimistic than are most young people in today’s world.  They will have hope.  They will be driven by their dreams instead of being scared by them or not even being able to see them!

The same CANNOT be said for students who attend most public schools – and mainstream private schools!  Most of these students – even those who excel in their schools – will leave those places less healthy than they were before they went there.  Most will have accepted the erroneous belief that one’s worth should be determined by extrinsic rather than intrinsic values.  For example, what is my GPA?  Which college/s did I get into?  Instead of: Do I respect myself and others? Am I a good listener? Do I think for myself and do what I believe is right, even when my stance might be unpopular?

Because their self-concept is usually based on how others perceive them, students from most public and mainstream schools are less confident, less sure of themselves. Their critical thinking and communication skills are usually inferior.  Some will have a certain amount of confidence and hope, but seldom to the degree that they would have if they had attended schools or learning centers that allowed them to flourish holistically! But many, especially in today’s profoundly challenging world, will feel depressed, powerless, scared, confused, lost.

Now, if your child is happy in the school s/he attends, and is learning both academically and humanistically, then of course leave her or him right there!  But make sure you know what the options are, because when your child gets a new teacher next year s/he may begin to dislike or even hate school.

School should be a place that kids ‘can’t wait’ to go to.  Sunday night, and late summer, should be times of great anticipation, not times of dread.

Now to the ‘getting into college’ question.  Children of legal school age who leave the regular school system – with parent or guardian’s consent – are considered homeschoolers.  (By the way, not to worry; if you opt for homeschooling you do not have to do any teaching!  Of course you can if you want to, but you do not have to – there are other people available to teach, and other ways, like apprenticing, for your child to learn; and we will tell you more about that in another writing.)

There are now close to two million homeschoolers in the United States; the number is growing every day.  On average, homeschoolers score at the 85th percentile in Reading, Writing, Math, etc., which makes them very qualified to do college level work.  In addition to their high scores, homeschoolers usually come across more accomplished and more confident on their applications and in their interviews.  AND they usually do better when they get to college than their ‘mainstream-schooled’ classmates.

Stanford University recently accepted 27% of their homeschooled students but only 13% of their traditionally-schooled applicants.  Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Bard, MIT, etc.  They all take homeschooled students!  (some with high school diplomas or GED’s; and some with no kind of diploma at all)

Here are some links:


http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/30/education/30dropouts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0  (This one pertains more to young people with low academic skills, but much of the info relates to high-scoring homeschoolers too)

http://universityadmissions.ca/homeschoolers/   (excellent blog; Canadian-based but much of the info works for all homeschoolers)