“For Random Learning Comes.”
Every homeschooler, every life-long learner, knows this. Random learning comes from the strangest places. Not only from workbooks and educational materials, but from experience. And of course from this wonderful horrible tool, literally at our fingertips: the Internet, and the myriad of worlds we can access through it.
Using the word “random” is fraught with peril. It’s used as an all-purpose sound to fill the void. As if people started out looking for a precise word, but then quickly gave up. Still, at its heart, ” random” means the same thing to us all. Encountered by accident. Unintended and unsought. A card game comes to mind: the luck of the draw. Could there be value in things we come upon only by chance?
Many of us were brought up to believe the opposite. That education was a deliberate, grueling, and often torturous process. Such suffering was to be endured to achieve a greater good. We became stronger by being bent to another’s will, by aligning even our thoughts to the logical constructs of a greater, purer, more developed, more organized mind. We were red hot metal being hammered into steel.
To use another metaphor, like young, wild horses, we could only be of service to society if we allowed ourselves to be tamed.
I wonder if this has to do with the way we Westerners often look at life: as something we can control. Hurricane Matthew passed this way not long ago. It kind of blew that control theory to Kingdom Come.
We especially want to control our children and how they experience life. We steer them away from the mistakes we made. Toward the things that make us proud.
But something is lost in a life, when every move is dictated by another. No matter how caring that person may be , or how carefully planned their designs. We all know about the road paved with good intentions.
I know that, as a child, as a teen, even though I went through public school the entire way, I still felt like I had a choice.
Perhaps what has changed is the nature of schooling: then, in the ’60s, and ’70s as opposed to now, in the late 2000-teens. Then, assignments were finite and do-able. The effort required was in proportion to the time the average kid had to devote to it, even with a typical part-time job on the side.
All subjects had value, not just the limited few which were on The Test. In fact, other than the SAT in 11th grade, there was no test that pretended to grade your entire school experience. And the SAT or ACT only indicated whether you were ready for college. They did not prevent you from leaving high school.
What I mean by “having a choice”” is not what charter school or voucher enthusiasts mean when they use the words. That is, being able to choose, without limit, which building you enter into, to further your education. What I mean is having a choice about what you do with your time.
It is interesting how we, as parents, often consider our children’s time to either belong to us or else to their school teachers, coaches, club leaders, and lesson givers. Time belongs to the adults. An assumption deep at the heart of this attitude is that our children will live long past our own lives. Their repression now has no significance, compared to their years and years of freedom later.
We overlook not only the fact that children are as mortal as we are, but also that they have more freedom of body and mind, more time and imagination and vigor right now, than their adult selves, shackled with jobs and family responsibilities, will ever have again, .
I wonder if this longing for freedom is at the heart of the small population of “slacker” young adults, still living with Mom and Dad, not striving for much. They didn’t have freedom before, in school, so they are enjoying it now. And having one’s nose in a smartphone for hours, spouting one’s opinions for the world to hear, (despite one’s parents’ contrary views, or perhaps because of them) is a sort of revenge. Revenge for all the hours of fun and play taken away in the pursuit of dull academics.
I remember, even as a teenager, sitting and reading, or doing nothing, just musing about life. My husband built bikes for fun, and took apart clocks. Each of us, in our own way, pursued our interests. And these ventures paved the way for our later vocations.
How can a generation that has no time to think, and that experiences the stress of middle age at 14 or 15, manage to find its way? These kids need time that is their own, to think and breathe and work on who they are. Time for random learning.
Or it may never come.