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Walk Outs Support Gathering

Have you walked out of school or college? Ever think about just walking out and creating your own learning somewhere else? Do you see schools as part of the "big machine" and you're just caught in it and want a way out?

Walk Out Duluth! is a newly forming network of folks who want to take the "unschooling" path, and support one another for doing so. They are hosting their initial support gathering this week.


Walkouts Support Gathering
Thursday, October 23
Hannah House
1705 Jefferson Street
Duluth, MN 55812

For more information, email [email protected], or call 218-728-4385


as an practitioner of innovative educational methods, I have to say that there are a tiny...TINY...fraction of young adults for whom this level of self-directed education could be feasible...and a slimmer margin of them, with the requisite maturity, for whom it could be highly effective. I caution this group to not fill young minds with the promise of "freedom" and in the end give them the reality of intellectual and economic slavery. By NO MEANS do I think that an "institutional" education experience is good by any means, but after my experience at HCIS, I can say that being a member of a progressive learning community, with it's associated expectations and ...gasp...rules and assessments, is extremely important to healthy cognitive development. I'm no traditionalist, but I have to be honest and say this disturbs me....I'd hate for young adults to undertake this option for the wrong reasons and with ill conceived and un-informed expectations.

but..hey I'm a teacher...you know,..."the man".. and therefore probably uncool and a cog in the "big machine".

Exhibit A in baci's one true way to enlightenment: belittlement, distrust, and because-I-said-so.

How very "progressive"! Is this the kind of learning that gets taught at HCIS?

You have just dissuaded me.

I disagree with baci that "rules and assessments" are extremely important to cognitive development. I would argue, too, that for many college students, "economic slavery" starts with student loans.
However, I share his (his, right?) view that HCIS makes sincere efforts to be a school where individuality is nurtured. As he points out in his second post, though, it's still a school, so there's only so much you can do.
College is too expensive. Maybe more people should be asking: What job do I want, and is there a way to learn how to do it without spending $80,000?

but..hey I'm an unschooler...you know,..."a nut" :-)

i was going to be good and let this all pass, but the unwarranted attack (please let it be sarcasm or a troll attack) on baci prompts me to second baci.

suggesting that rules and assessment play roles in learning = belittlement and exclusion from anything "progressive"?

Self-directed, life-long learning is important and vital. Denouncing all authority CAN be reckless. The idea that one would need to leave school (the horrible machine that it is) to learn on one's own is a false paradigm.

Baci is right. Assessment is absolutely necessary, but not the NCLB inspired standardized assessments. Quite simply, assessment is determining between effective and ineffective means of achieving a goal. Teaching students to engage in self-assessment -- to identify their own best learning practices -- is critical for lifelong learning. Individuals assess things every day: Should I wear a jacket today? Where can I buy the cheapest gas? Who should I vote for?

Some individuals, very few as Baci mentioned, are probably hardwired for this kind of assessment, this critical thinking; but many others, especially children from homes where television is the first and last teacher, will not learn to assess for themselves.

Schools are far from perfect and, unfortunately, some act as holding tanks for minors. What they could be, what they should be are birthing centers (insert your own visual here) for collaborative dialogue and increased metacognition. Through these types of interactive and self-reflective activities, students gain the skills and insights that allow them to make purposeful, productive contributions to society.

A wise teacher I know has made the comment that learning is an intrinsically social endeavor; look at the popularity of interactive community blogs like PDD. Interaction breeds information, reflection, collaboration, patience, communication, and too many other things to list in my already too long post.

But then, I'm also a "cog."

I wont go into the provenance of my progresssivist cred because you all wouldn't be able to handle that level of burnt granola and tree hugging but I will say that by NO MEANS did I intend to say "unschooling" cant work. There are parts of the philosophy we eagerly embrace at Harbor City School...that gives me a view into the pitfalls as well. At HCIS we strive to support students to become self-directed life long learners...just ask the kids who go there...and who have graduated. Ask the kids who would have floundered without someone...*cough* TEACHERS holding up targets for them to shoot at. I absolutely refute the TQM/NCLB insanity that applies industrial production quantitative "standards" to a process that is rooted in the individual and is as affective (sorry for the big words AJP....for you read "feeling based") as it is fact based. The only reason that I posted...I was thinking to let it pass as well....was that I can easily see young adults see the sexy "walkout of school" as carte blanche to disconnect, disenfranchise and not reach their potential. I DO know kids -- quite a few at HCIS --- for whom this (or levels of it) can and do work - within an atmosphere of support, professionalism and active inquiry...we actually attempt to leverage our kids to this, or as close as we can get in a "school". Really the only thing about "unschooling" that I truly worry about is the 90% of americans for whom it could represent and "easy way out"....But we NEVER take the easy way out do we...

I took you to task, baci, because the arrogant jaded prick shtick is mine. This hole ain't big enough for two pricks.

If its a war of words (affective is a big word?) you want, I come with a built in 105mm thesaurus. I developed it from reading books during class when some arrogant teacher was droning on about tendentious tripe I had already integrated and found to be patently false. Manifest destiny my ass. Democracy! Ha!

I and many of my peers had the discipline and the drive. Our time would have been much better spent outside the class.

Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone.

I support PARENTS who decide what is best for their individual children. I disdain of "professionals" seeking rent.

I am thankful for standardized testing as a way to see how much a child has retained. This does prepare them for their future. That is simply the society we live in.

If you're an engineer, and the man interviewing you for a bridge building job asks," Where did you go to school?" I am most certain that he will not hire you if you say I took the "unschooling path". Frankly, I would thank that man for not hiring him. I want to know that someone doing such an important job would have the experience in things like summing moments and differential equations to design a bridge that would not fall into a river.

Same goes for my doctor. If I need to have a life or death surgery, don't tell my my surgeon took the path of "unschooling".

Why are standards bad? (That question was rhetorical.) I do know that I am just asking for it when posting a point on which most will disagree.

ajp, you should read burly's posts closer. he does it better.

AJP, are you saying you can dish it but you cant eat it? Because your tiresome and belabored knee-jerk reactionary responses underscore a size based inferiority complex. More on topic, I'd like to point out that you are correct that parents play a critical role here...a point on which you and Obama agree.

Hey Zoe-
An unschooled kid could go on to become a doctor. childhood isn't the end of it all. Many people could find their path- ged, community college- harvard. who knows?
Also, standardized testing basically measures how well you take tests. I know people who ace them, AND are terrible students.

Don't even get me started on the machinery of the textbook-publishing industry for secondary schooling.

At the counter, this student fidgets impatiently... the lady behind the counter raised exactly 6 inches above the clamoring students for strategic psychological advantage; no step-up, simply a raised floor. She politely says with slight nasal twinge, "Noooo, the first edition was from last year. Yes, I know the book is expensive, but it is, after all, required. Yes, I'm aware that your professor and his colleague wrote the book. I hardly think it's biased, though. Now kindly cough up $142.38. Have a nice day."

The funny thing is, those are the books I've never thrown away, perhaps because I truly like some of them, or perhaps due to some sick morbid fascination with those rape sessions at the university book store. Yes, I think that last is more likely. Yes. Tender moments of thick love packaged in cardboard binding and pages of Newton and Bohr, and a semen cloud of integrals, Bessel functions, all vying for my ova, but lost in the intestinal tract. Sigh...

Hi Chris m,

Oh yes, I understand that testing can have faults, but I believe it to be the best way to measure mastery of skills. As a home school mom, with a degree in education, I am thankful for these resources. It shows me what I can work on as a teacher to better help my child/student. As a parent, I want to make sure that my student is prepared for the way this world works. It is a degree that gets the job. I know there are jobs that don't require one, but I want to give my child the chance at one if he chooses a field that requires one. (That is not to say we are pushing him in that direction.) His father is an example of "higher learning" not always being the best path. He has 2 degrees and is not working in the area of either one. That is the way our world works, though. To deny that would be absurd on my part. Until that changes, this is how I will prepare my child/children.

Oh, Chris m,

I forgot to say, I completely agree with you that childhood isn't the end of it all. I am "old" and still learning.

standardized testing might tell you what a child has "retained" for the short term, but even test-creators acknowledge that standardized tests only test the ability to take the test. retention of facts and the ability to toss them up on demand does not equal learning. (disclosure: i work for Pearson and score SAT essays for a living.)

If you're an engineer, and the man interviewing you for a bridge building job asks," Where did you go to school?" I am most certain that he will not hire you if you say I took the "unschooling path".

this shows a bit of a lack of understanding about what unschooling is. unschoolers are not arguing against professional certification, they are arguing against the "one path" model of learning that has been proven to work for a mere fraction of learners. i don't think that anyone is arguing that an engineer shouldn't know how to be an engineer. they are arguing that an engineer can take many paths to that certification. and if one student has to go to school for four years to be an engineer, then fine. maybe another takes six years. but if someone can take his own path that takes a shorter time and pass a certification process that may or may not include a regular old test, or may judge his/her knowledge in some other way, then what's the difference?

Baci is speaking from within the machine. (sorry, Baci, but a teacher is inherently invested in the system that pays the bills. questioning it deeply means ending up like me--unemployable as a day-to-day teacher!)

HCIS strives to be different, but it still operates within a structure that is fundamentally flawed. that structure requires students to be in a certain place, at a certain time every single day, and move around both mentally and physically according to a set schedule. if you are getting into a subject, and class is over--too bad for you. time for a different class. if you slower at understanding a subject than the rest of the class, then you might be able to speak up and get some extra tutoring. (ditto being too tired, or too preoccupied or what-have-you.) you have to keep up to a schedule determined by the teacher in order to visit all the "important" topics determined by that teacher and the state. (disclosure: i work at HCIS and i also facilitate the unschooling of a 12-yr old.)

an assertion that unschooling works for a "fraction" of students can be turned around rather easily: school works for a small fraction of students as well. the rest do the best they can with the system they are given. the point is that there ought to be a variety of choices for all learners, and it should be up to the learner to choose that path. not the state. not the teacher.

why yes, i am all about the vision thing, but i'm not alone, and just about every education-oriented thinker on the planet has been screaming to high heaven about the limitations and problems inherent in our industrial-era educational model. it's out of date, and pretty much no one asserts that it isn't failing to varying degrees. let's use the rubric i use: what percentage of students are in love with learning? because loving learning is the natural human state. school doesn't do a very good job fostering it, and everyone knows it.

i challenge anyone who throws out biased and rather ignorant assumptions about unschooling to read some John Holt, and perhaps some John Gatto as well.

and Baci, while there are plenty of your students who will back you up in your fears of the wild blue yonder, there are also many that see the flaws in the structure very clearly. they are dealing with what they've got, and what they've got is better than most schools. that does not make it optimal for even most of them.

there are some kids who crave structure in their learning (and they should have it!), and there are a whole lot who do very well by following the natural path of curiosity and self-exploration. i have yet to meet an unschooler who didn't do well in the world, and i've met many.

i have met one former unschooler at HCIS who was uncomfortable with what s/he felt s/he "didn't know" when s/he met schooling for the first time. however, s/he excelled at school, and it seemed to me that it was a cultural gulf: when you go to school there are a variety of common experiences that bonds students together. they've read the same books, and studied the same things at the same time. (never mind if they can't regurgitate what those things were.) an unschooler can struggle with being the odd one who read the Odyssey when he was 12, or who spent a whole year delving into the nuances of the European theatre of WWII, but doesn't know the plot of Where the Red Fern Grows. colleges recognize that unschoolers have more drive and more ability to work independently than the schooled. (ivy league schools especially have declared their interest in unschoolers.)

i say, vive la difference! as we embark on the journey of the 21st Century, i welcome everyone to open their minds a little, and recognize that we ought to have the freedom to choose how we achieve the learning goals we set for ourselves.

certifying our achievements can be regulated by the state, and can be stamped by any number of qualified agencies. but how we get there should be up to us.

as a teacher, i'll be attending this meeting to see if i can help anyone along their path. i'm thrilled that someone's attempting to organize an alternative for those who don't feel satisfied with what they've got. bravo!

thanks for you observations hbh. I appreciate and share the ideals you work towards. The reality of modern life make those ideals pretty distant for most people... HCIS is a learning community that attempts to bridge the gaps between the "institution" and the "unstitution". yep, we're a public school and I get paid to do something I love...And like all communities, we have our flaws. In our defense, we are relatively VERY progressive and the students and families who are active in their education here get more out of our system. You know that the students who dont care, where ever they end up, whose parents are looking for a holding tank for their kids are the ones who make it difficult for the others who would like to take advantage of the HCIS environment...these are also the ones I'm afraid will look at something like "walkout of school" and think ..."omg kewl, I dont have to engage in learning". I'm happy to know that you'll be at that meeting, I know you are committed and visionary

well, to be fair... people who aren't interested in learning are rather unlikely to be attending a support group dedicated to creating their own learning path.

unschooling is exactly the *opposite* of not engaging in learning. it's engaging in it fully, rather than waiting for a teacher or a school to spoon feed you something from a passive stance.

that right there--the passivity of school-based learning--is exactly why i can't teach anymore. a lot of the negative that HCIS has to deal with is a large number of kids who have learned (from school!) to do the minimum required to pass. the ones who don't do even that are either playing that game too close to the bone, or are killing time until they can legally quit (or will be allowed to by their overseers/parents).

the learning that they participate in actively is too often the learning they do outside of school (positively or negatively). school has become a game/battle between teachers and students about how to use up school time. even the smartest kids spend an inordinate amount of time and energy playing a game of "how little do i have to do?" and so no wonder teachers and students alike become discouraged.

the things we learn best, we learn because we are deeply interested in them--even if it's only for a week or so before we move onto something else. unfortunately, even the most progressive of schools has to deal with state standards and the strictures of too many kids/too little time for individuality.

(way back when i was an official teacher, it was before the testing craze, and i was able to co-create individualized learning plans for kids who wanted them. it was a tiny school, and i had the power. today, that would be impossible.)

in any case, i'd be plenty surprised if there is a single person who shows up to this meeting who's just interested in doing nothing forevermore and wandering through life with a minimum of effort, or thinks that a heavy-duty career should be handed to him/her without hard work.

we both know that there are a whole lot of kids who sleepwalk through schooling, and come out at the other end deeply in debt and completely uninterested in a career they've trained for.

unschooling, at its heart, is about taking control--over your day, your learning, your life. i'm proud to be guiding a 12 yr old who, should he decide to attend HCIS, will decide to do it with his full consciousness and full agency, rather than taking a passive role in it. he's a pretty neat kid. (though sometimes a pain in my ass.)

you should be happy about unschooling in some ways, because the more kids who unschool and then opt for HCIS, the more powerful your school population will be. they'll be better prepared to work the system to their advantage, actively, rather than playing the same old game.

imagine teaching in a classroom where every single student wanted to be there, and wanted you as a teacher. they had the agency to look over your curriculum, and chose you based on your reputation and your subject. it's not an impossibility. it's just that we haven't got there yet.

(i promise, we don't have to hold students prisoner to make them learn.)

I work in public education and my wife is a former public school teacher so we are intimately aware of the problems created by institutionalized learning. While I appreciate the potential of homeschooling and no schooling and don’t disagree that it has its benefits, it seems to me that it is a fundamental cop-out for society. Aren’t we all lifted up by a public education system that educates the masses? I may be naïve but it’s my understanding that it is the reason for America’s economic dominance in the world over the last century. I truly believe that education is the silver bullet to kill most of society’s ills. To wash our hands of the system not only creates a brain drain in the public education devaluing the education for all but allows us to say that it’s somebody else’s problem and public education has no benefit to me other than to benefit my own kids. I know this sentiment is explicitly expressed but I sense the tone of it when I talk to homeschoolers and even parents of privately educated kids (e.g. vouchers).
I am also the parent of twin girls that are just over two years from kindergarten and while I know I can homeschool them in the areas of math and science as well as anyone, I can’t do anymore than teach from a book in the areas such as history, civics and literature (and I am completely deficient in areas of art and music). I believe my children will benefit more from the experience of a trained professional than just reading a book. It’s not to say that I don’t believe that the education should be supplemented with reading and attending the symphony and piano lessons and trips to Gettysburg etc. but I can provide all that on top of a good public education. To me it seems a slight to teachers, and a touch of arrogance, to say that I can do the job of six or seven of them on my own with a library card and field trip. But then again I ate the blue pill.

Aren’t we all lifted up by a public education system that educates the masses?

short answer: no.

long answer: schools are fundamentally unequal not only because property taxes make an unequal system, but because children are always going to be at different places emotionally and intellectually... and schools don't really work in a way that addresses that. (they could, with today's technology. but they don't.) not to mention the fact that by any rubric i've ever heard of, schools are failing the majority of kids. (you don't really think they're succeeding, do you? some blue pill you got there. sure it ain't something else?) if you do well, you are lucky, and particularly well-suited for the environment. most are not.

most homeschoolers will not be so bold as to "insult" the schools by saying so. they will dance around the issue and keep their criticisms to themselves, because they don't want to be accused of what you are implying: that they are snooty elitists who say "to hell with the rest of you" and use their privilege to opt out.

but see, homeschooling is not the realm of elitists anymore. it's an answer for people who see their way into possibilities that account for the individuality of their children, and sacrifice income and me-time to make it so. we live in a free society, and some of us are starting to act like it, taking our education back from the hands of the state. giving our children a choice. (and in case you're wondering, we're poor, so it ain't a choice just for the rich.) the internet has made access to tutors and information easy. there are loads of businesses who make millions selling the tools parents need to make a home education possible.

homeschooling is not growing exponentially because schools are doing well by our children. and the more homeschooling grows, the more we can depend on one another, and help each other. (in my own neighborhood, we have six boys of around the same age homeschooling. they do all kinds of stuff together! it's so cool i can hardly stand it.)

the world is big, and it's full of people who are willing to share their expertise with interested people. sometimes they want to get paid, but you would be astounded at the number of elders and others who are happy as hell to share what they know with their community. (just today, Dr. Powless was at my house telling stories and sharing what he knows with five middle school boys. they loved it. they were happy to be there, listening to him. i served molasses apple cake. he seemed to enjoy himself too.)

whatever i don't know, i can learn. and when something is out of my league or interest, i can find someone to help. i don't try to teach the children Tae Kwon Do. they go to a class for that. just like they sign up for art, drama, sports teams, computer programming, and snowshoeing workshops. if my child decides he wants to learn how to play piano, we pay someone to teach him. likewise if he wants to learn to build robots.

and here's a "secret" that's going to get me a load of knee-jerk anger: teachers don't know as much as you think they do. they have answer keys and pre-packaged curricula and can be just as prone to misinformation and prejudices as anyone else can. they are people. while some of us can look at our teaching skills and say, "wow, i am good!" most of us are fooling ourselves, fall into ruts and laziness, and dial it in on occasion just as much as does the office worker. there are gems, as there are in any profession. but just because they are "trained professionals" doesn't mean that they are doing a good job of teaching your particular child. not to mention the fact that even a good teacher is faced with the gigantic obstacles of the aforementioned flawed structure.

i don't know a single teacher who will claim that one-on-one tutoring on nearly any subject isn't better than trying to learn in a classroom full of variously talented and variously attentive children. (why else would you hire a tutor when things aren't going well?) there are things that are best done in a group. but there are a whole lot of things that aren't. not to mention the fact that pretty much nothing works well in a group of 20-30. it's what we do because we don't have a choice. the optimal classroom size would be 8, by any sensible standard. classes got bigger because there was no other way to afford it otherwise. but we don't have to do that anymore. we do it out of habit, and because of the inefficiencies of an entrenched, out-moded system.

within 30 years, things will have drastically changed whether we like it or not. if only because we won't be able to afford the energy needed to transport and shelter all those children to places far from home.

if it's arrogance to believe that we know our children and their needs better than an overburdened teacher charged with the education of 30, then i'm in good company.

but all this homeschooling talk gets away from the concept of "unschooling." (i apologize to anyone who wants me to shut the hell up. educational theory is my passion. can you tell?)

unschoolers are radicals. we don't just believe that schools are an inefficient means to a non-end. we believe that learning comes from within, and that it must be fostered like one does a plant. feed it. water it. and let it grow.

hbh, I appreciated your post on home school. I feel sometimes we are misunderstood for wanting to educate our own children. Home schooling is not what it was 20 years ago. We have fantastic networks, co-ops, curriculums that meet certain learning styles and needs, as well as awesome resources.

I also want to thank you for your prior post giving me a little more understanding about "unschooling". I appreciate your respectful tone. (Is there such a thing as tone in a blog~you bet there is!) Thank you, sir.

Sorry, hbh. I didn't mean to assume you were a man.

Wow! this topic really spurred a flow of words -- some reasonable and some a little angry. I agree with Baci! I am a cog too.

You know, I'm intrigued by the concept behind this, but for some reason the name makes me wrinkle up my nose. Maybe it's just me, but when I hear "walk out" it just seems...anticlimactic. Kind of meh. It makes me think of the kids I went to high school with who just quit showing up for school one day, and got jobs at KFC. Not that a name has to be all gimmicky or something, and maybe I'm going too English major on all this, but this just lacks...energy. Or something.

mary, that's what set me back as well. I support innovation in education and individual paths...I'm on one as well...hbh, I understand your points...I must be lucky to work with teachers whom I consider to be largley very good at what they do...scaffold kids to the next level... for me the process of teaching isn't about being an expert...there are many "experts" who cant teach...maybe they can demonstrate...For me, teaching is about contextualization and supporting discovery not necessarily being an "expert"..I'm honored to have students who can program circles around me, their old computer teacher. Hopefully they learned to have humor, balance and joy in their tech-lives from me . Anyway..it's early and I have to get ready to teach tomorrow's citizens

I used to threaten my kids with homeschooling. Hah!
I think good teachers, like my sister Karen at the Perpich Center, or Baci or Emily P or Ann Wise at Harbor City, do very much what I'm reading the "unschoolers" advocate. They attempt to draw out individual students' talents, styles, skills. But as a mom, I realize too that kids are sometimes their own worst enemies, and left to their own devices sometimes fall into inertia, self-deception, depression . . . the many zones of refuge from the scary big world. Human children take a long time to mature, and adults are responsible to help them do so. Ideally, the passionate social context of a good school will be there to help beleaguered parents to do this.

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