What happened, some days back I was going to one renewable energy conference in the afternoon and I wanted to do something interesting in the morning. I saw somewhere that an ‘unconference’ event was being held (around the same area). Becoming curious about the concept of ‘unconference’, I registered myself for that event.
After going there, I found out that the Back to the Land event was conducted mainly for IT Engineers who wanted to go back to the land (and do organic farming, etc). Now, I was NEITHER an IT engineer, NOR did I want to go back to the land 😛 But since I was already there (and had nothing else to do), I decided to stay-on & observe.
So, what happens in an UnConference?
The organizers explained to us that an unconference is an event where a group of like-minded people (except me) meet and talk on topics they are passionate about. It’s more of an ad-hoc discussion session. So, one person volunteers to conduct an unconference session on a particular topic in a particular location within the premises (anyone can do this), and whoever is interested in knowing more about that topic can go and join. People were sitting in circular groups, like how we used to sit in group discussion sessions during our college days. I went and joined one group.
After I joined, I came to know that the topic for that session was ‘UnSchooling’. Frankly, I didn’t know anything about home-schooling/tutoring kids by parents (which is what unschooling is), but since there were no empty chairs in any other group, I decided to participate 😛
I first listened to the discussions for sometime. The leader initiates a topic and anyone can add points or raise objections, etc. Since everyone in this group were taking a PRO-UnSchooling stand, I decided to take a stand AGAINST it. You know me right, I DON’T like to say, ‘Yes yes yes…’. I don’t even do that in blog-comments 😛 , so there was no way I was going to do that here!!
They were telling things like,
‘School is a place that kills your kids’ creativity, it’s a stick-and-carrots approach, the only aim of a school is disciplining students and making them obedient, people anyway have to unlearn what they learned in school, there is a single curriculum for everyone and all kids are expected to learn at the same pace, the curriculum is outdated, the curriculum doesn’t focus on developing skills in areas that the child is interested in/passionate about, it kills inquisitiveness, etc. etc. etc’.
Actually, I SECRETLY LIKED all these arguments 🙂 But I had already decided to take a stand AGAINST it. So, I interrupted – ‘I don’t think school is as bad as you people are making it out to be’. Everyone looked at me like, *What is this outcast of a guy telling?*
Someone asked, ‘Why do you think unschooling is wrong?’ Now, I had no clue about this concept a few minutes back – so, why would I get caught discussing a topic that they had a lot of knowledge on? No way! 😛 I replied, ‘I didn’t say that – I just said our schools are good enough’.
Then someone said,
‘What is the point of stuffing 40/60 kids for so many hours in a room and making them listen, listen and listen endlessly? What is the point of lecturing them, without getting them involved in the subject? Who decides the curriculum and how do they know what is right for each kid, in such a mass-group scenario?’
I promptly replied, ‘The curriculum is decided by NCERT and there are experts in each field who set the syllabus appropriate to each class’
Then someone asked me, ‘How can they decide what is appropriate for each kid and what each kid needs to study?’
I said, ‘It’s collective knowledge of many teachers who’ve had a lot of experience. Besides, the curriculum taught in our schools are basic stuff which each child needs to know. Only if they are strong in basics, they can specialize in some subject, later on’
This debate carried on for some time. One of them even asked me if I had any kids!! In other words – what was I doing in this session? What can I do, a chair was empty ONLY in this group! 😛
In the end, someone said – ‘A child is naturally inquisitive – he/she knows what they want to learn and how they want to learn. All that is needed is individual attention and some guidance in the right direction. That is what, as an UnSchooling tutor, you need to provide’.
I interrupted, ‘Who has more knowledge – We or our children?’
Someone replied, ‘It is natural to think that we have more knowledge and hence we know what our children want, but the child knows better’
I said, ‘It’s factual, not natural. Of course we have more knowledge than our children, and we need to decide what’s to be taught to them’
Someone else replied,
‘Yes, after having decided for our children like this for so many years, we have come to this situation where there is no green cover left in cities and people are yearning to connect back to the greenery, the soil, the nature’
I said, ‘What’s wrong with cities? Even if we don’t have natural things, we still have air conditioning and other things that take us closer to what nature could provide’.
Then someone said, ‘Maybe you’ll tell that even cement is natural?’
I replied, ‘Of course it’s natural. What else is it?’
People were OPEN-MOUTHED and AGHAST at my unLogic 😛 Since this discussion was (unnecessarily) steered into a different direction (by me), the organizers took the charge back, told a little bit about the home-schooling syllabus/certifications/books and closed it.