There are many things to think about in these latest posts but I’ll take on just one – or maybe one and a half!
@Woz your paragraph here I find myself agreeing with almost unreservedly:
You can see the summit (of the queen of the sciences), but you cannot see the abyss in front of your child’s feet. Only she got the detectors to warn you (see “mountain climb” metaphor above in the discussion). It is ok to extol the beauty of the summit, but it is not optimum to pull the kid by hand if she resists. This is particularly dangerous if she claims she can sense a better summit somewhere else. There can be reactance or toxic memory, or a lifelong conviction “I am no good at math”. Math anxiety is far more prevalent than the love of math. Good intentions are a culprit! Without the understanding of the learn drive, we will have more of the same in the future.
Here you have separated goal and path. You allow legitimate authorities in influence goals, with respect for the learner’s chosen path. I think there is a serious investigation to be had just of this proposal. There may even be educators and researchers in education who can contribute something. At the end of your paragraph, you suggest that the learner should have the right to choose a different summit. In learning we can be committed to more than one goal, but I agree there are many times when goals compete. You are saying, do not interfere with the learner’s choice.
I hope I’ve understood this correctly. The reason I think it worthy of a focused examination is that we now have to think about “choice” means. I find the example of kids being encouraged to play video games (today, games on their phones) whenever they want, unconvincing. That is because games are not internally generated by individual learners. Games are produced by game developers who have a keen understanding of how to influence behavior. (See Addiction By Design by Natasha Dow Schüll for an excellent study.)
The game developer plays the role of a teacher, pointing to a summit and saying: This is beautiful, and then rewarding learners with candy to keep them going. Not everybody is vulnerable, and not everybody is harmed. I’m not making an argument that games are bad – I hope that’s understood. I’m arguing that it is not realistic to imagine a world of teachers and parents who are imposing education, on one side, and a world full of things to be curious about, on the other side. In fact, we live in a world of competing authorities, competing values, competing summits, and we make our choices through negotiation, power struggles, adhesion to our parents, friends, and mentors, etc. etc.
@Zon, when I talked about our family belief that numeracy is an obligation, you rightly raised the question of relativism. It’s easy to imagine a family committed to innumeracy; what about them? I realize that my example was taken as asserting the natural superiority of our own values; and I shouldn’t object to it being so taken, because the nature of these commitments is such that we act on our belief in their validity. But I’m not blind to the fact that not everybody shares my beliefs, and families can disagree, as I disagreed with my own parents about some key issues regarding my education. What happens when we disagree is that we argue with each other, try to convince each other. Sometimes (in civic life, and even in families) we assert our power to have it our way, even though others think this is wrong. While I do believe that numeracy is beneficial, the more important thing that I meant to argue was more abstract: that our educational commitments are social commitments, and that respect for the fact of authority is the basis for criticism of authority and even for the rebellions that we can’t live without.
I’m with both of you in wanting more freedom. I think we are moving in the direction of trying to understand more clearly what freedom to learn means.