(Erickson 2012) The case for cinder blocks

Erickson, Megan. The case for cinder blocks. Jacobin. 2012 Spring; 6:64–66. Available from: http://jacobinmag.com/spring-2012/the-case-for-cinderblocks/.

Erickson responds to Astra Taylor’s “Unschooling” by defending certain uses of authority, coercion, and imposition of structure in the classroom, and by arguing that unschooling, even in a group context like the Albany Free School, contributes to the societal devaluing of care work and the abdication of public responsibility for education. According to Erickson, unschooling is governed by a “false and misguided sense of children’s fragile identity” that exaggerates the value of uninterrupted solitude and fails to appreciate the importance of learning to work with others who may be less than entirely friendly:

Why shouldn’t kids be asked to put away their crayons and go to lunch at the same time? Why do we assume that clear boundaries, a schedule, and a sense of hierarchy are so threatening to students? Why must the individual’s vision be so carefully and serenely sheltered from other people, who are experienced in this framework as interruptions? There is value in being pulled out of a daydream. There is value in learning to cope with a little coercion, in knowing what it means to cooperate on a daily basis with someone who doesn’t love you, someone who’s not your family member.

Erickson also cites research to support the claim that structure and guidance from teachers can facilitate learning and yield better results than the completely unstructured, autonomous learning process valorized by unschoolers. Finally, Erickson holds that unschooling neglects the role of economic class in the process and outcome of education. The economic value of acquiring an education depends on mastery of certain specific knowledge and skills, such as “Standard English”, and thus on a certain degree of regimentation and standardization. And Erickson believes that the economic interests of public-school teachers and their unions are threatened by social acceptance of unpaid homeschooling or of the low-paid and volunteer work that sustains the Albany Free School.



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