You have just entered into a remarkable world of ideas about education—ideas that make enormous sense, are much supported by research, and are influencing the educational thought and practice of an ever-growing number of families throughout the world. I am Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College. This website includes some of my own research findings, as well as conclusions from many other sources, about how children best learn and about alternatives to conventional schooling that have proven successful for many thousands of young people. I, and the whole team that created this site, welcome you and hope you will explore the site to discover more about home-based, self-directed learning, community resource centers, and democratic schools.
THE MAIN IDEAS DEVELOPED ON THIS SITE ARE:
Children are beautifully designed, by nature, to control their own learning. For most of human history, children educated themselves through observing, exploring, questioning, playing and participating. These educative instincts still work beautifully for children who are provided with conditions that allow them to flourish.
Coercive schooling is not good for children. Schooling that children are forced to endure—in which the subject matter is imposed by others and the “learning” is motivated by extrinsic rewards and punishments rather than by the children’s true interests—turns learning from a joyful activity into a chore, to be avoided whenever possible. Coercive schooling, which tragically is the norm in our society, suppresses curiosity and overrides children’s natural ways of learning. It also promotes anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness that all too often reach pathological levels.
Real alternatives already exist and have been proven to work. These options include democratic schools, in which children direct their own activities and participate in running the school; home-based self-directed learning, where children pursue their own interests with the support of parents and others in the community; and resource centers that offer community and support for self-directed learners. These self-directed approaches have been used successfully by young people representing the whole normal range of personalities and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. These approaches nurture traits such as initiative, creativity, playfulness, and love of learning–traits that promote life satisfaction and are increasingly essential for economic success in our rapidly changing world. As an added bonus, the financial cost of such approaches has proven to be far less than that of coercive schooling.
THIS SITE IS FOR YOU IF YOU ARE:
a parent who is concerned about how schooling is affecting your child, or who seeks to preserve your child’s wonder and excitement of learning;
a student who feels trapped by schooling;
a researcher or scholar who wants to know the evidence concerning the harm of coercive schooling, the success of self-directed education, and the conditions in which self-directed education works best;
a journalist or event organizer, interested in featuring an authority who can discuss better approaches to education and children’s needs for freedom and play; or
a concerned citizen, looking for ways to improve education for all.
Thanks to all of you that attended the Brooklyn School Alternatives Conference that was held in Park Slope, Brooklyn, on May 9th and 10th, 2015.