Self-directed learning IS the pursuit of happiness


MAP’ing the Tipping Point

by David Lane

In his blog, “Freedom to Learn,” Peter Gray explains an impending educational tipping point: “the point at which everyone knows several families who have left coercive schooling and chosen a path of educational self-determination, so it will no longer seem like an odd thing to do.”

I am part of a group in central Massachusetts that feels compelled to add our weight to hasten this tipping point.  Here’s why:

  1. Self-directed learning is the pursuit of happiness. It’s that simple. How does one pursue happiness? Everyone’s path is different, to be sure, but each path is one of self-discovery and exploration.
  2. Almost every policy, procedure and practice of coercive education limits, restricts or outright bans students’ control over their own learning experience. Coercive schooling effectively prevents students from self-directed learning, and therefore denies young citizens their inalienable rights.
  3. Disruption from developing technology is affecting every sector, and since education is supposed to provide training for these sectors, then education must respond to disruption by welcoming it. Technology facilitates the best form of educational disruption: self-directed learning.
  4. Young people see in their future problems that are potentially disastrous.  They worry that it is up to them to find solutions, or perish.  But these problems were all caused by the policies of older generations, including those of the coercive education system.  This system cannot provide them with the skills they need to solve the problems it is at least in part responsible for causing.
  5. Self-directed learning is more efficient, less costly, and produces superior results. Self-directed learning centers and alternative schools all over the world have lower operating costs than most public schools, and they serve the same populations of students.
  6. A crisis in democracy has fully infected our schools. Almost 200 years of coercive schooling have failed to prepare any significant increase in citizens who are active, literate participants in their own democracy.  As Daniel Greenberg, one of the founders of the Sudbury Valley School wrote, “It seems rather difficult — in fact, close to impossible — to have people grow up in what is basically an authoritarian environment until they’re eighteen, and then suddenly have them transform into effective citizens of a democracy. It just doesn’t make sense.”
  7. Our own children have creative, interesting, beautiful, hungry minds that deserve more than what the coercive education system attempts to brainwash them into believing is their only option.

To learn more from Alternatives To School about the benefits of self-directed learning, please click here.

When my friends and I came to these conclusions, it also became clear to us that policymakers, school committees, administrators, and educators who ignore them are being irresponsible. They should embrace self-directed learning and enthusiastically provide more options for it.  But instead, they build stronger, higher, wider barriers against educational self-determination.  To them, self-directed learning is a threat.

We have decided we must throw our weight onto the scale and help the tipping point come now, not later.  Here’s how:

We are in the foundation stages of building a democratic, self-directed learning center called MAP the Pursuit.  MAP stands for Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose.  These are the three ingredients for intrinsic motivation.

  • Mastery = the process of getting better at a skill every time one practices it.
  • Autonomy = the power and freedom to make decisions about one’s own life.
  • Purpose = the connection of one’s activities to something meaningful in one’s life.

When students exercise Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose, they learn on their own without being forced or bribed to do it.  With MAP, any young person can pursue his or her own happiness. This idea is not our invention. It is based on scientific understandings of neurology and psychology and practical, real world experience by leaders such as Sugata Mitra, Daniel Pink, Charles Tsai, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Peter Gray, Elliot Washor, Dennis Littky, John Taylor Gatto and many others.  People all over the world are creating learning environments based on the science of human motivation.  We want one, too, for our children and our community.

We invite everyone to join us.  Please visit our Indiegogo page to find out how you can at

David Lane has worked in non-profit, for-profit, public and private educational settings serving students aged 14 to 94 from the inner city to suburban neighborhoods, including Los Angeles, New York City, and central Massachusetts.  He has pursued his own path through these varied educational environments, which has led him to the firm conviction that self-directed learning IS the pursuit of happiness.  He is married to a brilliant woman who pushes him to be better every day and is the father of three beautiful, creative and trouble-making children aged 10, 12, and 14 years old.  Contact him at .