The Getting Started Guide to Rethinking Schooling and Education

So you’re rethinking the idea of schooling. Wondering whether schooling is really necessary for learning. You know, that deep meaningful kind of learning, not the learn it for the test kind of superficial learning. Maybe, you’re doubting the value schooling has added to your life or is adding to your kid’s life. The feelings are strong, but you’re not sure, because everyone around seems fine with the idea of schooling, devoted to the idea.

You’re not alone. Let’s jump right into some discussions. The first stop is this short (20 min), entertaining and thought provoking presentation by Sir Ken Robinson on how schools are killing creativity. Sir Ken Robinson is a leading thinker on creativity. In this very popular talk he makes a strong case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Once you’ve watched it, and pondered over it, read his reflections on the reasons for the popularity of this talk. After all, this is the most viewed ted talk ever – 36 million views.

You might be wondering what lies beyond education’s death valley… There are as many answers as there are people asking it. Ken Robinson has something to say about this too. First he suggests that we change our education paradigm.


And so he talks about How to Escape Education’s Death Valley.


Of course, Ken Robsinson isn’t the first and only person to be talking about the failure of schools. Seth Godin has some strong views too. In this Tedx talk, Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin talks about the future of Education and what we can do about it. His free ebook – Stop Stealing Dreams – has been downloaded millions of times since publication.



Carol Black is superbly inspiring in this presentation on Alternatives to School. She suggests that instead of the chaos we might envision from removing the compulsory from schooling – we might just get some amazing collaboration and creativity. But listen in for yourself and see how this speaks to you.

Carol Black: Alternatives to Schooling from The Economics of Happiness on Vimeo.

You can also pop over to Carol’s website and read her essays breaking down the myths of Modern Industrial Schooling.

Removing the compulsory from schooling requires a lot of trust.  And as Jerry Michalski share with us in his Tedx Copenhagen talk – What if We Trusted You –  we can achieve much with TRUST.


Trust results in practices called unschooling, democratic schools, Agile Learning Centers etc. They all have a common thread that runs through them. That of Self Directed Education. The Alliance for Self Directed Education has put together a lovely video distilling Self Directed Education

Some noted Educators that are/were passionate advocates for rethinking modern schooling are:

John Taylor Gatto was named New York State Teacher of the Year after being named New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. He quit teaching on the OP ED page of the Wall Street Journal in 1991 while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. His resignation letter is well worth a read and so is his essay on The Tyranny of Compulsory Schooling.

John Holt  Don’t forget this Recommended Read By John Holt

A.S. Niell – Founder of the original free school, Summerhill School in England founded in 1921

Khalil Al Sakikini – Palestinian Educator and founder of the Constitutional School in Palestine in 1905

Munir Fasheh – An Enlightening and Thought Provoking Series of Essays

Manish Jain – Listen to Manish Here

Richard Elmore: Research Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Leadership
“I do not believe in the institutional structure of public schooling anymore,” noting that his long-standing work at helping teachers and principals professionalize their practice is “palliative care for a dying institution.” Elmore predicted “a progressive dissociation between learning and schooling.”

There are other reasons for rethinking schooling. Read Why we need to Reimagine Schooling for a few other compelling reasons too or dig into this pretty comprehensive Deschooling Reading List.