- First, this photo I saw on my FB page today. Posted by an “unschooler” that I follow. Yes, unschooling. Haven’t heard of it? Let me quote an extremely reliable source, Wikipedia:
“Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities, often initiated by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.”
Yes, I have been a teacher. Yes, I am studying to somedaymaybe be a professor of English Education. But unschooling? It appeals to me. And this photo, which is still having trouble uploading, and I may have to just describe it and copy the text if it doesn’t work, this photo explains that there is so much more to learning than what can be tested or learned from a book. And these things (creativity, critical thinking, curiosity, empathy, compassion, courage, etc), these things are exactly what I want my daughters to learn, and what I want my students to have. Because without them, you are nowhere.
On to other things, including what I’ve been thinking about in regards to my research project on education in prison:
- Because of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, prisons housing youthful inmates (under 24, I think… or 22, or 20… I can’t remember, should probably go back and look), “are required to hire highly qualified special education teachers and to train general educators how to modify and adapt instruction and materials to accommodate individuals with learning, behavioral, and cognitive difficulties” (Leone, Wilson, Krezmien 2008). Makes sense, doesn’t it, as a higher percentage of the prison population qualifies as having disabilities than the general population? IEPs should be created for every student in a prison population, and for every student in mainstream education too. Mostly what I think about as I read all of this is that what works for the special ed, alternative ed, and gen ed populations is the same. Best practice is best practice, no matter who your students are. We just need more funding, more teachers, fewer classes, fewer students, fewer preps… A complete revamping of the education system and the culture of our country. Sounds easy, right?
- Problems that are specific to correctional education: According to the California Department of Education, only 50% of students enrolled in in-prison classes are actually in class on any given day. Classes include alternative education programs, distance learning, academic and vocation programs. So why is it so difficult to get these captive students to class? Staff vacancies, lockdowns, solitary confinement, and funding problems are just a few of the issues. (Leone, et al. 2008)
- In some prisons, inmates who choose to enroll in educational programs must forfeit recreation or commissary time to do so. That’s terrible. Who would want to do that? You’d have to be very motivated. No wonder voluntary enrollment is low. (Leone et al. 2008)
- Researchers who have attempted meta-analyses of educational programs in prisons do not always get answers to their questions. For example, MacKenzie (2008) asked these great questions:
Were programs with smaller class size more effective? How effective was tutoring by peers or volunteers? Were programs that incorporated transition or re-entry programming more effective? Was obtaining a degree or certificate more effective than just participating? Did programs with drug treatment, parenting, cognitive skills, or life skills result in better outcomes? Unfortunately, studies have not yet been done to identify these data. Obviously that needs to happen. Instead, most studies compare inmates who participated in education with those who do not. We’ve learned that participating in education reduces recidivism, but now we need to figure out what types of programs work the best.
On a complete side note, my OCD tendencies are having major problems with WordPress. Is there something I’m just not getting? Why won’t it format the way I want it to??? It’s DRIVING ME CRAZY!