How I Would Unschool My Kids

Email Print

by James Altucher: My



My dad hit
me when I got bad grades. Particularly when I was young and got
a bad grade in “Conduct”. Happiness was an “A”.
Even better: an “A+”. Sadness was an “F”. It
was almost like a joke. Like the only way to get an “F”
is if you tried to screw up almost as much as you tried to get an

But in twelve
years of basic schooling I can’t’ remember anyone asking
where the “E” was. It goes A, B, C, D (which was really
horrible to get a D. It means you were trying somewhat (so as to
avoid the “F”) but you were just plain stupid and got
a D. Not even a C.) and then, the magic “F”. Which was
more than just a letter but a one-letter acronym. None of the other
letters stood for anything. They were just letters. They could’ve
been replaced by numbers (Claudia tells me in Argentina they were
graded by numbers from one to ten. No letters). It’s not like
“A” stood for Amazing. Or “B” Boring. “C”
Crazy. “D” Dumb. You could’ve just replaced them
by 1, 2, 3, 4. Or a “1+”. But F was irreplaceable.

stood for “Failure”. [Note: except when I was really little.
There was "O" for outstanding. "S" for Satisfactory.
And "N" for needs improvement. I got an N for conduct
and it’s the first time I remember my dad hitting me after the teacher
told him I was always calling her old, which she was and there is
no shame of that but I only realize that now that I am as old as
she was.]

So why no “E”.
I think teachers got together 5000 years ago. Maybe 10,000 years
ago and came up with the horrifying conclusion: Some students might
think “E” stood for Effort. As in, “at least I didn’t
get an ‘F’. I got an ‘E’ which means I put in
an effort.” And doesn’t that go along all too easily with
the lie teachers say, “I’m not going to judge you on your
grade, I’m going to judge you on the effort you put into this

Did they ever
really judge you on that? And if they did, do you really think they
would want you to get an “E” on a test and then have to
put up with your arguing at the end of a semester when you would
say, “See! I put in the effort! I got an “E” on everything
and you said that would be how you would judge me.”

is awful”, said a teacher at that first convention of the union
of the national teachers club. “We have to take the ‘E’
out of the alphabet.”

said Mr. Maroon. “We spend years teaching them that song: A,
B, C, D, E, F, G… to the tune of twinkle twinkle little star.
And now we have to tell them there is no E?”

is an E! Just not in grades. Why is this such a difficult thing
to understand? If we put an ‘E’ in there then our schools
will NEVER get funding. All our schools depend on our students,
smart or stupid, doing well on those standardized tests where they
fill in the multiple choice circles and cyborgs read them and grade
them and the better they do, the more funding we get. If we put
an ‘E’ into the system the students might clog up the
pipes with Effort instead of Amazing. They might even think “E”
is for Exceed because at least it beats Failure! WE CANNOT HAVE
AN ‘E’!”

I doubt that
conversation really happened. They really backed themselves into
a corner. They thought by using letters instead of numbers that
would fool kids into some state of confusion where they really didn’t
know how they did. Like, “is a B good or bad?” But everyone
knows where they stand when it comes to 1 through 10.

But now they
were stuck with the “E”. Until they decided to strike
it from the alphabet. But only some of the time. Except for that
one time an entire novel was written without using the letter “e”.
That guy knew what he was doing. The insidious removal of the most
common letter in the English language.

Because that’s
what English is about. It’s not “Anglo”. It’s
not quite “Saxon”. It’s not “Latin”. But
its a weird mixture of all three, concocted like a test tube baby
in some scientist’s laboratory when the aliens landed and impregnated
our ancient Mothers with the sperm from their dying planets (since
they came from a Federation of planets surrounding a supernova,
or perhaps supernovae (there’s that “E” again) ).
So we can keep on experimenting and investing and twisting and testing.
Now “google” is a verb, a noun, a business, the beginnings
of an artificially intelligent singularity, a map, an email, a social
network, and a photo album with the flowers as bookmarks. We don’t
need those anymore thanks to Google. No memories are special enough
to mark them with a flower, thanks to the newest word in the dictionary.

Ugh, trying
to unravel the Rubik’s Cube-like scam of lower education is
a full-time job. Once you get a side with all one color you realize
you’ve hopelessly prevented yourself from getting the other
side to be one color.

I have not
read much about home schooling or unschooling so I am no expert.
But I’ve thought about it. And this is how I would do it
if my kids were to let me unschool them.

A) First,
(and again, this is without reading about it at all so I, at best,
uneducated on the topic). I prefer the word “unschooling”

to “home schooling”. I assume home schooling means I replace
the teacher, buy them science textbooks, math, Canterbury Tales,
etc. I don’t want to do that. That sounds boring to me and
I assume to them as well. Unschooling sounds more like it –
i.e. just completely no education at all.

the rest of the article

21, 2012

Best of James Altucher

Email Print