You are lying to yourself if you think education is not for employment. Because if education were just for the love of learning, then definitely, you could leave your kid alone to learn whatever the kid loves to learn. Human beings are naturally curious and we naturally love to learn. Our brains are relatively huge. We don’t need to worry about birthing kids who are not natural learners.
Which means we educate kids so that they have a good future.
We can debate forever what a good future is, but you probably want your kid to be able to either support themselves or marry someone who can support them. Either goal is fine. In fact, maybe we should train kids to find a rich partner, since for a lot of kids, that’s probably their best path through adult life. (Really – some people were born to be caretakers.)
So let’s say you are not educating your kid to be a stay-at-home parent. Let’s say you are educating your kids to have a lot of career paths open to him as an adult. Curriculum is not going to help you in meet that goal. Here’s why:
1. Curriculum no longer gets respect from top-tier universities.
Forbes explains that schools don’t want well rounded kids, they want well rounded classes of kids. Which means that each kid has to specialize in a certain type of knowledge. This is an explicit endorsement for ignoring national curricula. Because schools don’t accept kids based on the fact that they have learned all the subjects. In fact, schools accept kids who focused on something completely outside the national curricula. It’s appealing.
2. Curriculum assumes kids learn by reading and not doing.
For me, this photo of my son in a bookstore is heaven. I could sit in the bookstore all day. But he actually has no interest in learning by reading; (he’s an ESFP and) he learns by doing. So he pulls out a how to dance book and does dance moves in the aisle while I read. Sometimes I think he does not need any subject. He learns through reading only when he needs information to do something. So for him, curriculum would only make sense divided into doing topics rather than thinking topics.
In today’s school environment, the emphasis is learning by reading (much less expensive than doing) so the kids who are destined to grow up as do-ers rather than thinkers (professional athletes, gardeners, stage crew, etc) will find themselves ill-prepared for anything they could make a good living doing.
3. Kids who learn outside of curricula are better at learning as adults. Self-directed learners are lifelong learners, and the people who stay most employable in the workforce are people who somehow know what they should learn next and do it without being told. Kids who have a curricula laid out in front of them and they do what they told and learn what other people want them to learn are not exhibiting any skills we admire outside of the military.
Lisa Nielsen writes that public education is only right for the compliant, and one of the reasons for this is that you get told what to learn. There is an infinite amount of information in the world to learn. There is no single “correct” set of things to know. People who think there is one, single set of knowledge are simple, uncreative thinkers. They may have other strengths, but they shouldn’t be guiding peoples’ learning.
4. Curriculum is inside the box thinking.
School teaches students to think in terms of English and math, and if you can’t think that way, people start to have low expectations for you. Kids who want to be successful in life – kids with that drive – will conform to what people tell them is success. And teachers will, in turn, show high expectations for the kids who are best at conforming, and this encourages them to go deeper into the box. The Guardian points out that it is these high expectations of students, tied to curricula, that are so powerful they are able to diminsh the benefits of high expectations.
5. Thinking in terms of discreet subjects squashes creativity.
Fast Company has a great article about why people get more creative in their thinking. In general, creativity stems from combining disparate ideas: “Your most creative insights are almost always the result of taking an idea that works in one domain and applying it to another.” Teaching kids that when you study one subject you think about that subject teaches them that cross-pollinating has no reward.
Also, most people who teach subject by subject are also testing subject by subject, and subject based tests don’t promote cross contexting because it would invalidate the results. You can’t test math in a history course because what if all the other kids haven’t learned that math?
But in the world of self-directed learning, anything you learn you can use. And that’s the way adult life works.