At first when you take kids out of school you get scared that you won’t be able to teach them what they need. After a while, you realize they were learning nothing that they needed in school anyway, so how can you go wrong?
The reason for this is that the most important skill to learn is critical thinking. Presumably, we are teaching the core curricula in school so that kids can get into college where they finally learn critical thinking.
Core curriculum leads to intellectual failure.
But Lisa Nielsen uses a wide range of research to show that the core curriculum is just a tool to make parents think kids will fail without school. (For example, if you tell a kid to read books they are not ready to read, they will hate reading. If you let a kid read what they are ready to read, they will enjoy reading.)
Memorizing facts undermines critical thinking.
Scientific American has a series of examples of why crticial thinking is best learned outside of school. For one thing, a study from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching showed that the more people focus on knowing facts and data the less likely they are to synthesize informtaion to solve problems using critical thinking.
Critical thinking emerges in environments that encourage ill-defined answers.
Also, The Exploratorium in San Francisco is experimenting with using museum exhibits to teach kids critical thinking because the exhibits can focus on broadly worded questions that have few measurable results, like “What if…” and “How can…”
These questions work better outside the classroom because critical thinking assumes there are sometimes multiple right answers and sometimes no right answers, and “informal environments tolerate failure better than school.”
Television is better than school for critical thinking.
Finally, Scientific American says that one of the best teachers of critical inquiry is the Jon Stewart show. “He expertly shreds political, commercial and scientific sounding claims in the press by using numbers, logic, and old video. This collage-like synthesizing of data is what the new generation of critical thinkers will need to do, and the skill comes from a collage of information and interactions that do not emerge in a controlled school environment.