Did I ever tell you about my failed reality TV show? I need to talk about it one more time because I still have photos from it. The show had a buyer, so we made a pilot. And then TLC said we are too normal.
But still, people contact me regularly for reality TV. And seeing how much time the film crew was at our house to get a simple, eight-minute demo reel, I think reality TV probably wouldn’t be good for the family. So now I say no.
But then a really big agent in LA contacted me. And I said yes. Then I wrote (what everyone was thinking and no one was saying) about Sheryl Sandberg and another TV thing fell through. But I kept the agent.
And now I’m working on a book with her, and we have gone through ten billion titles. Which is standard for a book deal. If you are ever thinking of writing a book, remember, you don’t sell the book, you sell a book proposal, which means you only write fifteen pages for a book, which means the title takes on incredibly huge importance, so it’s almost like you are selling just the title.
Anyway, we are realizing more and more how self-directed learning is a sea-change for American society. Millenials brought us self-directed learning throughout adult life (through a workplace revolution), and Generation Z will bring self-directed learning throughout childhood (through a school revolution).
But then people always bring up the topic of self-directed learning being dangerous, or maybe just indulgent. What if kids pick something that’s bad for them? What if they don’t learn math? What if they completely destroy their life by playing video games all day?
Then I thought about all the choices adults get to make. There are so many people who turn nutrition into a passion. Some of it makes sense to me, like Leaner Creamer turns coffee into an appetite suppressant with no chemicals. And some of it seems insane, like people who eat gluten-free only when someone is looking. But we don’t ever say adults shouldn’t self-direct their learning.
And as adults we get everything customized for us. There is Curvy for bras customized for super big breasts. There are customized job listings to reach top-flight candidates who don’t need a new job. We don’t ever question the benefits of customization; we assume the more we address peoples’ specific needs, the better a world we live in.
I just discovered the show Born this Way and it’s a completely adorable reality show about kids with Down’s Syndrome. And the joy of the show is watching them discover the world through self-directed learning: the dinner date, stand-up comedy night, bowling. The show is a celebration of self-directed learning, and no one would question that the kids are learning so much, so fast, and in a lovely way.
Yet if we give neurotypical kids the opportunity to self-direct, everyone starts questioning if they will choose the best options. So I’m realizing that my book proposal, which I thought was about homeschooling, or education reform, or Generation Z, is actually about self-directed learning. If the beginning of self-directed learning was the Renaissance, where the elite could follow their curiosity, the finale of the self-directed learning revolution is when we respect that curiosity in everyone. At every age.
Work is about self-directed learning throughout adult life, and education is about self-directed learning throughout childhood. And I have a feeling that the adults who are most adamant about kids needing to have forced learning are the same adults who feel they have no ability to control their own lives. And if you give up the joys of self-directed exploration as an adult, it seems logical, rather than tragic, to have your kids give it up as well.
And, in case you are worried about kids choosing stupid paths, I would not have come to this realization if I had not gone down many dead ends with TV agents that seemed, at one point, like a total waste of good energy. We never know what we’ll learn through self-directed learning, which is why it makes a more satisfying life than curricula-based learning: knowing the end of the story, in life and in learning and even in blog posts, is way too boring for us.