Declaration of Self-learning Version 1

For the new version, read on this page.

Here we want to recognize what we have achieved in our understanding of learning, and call for further actions to lead to future learning.

1. The current prevailing education model, e.g. the school classroom based education model, or so called Compulsory Schooling, has only been around for 150 years. Its design goal is to strip away human beings’ higher capacities and keep only the lowest ones, so people can work along the assembly line and be part of the assembly line. So in this education system, human beings are just a higher form of machine. But in the new era of economy, we need more people who are able to explore knowledge and think independently. The current increasingly severe crisis facing United States and other western countries lies in the fact that the far outdated education system cannot meet the needs of the new knowledge economy. So this is the era we are going to replace the old education model with the new one, one that brings out the true face of learning.

2. Fortunately, many years of practices and experiences from Sudbury Valley School, Summerhill and other democratic schools, from unschooling movement, and from many self-learners such as Mark Twain and Albert Einstein, tell us what is learning and what is knowledge. Typically, what sudbury practices tell us:

a) learning is always self-directed, and children (adults too, of course) can make decisions on their own learning;

b) children can equally participate in school matters, and if given that equal chances they participate in school matters in a rational and responsible way;

c) children can learn everything by playing;

d) children learn in their daily lives. They feel of their surroundings and make improvement to their surroundings;

e) no external tests should be given to children. They can evaluate themselves according to their internal goals. Children should feel of their own space instead of being interrupted by external tests;

f) sudbury staff do whatever they can to help protect children’s feeling of the space: space internally and space around. For example, children shouldn’t be timed with external clock. Children’ s sense of themselves shouldn’t be interfered or driven by external tests. Children feel of their inner needs of learning. Children feel of their environments and make change to that environment, evaluate that change and make further improvement. Children participate in larger social life instead of being cut of and isolated from it;

g) … there are many other lessons from sudbury practices. But to keep the manifesto brief, we stop here. Sudbury book Free at Last is a good book for you to read further.

3. So let’s have our future learning built based on these practices and experiences. Specifically, let’s:

a) Call for Freedom of Learning: individuals should have the right to decide for themselves what to learn, how to learn, from who to learn, when to learn and where to learn.

b) Acknowledge our understanding of learning:

i. Learning activities are external and they are scattered and everywhere. But learning is very internal. Learners need to feel the space of themselves and the outside world. Self-reflection is a vital learning skill. Learners need to pull all their learning experiences from various learning activities together to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the domain knowledge. In fact, learning is to shape our internal understanding to match external world. Of course, it is both social and internal;

ii. Since learning is scattered and everywhere, it is never separated from real life. Thus learning surely can be and should be driven by curiosity. Thus people can learn everything by playing. And they learn best by playing because at the very least the learning needs all come from playing, and that is the natural way of how learning happens;

iii. Once people start exploring knowledge, they will realize the source of knowledge is from real life. So people have to learn in real life;

iv. The so called “informal” learning is actually the formal learning. Real life learning is the formal learning.

c) Call for people who can truly bring technology and understanding of learning together. For that, software programmers need to turn to practices and experiences from Sudbury, Summerhill, and other democratic schools, and from the unschooling movement. They also need to be life long self-learners themselves and learn several big things in their lives and have very rich learning experiences. Only so, can we see how technology is really applied to learning and truly make the revolution happen. In the process of digitization of human world, we need to march into the core! Let’s usher the era of consciousness software!

Self-learning was the reality from day one of human history, and has always been there throughout human history, even in the dark age of Compulsory Schooling. In term of accomplishing its design goal, Compulsory Schooling is a success. But as we enter the era of economy that calls for more explorers of knowledge and independent thinkers, we have to say to Compulsory Schooling:”Mission over. You are now dismissed!” Now it is time to bring forward the real learning, in which self-learning is going to scale up to a massive level and become the mainstream way of learning.

So together let’s bring out the true face of learning!

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