Declaration of Self-learning

中文版

If you agree and support this manifesto, please sign the manifesto in the comments. Signing is also available on twitter (link:  http://twitition.com/spsgn). You can sign at either place. Or you can help the cause by sharing this manifesto with your friends.

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

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. (John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education) 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 The current increasingly severe crisis facing United States and other western countries lies in the fact that the far outdated education system cannot meet the needs of the new knowledge economy.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.

To do that, we have to think outside of the box of classroom, and think deeply what is learning and what is knowledge. 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 are the real rich nutrition we can turn to. Typically, we can learn from over 40 years of practices of Sudbury Valley School, a school that has no classroom, no homework and no exams and what kids there do all day is just playing:

  1. Learning is always self-directed, and children (adults too, of course) can make decisions on their own learning;
  2. Children can learn everything by playing. In sudbury schools, children play whatever they feel like playing;
  3. Children can equally participate in school matters, and if given that equal chances they participate in school matters in a rational and responsible way. Feeling and improving one’s surroundings is essential to the wholeness of a human being, and should never be taken away from one;
  4. Children learn in their daily lives. They don’t need to be isolated from their daily lives in order to learn. They also don’t need to be isolated from larger society for the purpose of learning;
  5. No external tests should be given to children. They can evaluate themselves according to their internal goals and from their playing. Children should feel of their own space instead of let that feeling being constantly interrupted and damaged by external tests;
  6. Sudbury staff do whatever they can to help protect children’s feeling of the space: space internally and space around;
  7. Although children direct their own learning, sudbury staff also play an active role. They help make learning a little easier once learning needs arise. Sudbury staff made sudbury school a comprehensive supportive learning environment. They build a safe playground for children to play together.

So you can see sudubury experiences are simply about playing and feeling. Since children can direct their own learning and learning is never separated from real life, surely learning can be driven by curiosity and playing. No. 2 to No.4 are the content of playing. No. 5 and No. 6 are about feeling. No. 7 is about making learning easier and building a playground. I have to add it here that this playground very much mimics the playground the open source movement has built up for software programmers. It is all about making learning curve flatter and making things play with each other.

For those who still have doubts, it is not playing that distracts them from learning. It is external tests, meaningless homework and subjects they are not ready to learn that distract them. Actually playing provides all the context, drive, feedback and goals for their learning. They learn by playing. Please don’t ask me why playing. Playing is the primary activity. Learning is the secondary activity. Don’t sacrifice playing for learning.

Thus it is not school time that we have to guarantee our children. It is the play time that we have to guarantee them. People never became illiterate because they played too much. People became illiterate because they had to work day and night from a young age and had no time to play. Especially in the modern world where there are bookstores and internet anywhere, people don’t become illiterate because of playing.

Not only do we need to guarantee our children the time to play, we also need to guarantee them the time to pause and feel. We need to protect children’s time to be with themselves and feel of themselves. Children in sudbury are given time to be with themselves, to feel their internal clocks. And their feeling of the space is protected from external tests, meaningless homework and forced upon subjects, which are designed to destroy their sense of space and thus to make them unable to learn.

Trust us, play while equipped with strong feel is the most efficient way of learning. It may seem chaotic to the outsiders, but for the people doing it, they are following their own hearts and it is by all means following the natural order!

But this learning revolution is not just about children. It is actually more about us adults because it is us adults who already forgot what is learning and constantly interfered with children’s learning in a violent way.

We have put our minds into a cage called classroom. And without a classroom, either a physical one or a virtual one, we are unable to learn. Yes, we still learn intuitively and slowly little by little. But that speed of learning cannot catch up with the needs of the new era of economy and an increasingly sophisticated society.

So let’s expand Sudbury School Model to the whole society including adults. Sudbury school is a safe playground for children to play together. For the adults, let’s turn the whole society into a better playground! Let’s make the whole society a comprehensive supportive learning environment!

We hereby call for actions:

  1. Call for the declaration of 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;
  2. 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 lifelong 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. Especially we need to pay attention to various institutions that started to center learning around self-reflection, which has proven to be very effective in turning people who have been accustomed to school-way of learning (e.g. fixed, instigated) into a self-driven and self-initiated real life learning, and which is probably the major area that learning software will come from. With email, webpage, google, facebook, even with mobile internet and cloud computing, we are still at the beginning of this software revolution, which is a process of digitization of human world. We have been lingering around long enough not entering the core of that digitization. Now let’s march into the core! Let’s usher the era of consciousness software! We are all self-learners. Let’s make self-learning easier!
  3. Call for people of all ages, in school or out of school already, to engage in self-learning and learning in real life, to use self-reflection tools to help capture their learning every day and build up rich and well-structured knowledge, and to share that rich knowledge with others and guide others in their learning. The more people can learn out of school and in real life, the less significant school will be. As we build up strong self-learning communities and show people the power and richness of self-learning, we can make the old classroom based education model obsolete and replace it with this new one;
  4. Call for all organizations to participate in making the whole society a comprehensive supportive learning environment. We need various organizations to carry out their own education responsibility for the community. For example, hospitals should be the place for people to learn about health knowledge and law firms should be the place for people to learn of knowledge related to law. We need various organizations to open up their office space for young (or not that young) people to tour during certain hours or over the weekends for learning purpose, or set up internship and programs for them. We need various kinds of open labs and hacker space where people can learn and build stuff;
  5. Call for more comprehensive evaluation of people’s skills and capacities. For example, critical thinking and sound judgment in society. Devise tools or methodologies to make that evaluation easier for employers. The whole society needs to be more mature in how to comprehensively evaluate people’s working skills and capacities. And the internship we mentioned above is a key part of it. In short, you only need to do well in what you are doing and express yourself well. People don’t need to spend any extra time in preparing for any test.

We strongly believe that the future learning will be all about learn while play. People fully engage in playing, which means several things including improving their environment and participating in larger society. The learning part can be done by strong feeling. For that we can have meditation sessions that help people feel of themselves and things around (feel of space) with great clarity. We can also have software that help people capture their experiences and do self-reflection, at the same time build up well-structured knowledge and share that knowledge. Everyone can become a teacher, and they can teach in their spare time. Especially the barrier for teaching effectively will be extremely low for those who excel at their professions and do really possess the knowledge. We believe the future learning and teaching will be in this way. People don’t have to lock themselves up in an isolated environment for so long just for the purpose of learning. That is too industrial age. People can learn continuously and naturally in the same way they learn when they are very little: learn by play. The whole society will be the supportive comprehensive learning environment. That is our vision of future learning!

Self-learning was the reality from day one of human history, and has always been there throughout our history, even in the dark age of Compulsory Schooling. In term of accomplishing its design goal, Compulsory Schooling can be called 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. Now it is time to make human beings complete and return human beings to their full potential. In our time, instead of being choice of a few, self-learning is going to scale up to a massive level and become the mainstream way of learning. As the Compulsory Schooling was designed to prevent people from understanding the whole and thus being entrepreneurs, in this new age of economy, we need more people to be whole and be entrepreneurs. We need more people to explore social knowledge, build social products and solve social problems. It is the age about our happiness!

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

Let’s end with this from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”:

“Self-taught, are you?” Julian Castle asked Newt.

“Isn’t everybody?” Newt inquired.

“Very good answer.”  

———————————

Note:

This is the short version of the 3rd version. The long version is here. You can also read the 2nd version and the 1st version.

Elements of this manifesto can be found in manifesto 15, which this manifesto is forked from. I actually have been thinking of writing this manifesto for a few years. The most recent effort is a couple of months ago. I got a job to be Chief Learning Solution Architect in a big corporation, which I deem an important opportunity since I think the breakthrough in online education might happen first inside a company with enterprise learning. So I was reading this osl site and have content rearranged. I was thinking of writing the manifesto and put into a menu of this osl site. I studied several important manifestos in history for reference such as United States Declaration of Independence, the free software manifesto, the agile programming manifesto and so on. I came up with major points I think should be included in the manifesto. But then I got caught up with work and didn’t finish it. I think it is about time to write such a manifesto. For the alternative learning communities that are centered around Sudbury Valley School model, there have been a set of well accepted common understanding about learning/education. However, to make a stand and spread the ideas to the whole society, a manifesto seems a necessary step. Writing such a manifeso is difficult for me. Not just because of my poor English writing skills. But also because of the decisions on what to put in and what to leave out for the future. I tend to put in some more forward thinking stuff that might be beyond the current common practice of the community. I think that will offer a clearer direction and give more hope to people so they are able to see how things can be really possible in the future. But then I have to explain quite a lot what I mean, and it might be too many new stuff in a short article for people to digest. Also manifesto is something that takes a lot of thinking to write it well. We know how Thomas Jefferson had been tortured in his writing of Declaration of Independence. It is difficult writing and it takes time. Nevertheless, here is the version I wrote up. I also kept an older version in the previous blog post that you can look up. That one is less forward thinking. So you can decide on which one you like to sign. Also I include a link to the original manifesto 15 here: http://www.manifesto15.org/en/ My comments on that manifesto is also there under my twitter name: free_stone. If you like that one better, be sure to sign it. We need to spread the message! After this manifesto, I will write a series of articles titled “Common Sense for Learning”, in which I will explain things in more details. As always, help on revising and polishing up on the English writing will be very appreciated!

Here is the attribution to the original manifesto 15:  Manifesto 15 (John Moravec et al) / CC BY 4.0  As for change made to that manifesto, I think it is fair to say that this Declaration of Self-learning is a complete rewrite. For major differences:

  1. this declaration cites works of Sudbury Valley School and John Taylor Gatto. I think their tremendous efforts in helping people understand what is learning/education should be acknowledged in such a manifesto;
  2. this declaration goes deeper in explaining what is learning. I am aware that is a subjective statement;
  3. this declaration calls for specific actions that people can take to bring about future learning;
  4. inclusion of playing in the manifesto;
  5. have Freedom of Learning declared in the manifesto and call for its protection
  6. instead of saying technology should be “invisible” in learning and knowledge is “unmanageable”, although we agree partially with that statement, we think that statement can be misleading. So we put in more clearly what we think how technology especially software should play in future learning

Declaration of Self-learning by Leon Liu et al is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

 

27 Responses to Declaration of Self-learning

  1. Sarah Cao says:

    I am Sarah Cao. I signed it.

  2. Steve Hood says:

    Steve Hood. I signed this.

  3. admin says:

    From Cat’s Cradle:
    “Self-taught, are you?” Julian Castle asked Newt.
    “Isn’t everybody?” Newt inquired.
    “Very good answer.”

    Should I put the above into the manifesto?

  4. admin says:

    Although there seem to be a lot of content in the manifesto and it might seem a little scattered, actually the content is quite coherent and concise. For the first part, Sudubry experiences told us that self-learning is the only way to learn, and children can direct their own learning. Sudbury told us how children learn by playing, by participating in school matters and thus changing their immediate environment, and by paying attention to and being part of larger society. All these prove not only that learning shouldn’t be separated from these activities, but also that these activities are exactly what make learning happen and are what make the children complete and whole human beings. The learning part, the part that reflects on these activities, discerns differences and forms knowledge, help children participate better in these activities later. This part relies a lot on children’s feel of the space, either space internally or space outside. It is this feel of space, the reflection, that makes the learning process. And the knowledge they build up in the process helps them better play the activities later. So this completes the loop and it spirals up. This is the process of life. We don’t need external tests to evaluate children. External tests can never tell if people have grasped the knowledge and it destroys people’s sense of the space. What educators can do is to build up comprehensive supportive learning environment to make learning easier once learning needs arise. So the second part goes deeper in explaining these. The third part thus calls for actions accordingly. First we need to protect the freedom of learning and let people direct their own learning. We need software programmers to look into the reflection part and see how software can help people better do reflection and share that formed knowledge to help other people in their playing. We need people to start learning in real lives, and share what they have learned and thus make real life knowledge richer and make the old education model obsolete. We need to have more comprehensive ways for employers to evaluate candidates. We need all people and organizations to work together to make the whole society a comprehensive supportive learning environment.

    So as you can see, it is quite coherent. I probably lack the English wiring skills to make it a coherent and powerful manifesto. Anyone interested please jump in. This can be a powerful message to lead people to actions that will really bring the future learning to this planet in the earliest time possible.

  5. alex yu says:

    Alex Yu, I signed it.

  6. Jonathan Bisson says:

    To the author: you mention that you possess poor English writing skills. You demonstrate an admirable self-awareness here, but I wonder whether you might receive more support for this declaration if you have someone edit it for grammar, content, and format. Just a friendly suggestion! :)

    Nevertheless, the content is superb. I am Jonathan Bisson and I signed it.

    • admin says:

      Thank you very much for your suggestion, Jonathan! Yes, I should find some friends to help me edit it. Also if you feel interested, you mind doing that? The same as the original manifesto 15, this Declaration of Self-learning is also Creative Commons licensed. Anyone is free to fork it and add their ideas in. I forgot to put the license in initially, which is there now.

  7. Chris Wu says:

    I signed it.
    It is unfortunate that as long as Sudbury Schools operate primary on tuition, it would be only a choice for a few, and the mainstream can easily dismiss them as a luxury.

  8. admin says:

    Children can learn everything by playing. It is not playing that distract them from learning. It is external tests, meaningless homework and subjects that they are not ready to learn that distract them. Actually playing provide all the context, drive, feedback and goals for their learning. They learn by playing. Please don’t ask me why playing. Playing is the primary activity. Learning is the secondary activity. Don’t sacrifice playing for learning.

    Compulsory Schooling not just cut kids out of playing, but also destroy their sense of space. People haven’t learned how to reflect after more than 10 or 20 years in school.

    Above is content I am thinking of blending in the manifesto. I am thinking of making the manifesto shorter and more powerful. Anyone who is capable of good English writing can try.

  9. Haoyu Chen says:

    I also signed it. It’s a great insight for education. Yuanliang is the most persistent person I have ever met on learning. I really admire his continuous effort!

    I agree most part of the view in the manifesto. What I really concern is that how we can practice these ideas in a society. Similar as others, I would concern about the practice of idea, although there are schools like Sudbury Valley School. But is still not enough. We need to consider a school that is not more compatible with current education system.

    Education is a complex system. School is just a component in that system. Every time we think about changing a component in a system, we need realize that a component could perfect only when it is able to work with other parts of system. If not, even though it is a great component, it would be abandoned.

    • Haoyu Chen says:

      Correct my sentence:
      We need to consider a school that is more compatible with current education system.

    • admin says:

      Haoyu, thank you very much for your support! For a discussion, although I agree what you said has some value in it, I want to add two additional points to it.

      First is a quote from Buckminster Fuller: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

      Secondly, it is Compulsory Schooling that is at odds with modern society and not “working with other parts of the system”.

      So maybe it is better to let the discussion go deeper to discuss more specifically what kind of school or learning environment do we really need?

    • admin says:

      Actually I have tried making the change within existing system or watched closely other people trying so. My experiences of that are quite negative. One thing is that it tried to legitimize what is inherently wrong. The other thing is that it is just very ineffective and it takes too much time. So I prefer just replacing it with a new model. It is quicker that way and we don’t run into the danger of getting a twisted model.

  10. admin says:

    More stuff I am thinking of blending in the manifesto:

    So you can see sudubury experiences are simply about playing and feeling. No. 1 is the prerequisite of playing. No. 2 to No.4 are the content of playing. No. 5 and No. 6 are about feeling. No. 7 is about building a playground.

    It is not school time that we have to guarantee our children. It is the play time that we have to guarantee them. People never became illiterate because they played too much. People became illiterate because they had to work day and night from a young age and had no time to play. Especially in the modern world where there are bookstores and internet anywhere, people don’t become illiterate because of playing.

    We also need to guarantee children the time to be with themselves and feel of themselves. Children in Sudbury are given time to be with themselves, to feel their internal clocks. And their feeling of the space is pretected from external tests, meaningless homework and forced upon subjects, which are designed to destroy their sense of space.

    Play while equiped with strong feel is the most efficient way of learning. It may seem chaotic to the outsiders, but for the person doing it, s/he is following her/his own heart and it is by all means well-ordered!

    But this learning revolution is not just about children. It is actually more about us adults because it is us adults who already forgot what is learning and constantly interfere with children’s learning in a violent way.

    We have put our minds into a cage called classroom. And without a classroom, either a physical one or a virtual one, we are unable to learn. Yes, we still learn intuitively and slowly little by little. But that speed of learning cannot catch up with the needs of the new era of economy and an increasingly more sophisticated society. We need to learn a lot more. We need to learn big! We need to understand multiple domains of knowledge and understand the whole world. We need to be entrepreneurs and explore the world. People need to understand the sophisticated society and don’t get fooled by politicians and corporations. We need to build many things to make this world better. We need to empower ourselves by real learning!

    So let’s expand Sudbury School Model to the whole society incuding adults. Sudbury School is a safe playground for children to play together. For the adults, let’s turn the whole society into a better playground! Let’s make the whole society a comprehensive supportive learning environment!

    • admin says:

      Will this make the manifesto too long? I still think the manifesto can be short and powerful. Someone with better language skills just need to take up the task. Forking is also welcome!

  11. admin says:

    I strongly believe that the future learning will be all about learn while play. People fully engage in playing, which means several things including improving their environment and participating in larger society. The only learning part can be done by strong feeling. For that we can have meditation sessions that help people feel of themselves and things around (feel of space). We can also have software that help people to capture their experiences and do self-reflection, at the same time build up knowledge and share that knowledge. I believe the future learning and teaching will be in this way. People don’t have to lock themselves up in an isolated environment for so long just for the purpose of learning. That is too industrial age. People learn continuously and naturally in the same way they learn when they are very little: learn by play. The whole society will be the supportive comprehensive learning environment. That is my vision of future learning.

  12. admin says:

    Just updated the manifesto with the 3rd version. I removed the part describing in a deep way what is learning and what is knowledge. That part might be too dry and too forward thinking for many people. I added more content trying to clear the doubts of people who are still thinking in term of classroom based education and thus is dubious of this self-learning based future learning.I think in addition to making a stance for ourselves we also need to build the bridge across so more people can come to our side. Although I removed the deep analysis of what is learning and what is knowledge, I also put emphasis on feel and self-reflection in the manifesto. I think this should be enough for people to get the message and take further actions. If they want to look more closely into the content of self-reflection, surely we have places for them to read more.

  13. Nina says:

    I like your manifesto and I will have a look at it as how to make it shorter over the next few days.

  14. Huang-YiBin says:

    A few things I would do before this go viral:
    0. give it a nickname which can be hashtaged easily(like #Agile, #Scrum) or an acronym that speaks for itself. (like JOBS = Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act)
    1. make a shorter version and a one sentence version
    2. put it in a video under 60s
    3. built an NGO around it and spread the word by forming some workshop around the world under this principle
    4. gave us, the signers, a unique title. (like, The Guardians of the Galaxy, :P) And some stickers would be nice, too. :D

    I’m Huang-YiBin, and I fully support the effort of turning the table of education in a way that each child can be him/herself, follow his/her instinct, learn through playing, and therefore keep the best gift that the old man ever gave us: IMAGINATION & CURIOSITY.

  15. Leon says:

    Just made a shorter version. The longer version can still be viewed in the blog. The current short version might still contain a lot of content, but the words count is actually not big (below 2000). Honestly I feel it is difficult to cut further down. One thing is that we have to include things that make a somehow a complete picture for future learning so people can be confident that this is the future. The other thing is we still have to somehow clear the doubts of people who are accustomed to classroom-based education. So some sentences are still needed to clear their doubts and make them realize this is not just a Utopia or fantasyland but the real learning that will be brought true to everyone in the near future. I removed sentences that try to make a more elaborated explanation so the whole manifesto can be more compact. If people want to read more, at least the longer version is still kept, and also we are thinking of providing discussion points for people to discuss through a mailing group or sth. with what we built here using knowledge engine. I am still looking forward to other people’s efforts in making the manifesto more compact and fluent.

  16. admin says:

    I am thinking of adding more about test into the manifesto by extracting key points from this post regarding test: http://blog.opensourcelearning.org/regarding-test/

  17. admin says:

    I did the translation of the manifesto 15. So you can read it in Chinese: http://www.manifesto15.org/zh/

  18. Kevin Wang says:

    I’m Kevin Wang. I sign it.

  19. admin says:

    For those who think this manifesto might be too harsh on traditional classroom based education, we are just saying it is OK not to follow the supposed only way and it is OK to pursue what you feel you want to learn now. It is OK to learn things layer by layer or little by little, leave it for a while and come back to it. These are OK. If you feel it might be a little challenging, we have this self-learning tool to help you take control of it.

    It is important to “understand” things. And learning is to build up that “understanding”. To gain that understanding, you need the time and space. You need practice in real life, and you need contemplate on it and hold it for a long period of time. You need to come back to it over and over again. You need to learn by yourself. Hence this Declaration of Self-learning! Here at open source learning we strive hard to make self-learning a little easier!

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