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The Alliance for Self‑Directed Education

Newsletter #2  (2016-09-01)
A Brief History of the Alliance
by Peter Gray

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) will be launching soon!  We, the organizing team, are working hard at getting the start-up website ready and making arrangements for a smooth takeoff. You will be notified as soon as we are ready, and we hope you will then become a Charter Member of the Alliance.  Here, as part of a general introduction to ASDE, I will say just a bit about the origins of this new, nonprofit organization and introduce you to the organizing team.

The seeds of ASDE were planted in the fall of 2011, when a small group, mostly living in the Boston area, began to meet at Boston College every three months to talk about how to foster self-directed education.  The participants in those meetings who are still involved include Pat Farenga (a long-time leading authority on homeschooling and unschooling, who has helped keep alive the work and ideas of John Holt); Peter Bergson (co-founder of Open Connections, a learning center in Pennsylvania for homeschoolers and unschoolers); Stephen Dill (Marketing Manager at Wheelock College, who had been blogging about the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of standard schooling); Cevin Soling (an academician, musician, youth rights advocate, and creator of the film The War on Kids as well as other documentary films); and me (Peter Gray, a research professor who has for many years been studying and writing about children’s natural ways of learning).  At first we were primarily a discussion group, who got together to talk about the projects that each of us was involved in and to discuss how social change, which could enable self-directed education for children and adolescents everywhere, might occur.

Informally, we called ourselves The Tipping Point Project, because our theory was (and still is) that once some critical percentage (maybe 10%, maybe 15%) of families have removed their children from standard schooling for some form of self-directed education, so that everyone will know families who have done that and can see how happy and successful the children are, the floodgates will open.  Citizens will then begin to demand changes in laws and public funding that will free children from our outdated, coercive system of education and enable and support self-directed educational opportunities for all families, regardless of means. We began to think about how we might help nudge society toward that tipping point.  For more about the tipping point idea, as applied to self-directed education, see my 2013 blog post here.

Later, we were joined by Kerry McDonald (a blogger, writer for Natural Mother magazine, and unschooling mom), Brooke Newman (a graduate of the Sudbury Valley School, who went on to become a writer, researcher, nonprofit administrator, and consultant to nonprofit organizations), and Jens Peter de Pedro (CEO of the kids interactive media consultancy Little Frog and a leader in the creation of innovative games for young children).  These people played major roles in taking our group to a new level of activity.  We created a website, alternativestoschool.com, designed to inform the public about the advantages and means of self-directed education, a regular blog on issues pertaining to self-directed education, and a Facebook page.  These are all still very active, and we believe they have played a valuable role in conveying information about self-directed education and encouraging families to try it.

Now, with the formation of ASDE, we are taking the Tipping Point Project to a still much higher level—a level that will help to pool the ideas and energies of the hundreds and even thousands of people already involved with SDE. To help create the Alliance, six more people have joined the organizing team.  These are Scott Noelle (author, parenting coach, and unschooling dad); Akilah Richards (author, frequent speaker, and unschooling mom who, in her words, is "keenly focused on amplifying the spectrum of black and brown voices in the self-directed education movement"); Tomis Parker (a founder of the network of centers for self-directed education called Agile Learning Centers, who brings agile organizational skills to our team); Laura Kriegel (a talented artist, sought-after speaker, and cofounder of Camp Stomping Ground, a mixed age, free play summer camp for self-directed campers); Jack Schott (IT expert, student of human possibilities, and the other cofounder of Camp Stomping Ground); and Danielle A. Levine (a young lawyer committed to children’s rights, and co-founder and director of Dida Academy, a self-directed learning center for teens and young adults)".

I think we have a terrific team of organizers, but the real strength of the Alliance will come from all the others out there who join forces us to mobilize the SDE movement. I have had the privilege of meeting or in other ways interacting with many of the thought and action leaders of the SDE movement, some of whom have been involved in this much longer than I have, and I look forward to getting to know many others.  I want to see, in my lifetime, the revolution that will free children from coercive education and provide, instead, rich opportunities for children to learn in the ways that nature has designed them to learn.  Together, I believe, we can make this happen.

Meanwhile, keep spreading the word about ASDE.  Send this link (http://self-directed.org) to anyone who may be interested, so they can sign up for the ASDE Newsletter and be notified when it is time to join the Alliance.  Our strength will lie not just in the power of the ideas, the weight of the evidence, and the justice of the cause, but also in the numbers of people who take an active stand and work together in support the cause.

~Peter Gray

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