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Why You Should Join the Alliance
Hey, I know, we SHOULD avoid the word SHOULD; and I’ve always been against unsolicited advice. But allow me an exception, just this once. You should join the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. Let me tell you why.

If you are reading this essay, you are probably already part of the Self-Directed Education (SDE) movement. Perhaps you’re a parent whose child is educating himself or herself outside of standard schooling; or maybe you’re a young person educating yourself this way. Perhaps you’re a staff member at an SDE-aligned learning center, school, or summer camp. Perhaps you’re a reform-minded citizen who’s concerned about the harmful effects of coercive education and want to explore SDE as a route to societal improvement. Perhaps you’re a civil rights advocate, who recognizes that basic human rights of children and families are violated every day by coercive schooling. If you are any of these, you are already part of the SDE movement.

Yes, the SDE movement already exists and many people are part of it. But now it’s time for us to stand up, united, and make our movement visible to everyone. That’s a major purpose of the Alliance. United, as allies, we can be a powerful force for social change.

We may have different views about the nuances of SDE. Some prefer to remain unattached to any particular educational institution, while others prefer to be part of a regular community of self-directed learners, at a school or learning center designed for SDE. We may differ somewhat in our views about the appropriate roles of parents and other adult facilitators. But we agree on the basics. Children are designed by nature to direct their own education and are brilliant at it when given the opportunity. Coercion is harmful to the educational process. Learning that is motivated by extrinsic rewards and punishments, as occurs in all standard schools, is inefficient, shallow, and stressful. Children (and all people!) learn most efficiently, deeply, and happily when pursuing their own interests.

Mission and Vision of the Alliance

Before you join, you will want to know what the Alliance is and what it intends to do. It’s a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. It has two interrelated missions:

(1) to create a greater sense of community among those already involved in SDE, so we can help and encourage one another; and

(2) to inform people who aren’t already involved about the benefits of, and methods for, allowing children and adolescents to direct their own education.

The Alliance’s ultimate goal, its vision, is a world in which Self-Directed Education is embraced as a cultural norm and is available to all children and adolescents, everywhere, regardless of their family’s status, race, or income.

How the Alliance Intends to Carry Out Its Mission

Here are some of the ways by which the Alliance intends to carry out its mission and achieve its vision (some of these means are already in effect; others are currently being developed):

Bring the various people and organizations that are already promoting Self-Directed Education together, into a network, to augment their voices and enable them to work together and share ideas and efforts. As means toward this, we will:

(a) reach out to everyone already involved in or interested in SDE and invite them to become members of the Alliance;

(b) provide a Forum, on the Alliance website, where members can share ideas, plans, strategies, and experiences with one another and offer suggestions to the Board of Directors concerning activities the Alliance might undertake;

(c) provide a directory of members, organized geographically, so people can find allies in their local area and, if they wish, can create local SDE organizations to support one another and inform others in their community about SDE; and

(d) provide a calendar where event organizers can post upcoming SDE-relevant events, such as conferences, lectures, and open houses.

Normalize and legitimize Self-Directed Education. A major barrier for families who would otherwise choose SDE is the perception that it is a non-normative, unusual thing to do, such that others will criticize or fail to understand this choice. To combat this, the Alliance will:

(a) create and encourage a consistent vocabulary for referring to Self-Directed Education, to make it a “brand” in public consciousness, so people will come to view it as a legitimate choice (much as they view Montessori Education, Steiner Education, or Progressive Education as legitimate choices); and

(b) collect and publicize evidence about the numbers of people who have already chosen SDE and about their success in life, reach out to news media to promote such stories, and provide a central source of information about SDE (see the next bulleted item).

Provide a central source of information about Self-Directed Education. Much information is already available about SDE, but it is scattered and not always easy to find. The Alliance, therefore, is developing, on its website, an easily accessible source of such information, available to journalists, academicians, parents, and anyone else curious about SDE. The information will include:

(a) a primer of Self-Directed Education, explaining how and why it works and summarizing the evidence that it works;

(b) a database that includes links to books, films, research studies, and other articles about SDE;

(c) a database of schools, learning centers, camps, and other resources designed to facilitate self-directed organization, organized by geographic location.

(d) an online magazine with articles about current developments in, and philosophy and means of, SDE (this is Tipping Points, the magazine you are reading now), and an active Facebook page, which will include daily posts on ideas, activities, and events related to SDE.

Other plans, which may lie farther down the road, depend on our initial success in building a large membership base and raising sufficient funds. Among the ideas we are considering are creation of high quality films documenting the experiences of self-directed learners; placement of ads in major media to draw attention to SDE; creation of a conference that periodically brings together leaders who are involved in promoting SDE; creation of needs-based scholarships to support individuals and families pursuing SDE; and provision of start-up financial grants to help SDE-aligned schools and learning centers get started.

Please Join Now

ASDE Membership Badge

We need you to help make this movement go, to give it the wings symbolized by our paper airplane logo. It’s easy to join; just click on the bright orange “JOIN” button at the top or bottom of this page, and follow the directions. You’ll be asked to provide information about ways that you might like to participate in the Alliance; and you will be invited to make a tax-deductible financial donation, of any size appropriate to your budget.

We know that most people involved in SDE are not wealthy; many struggle to make ends meet. But, within your means, please donate what you reasonably can. The Alliance is financed entirely by donations from individuals and organizations that support the cause of Self-Directed Education. All members of the Board of Directors are volunteers, who receive no financial remuneration for work for the Alliance. Donations allow the Board to hire freelancers to manage and carry out projects that would not be feasible on a purely volunteer basis. The more who join, and the more who donate, the more we can do.

As you think about joining and donating, think about some of the other organizations that have — through membership, financial contributions, and action — improved our social and environmental landscape, such as the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Audubon Society, and the ACLU. We need now to do the same for kids.