Book Review: Challenging Assumptions In Education
By Beth Balmanno
Confession. We are kinda, sorta unschoolers in our household. Of course, relatives, friends, other homeschoolers – even clerks at the grocery store – always feel compelled to ask why we choose this particular approach to home learning. “How do you know they’re learning?” “What about teaching them algebra, math-phobic mom??”
I have my standard response I have honed over the last few years but, honestly, after reading Wendy Priesnitz’s Challenging Assumptions In Education, I think I’m just going to hand them a copy of this book instead. This little gem answers all of the questions I have been asked over the years…including questions I have asked myself during those panicky moments of doubt.
Common Assumptions in Education
In her book, Priesnitz challenges broadly held beliefs regarding the education system and how children learn. Commonly held assumptions – Schools Provide Effective Training and Knowledge Belongs to a Cult of Experts, for example – are tackled in each chapter and Priesnitz takes care to explore these ideas through multiple lenses: historical, pedagogical, and social, to name a few. Readers come away with a clear idea of how these beliefs have shaped our nation’s educational philosophy.
Pointing out the problems that exist within our current model of education is one thing. Offering solutions – concrete, tangible approaches to fixing the educational system – is another and Priesnitz offers a multitude of ways we can do this. Most of these ideas require a fundamental shift in how we view the learning process. Through her gentle approach, though, each seems doable and – more importantly – vital if we wish to revitalize our children’s innate passions and desires to learn.
There are so many important thoughts and ideas presented here – highlighting one or two is a true disservice to the reader. However, one section I loved – and have printed out for frequent reference – is Priesnitz’s Agenda for Change. The last chapter of the book, it is a bulleted list of all the changes we can strive for in our quest to create that ideal learning environment for our own kids and for children everywhere.
(For more of Beth’s book reviews, see “Book Review” page located at top of the blog.)
Don’t let the slim volume fool you. Challenging Assumptions in Education is a meaty read, filled with facts and thought-provoking suggestions that challenge everything we have been taught regarding how best to educate our children.