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4 Ways Kids Are Biologically Driven to Self-Educate

•, by Peter Gray

In many previous posts, I have contended that children come into the world biologically designed to educate themselves. The evidence comes from observing the amazing learning capacities of children before they start school (here), the ways that children and adolescents in hunter-gatherer cultures educate themselves (here), and the ways that children today educate themselves at democratic schools (here and here) and in unschooling families (here and here).

In this post, I wish to be a bit more precise about the biological design for self-directed education. It lies largely, I suggest, in four powerful drives that exist in all normal children: curiosityplayfulnesssociability, and planfulness. The foundations for these drives are encoded in our DNA, shaped by natural selection, over our evolutionary history, to serve the purpose of education. Our standard schools quite deliberately suppress these drives, especially the first three of them, in the interest of promoting conformity and keeping children fixed to the school's curriculum. In contrast, self-directed education—as it occurs in unschooling families and at democratic schools—operates by allowing these natural drives to flourish.

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