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News Link • Education: Unschooling

On Helping Others To Learn

•, by Butler Shaffer

As I approached the end of my nearly forty years of law school teaching, friends and colleagues would often ask me when I intended to retire. My answer was always the same: "when it stops being fun to go into the classroom and play with the kids!" I meant that sincerely. To me, learning has long been a game to be played in ways that can tease identifiable patterns and regularities out of the complexities of the universe; so as to provide us with the understanding that allows us to function in and enjoy life.

My all-time favorite professor of anything was Malcolm Sharp, with whom I studied law at the University of Chicago. He helped me learn that the most effective way to understand anything was through constantly improving the depth and quality of the questions we bring to the subject. Unfortunately, the institutionalized school systems – along with the formal institutions that insist upon their structured curricula – emphasize the importance of students learning to confine their inquiries to the search for answers. For our minds and bodies to be useful to the purposes of the established order, we must be in a position to help resolve its questions and problems, not to wander off pursuing curiosities of our own. Matters that concern only us are forms of entropic waste; energy otherwise unavailable for institutional work.

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