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  • Steven Delpome

Beautifully messy, naturally.


I’ve written in this space before about the Self-Organized Learning Environment as not necessarily an end-all be all answer for people, but as an alternative that people can try and see if it fits their needs. Really this is true about any education method. In spite of what our schools offer, what an individual learns is highly, highly dependent on who the person is, which depends on so many different factors that, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking any large percentage of a people could be served in the same way.

But there is something else about methods of education that we often don’t consider: that there’s no finished product. Of course we pay lip-service to helping children become “lifelong learners” quite often, as if they needed our help to become that. But while we pay lip-service, we are all too often declaring learning finish lines--projects, tests, report cards, promotions--where we’ve allegedly proven that children have learned what there is to learn.

Sometimes I think our greatest sin in education is that we’ve taught the children to heed and obey us, because far too often, once the children have gotten the feedback, finished the project, passed the test ...they listen to us, and are done learning about whatever it was they were.

One of the things you notice when you see a SOLE is the mess. Not only in activity going on, the scatterings of markers and crayons, the children spewed out all over the floor, dashing around the room, but in what the children create as well. They can be quite scattershot, wobbly drawings, first drafts, a bunch of ideas that don’t have a readily apparent connection.

This is because the children aren’t finished after an hour, but are just beginning.

Everything that happens in this universe starts out from a state of disorder, and we must disconnect ourselves with the idea that learning is any different. The neat and tidy staircase of the Common Core, or the day by day--and increasingly minute by minute--instructions of most curricula, go against everything each of us experiences as natural. And Lord knows we’ve seen the damage we humans can cause when we try to force ourselves upon nature and try to make it work for us rather than us working with nature.

Yes the SOLE is messy and disorderly, and that is precisely the point of it, and maybe even the beauty of it.