Recently I connected with an old school acquaintance via Facebook. We hadn’t been in touch since graduating high school, and it was cool to catch up and to read his posts. But it was also kind of shocking. Why? Because as I read over his posts, I was amazed to discover the guy was a really good writer -when, according to his performance at school, he was destined to be mediocre at best.
One of the many damaging practices of schools is ability grouping. In my high school, there were four tiers: AP (advanced placement), Level 1 (accelerated), Level 2 (standard) and Level 3 (remedial). I can only imagine how this kind of grouping affected teachers’ expectations and treatment of their pupils. But I know for a fact that it encouraged us as students to label one another, and to view ourselves and each other only through stereotypes. Hence my surprise when I discovered a mere “standard” kid could craft what could only be termed as excellent writing.
When we pigeon-hole kids according to their “ability level”, we damage them in countless ways. We tell them how to think about themselves and how much – or how little – to expect of themselves. And we discourage them from seeking the best in themselves and in others.
A wonderful benefit of unschooling is that our kids don’t learn this destructive type of categorizing. They understand that each person is highly unique, possessing many talents, strengths and passions. This understanding encourages them to truly get to know one another, to discover that which may lay just beneath the surface. You never know where you might find genius. Unschooled kids haven’t forgotten how to recognize it.