Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Education. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 July 2024

Self-Directed Education—Unschooling and Democratic Schoolinglocked

Self-Directed Education—Unschooling and Democratic Schoolinglocked

  • Peter GrayPeter GrayBoston College

Summary

Education, broadly defined, is cultural transmission. It is the process or set of processes by which each new generation of human beings acquires and builds on the skills, knowledge, beliefs, values, and lore of the culture into which they are born. Through all but the most recent speck of human history, education was always the responsibility of those being educated. Children come into the world biologically prepared to educate themselves through observing the culture around them and incorporating what they see into their play. Research in hunter-gatherer cultures shows that children in those cultures became educated through their own self-directed exploration and play. In modern cultures, self-directed education is pursued most fully by children in families that adopt the homeschooling approach commonly called “unschooling” and by children enrolled in democratic schools with no imposed curriculum. Follow-up studies of “graduates” of unschooling and democratic schools reveal that this approach can be highly effective, in today’s world, if children are provided with an adequate environment for self-education—an environment in which they can interact freely with others across a broad range of ages, can experience firsthand what is most valued in the culture, and can play and thereby experiment with the primary tools of the culture.

Subjects

  • Alternative and Non-formal Education 
  • Educational Theories and Philosophies

Updated in this version

The author has substantially revised this article to bring the references up to date and reflect terminology that may have shifted since the initial publication. The upate includes a new section of text and revised headings on other sections.

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription