The issues of conventional schooling have harmed our youth in more ways than we recognize, causing unnecessary stress and pain to students throughout the US. With times such as these, where society is changing before our very eyes, we call for the total restructuring of the conventional schooling system that prevails in the US today.

We are all too familiar with the issues faced by students on a daily basis, including the ACT/SAT, essays, exams, grades, homework, mandatory uniforms, and nonsensical prioritization of subjects. There’s also more damaging practices and effects such as legalized corporal punishment, emotional abuse in classrooms, sleep deprivation, school-related stress, the school to prison pipeline, and school shootings. If you take away one thing, let it be this: youth suicide rates increase during school months

If we, the people of these United States, expect to live in a democratic society, free from authoritarianism, we must look at how we treat our youngest citizens. A cursory glance will show that democratic values aren’t found in our school system. Many people have created progressive models in response to this, such as Montessori or Finland’s model. However, it continues schooling’s systemic coercion. We demand to see something more, for the sake of youth across the nation. We demand a transition to Self-Directed Education.

What is Self Directed Education?

According to Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College and author of Free to Learn, Self-Directed Education is “education directed and controlled by the person becoming educated… [referring] to all education that derives from a person’s self-chosen activities, whether or not those activities are consciously directed toward education” (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education).

Self Directed Education is completely up to the student, whether they choose intentionally educational activities or unapologetically recreational ones. This allows children to pursue learning through the innate curiosity they’re born with. The idea of granting children complete educational freedom may seem risky at first, but it’s nothing new in the grand scheme of human biological development. Dr. Peter Gray’s research concludes that Self-Directed Education has been present throughout our species’ evolution.

Modern systems aligned with Self Directed Education have existed for over half a century, such as Unschooling and Democratic Schooling. Unschooling is a style of homeschooling without a required curriculum, allowing young people freedom over their daily activities, while Democratic Schools are almost identical to unschooling, with students and staff governing their school through a democratic council. While some might be skeptical of these approaches, students of both Unschooling and Democratic Schooling can go to college and get jobs.

In the article titled “Education’s Future: What Will Replace K-12 and College?,” Dr. Peter Gray proposes a loose outline on how Self Directed Education can be implemented as a viable replacement for conventional schooling:

Peter Gray’s K-12 to College Outline

Phase I:
Self-Directed Discovery
Phase II: Career ExplorationPhase III: Specialized Certification
“The first 15 to 18 years of a person’s life are ideally, in this view, years of self-directed exploration and play in which young people make sense of the world around them, try out different ways of being in that word, develop and pursue passionate interests, and create at least a tentative plan about how they might support themselves as independent adults… publicly supported learning-and-recreation centers [would] enable everyone, regardless of family income, to educate themselves.” “Students would spend time working in real-world settings that give them an idea of what a career entails before they undertake specialized training for that career. For example, the person interested in becoming a doctor might work in a hospital for a period of time, maybe as an orderly or a medical assistant. Maybe it would be an official apprenticeship, with a bit of course work as part of it, or maybe just a regular job.” “For some sorts of work, it is crucial to be sure that the people doing it know what they are doing. Those are the jobs for which specialized training, guided by experts and evaluated by rigorous testing, may be essential. Before I engage a surgeon, dentist, lawyer, electrician, or plumber I want to be sure that the person has been credentialed and licensed through means that include proof of competence. This is the only phase of the educational system where testing should be essential.

As stated before, this is a rather loose outline. However, it gives a good guideline for reforming the education system. If such changes were to be implemented nationwide, there is a viable solution to make such changes as soon as possible.

What We Demand

We demand that public education be completely restructured from the ground up. It is our belief that the best method of attaining reformation is through a grassroots initiative, where education is controlled at a local level. While not limited to the following, funding libraries, donating funds to SDE centers, writing to local officials, and protesting against common core are all methods towards changing schools. We demand “National Deschooling,” a process where states gradually transition from public schools to SDE centers, giving students time to adjust for an autonomous learning environment.

The goal is for Self Directed Educational centers to be controlled on a local/county level, directly in the hands of both students and staff equally. There are 96 active SDE centers in the United States, all with similar tuition rates as public schools, so taxes towards public schools can be reallocated towards these new centers for resources and free tuition. We also ask that the federal government uphold a “Student Bill of Rights,” protecting local SDE centers from ill-intentioned staff, rapid online misinformation, and violations of student autonomy, as well as prohibiting systemic discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, and any other marginalized identity.