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Entries in Marion Brady (3)


Is Kahn Academy Really a Breakthrough Moment for Education?

Marion Brady has written a very good critique about the flipped-classroom, Kahn-Academy model for broadcasting instruction to students in a recent Washington Post blog. He doesn’t dismiss this development but Brady is a clear-eyed and experienced teacher who understands that learning is more than just having a well-prepared teacher talk to you on a predetermined schedule. Brady writes:

Intractable educational problems will begin to disappear when learners’ rear ends are gotten off school furniture and allowed out where life is being lived, when learners’ eyes are lifted from reference works passed off as textbooks and directed to the real world, when learners’ minds are respected too much to treat them as mere storage units for secondhand, bureaucratically selected information.

Intractable problems in education will begin to disappear when kids are not just allowed to chart their own course, but are encouraged to do so, and given means to that end. Too bad there are no policymakers willing to promote that idea, and no rich philanthropists willing to put up encouragement money.

Marion Brady has worked for decades in curriculum development and school reform and he wants to share his work and see his ideas and programs put to use in many places, not just conventional schools. For high-school-age homeschoolers and unschoolers seeking some educational language and rationales to use for their reports about their children’s different learning scopes and sequences, reviewing this free download of his curriculum can be useful.

Connections: Investigating Reality

A comprehensive general education course of study based on general systems theory

For adolescents and older learners


Speaking Out About the Tight Collar of Curriculum

The idea that knowledge can be divided into subjects and neatly sewn together through curricula that children must pass tests on before moving to the next bit of subject matter is deeply challenged by unschoolers, who do not use any curricula at all or, if they do, use it in scopes and sequences that are not done in schools. Of course, the curricular arrangement of life and knowledge by school was challenged well before unschoolers came on to the scene in the late seventies, but it was usually done by alternative educators in schools, not by parents in their communities.

The notion of keeping children busy with fragmented bits of subject matter fed to them by professional teachers is powerful and unlikely to change during the tenure of our current education establishment. “Look how much the kids are learning!” is easier for adults to support than “Look how much the kids are playing,” even though what is learned through play can be equal to, or more powerful, than what is learned in a classroom. There are many institutions and industries that are propped up through the power of compulsory attendance laws and their hold is tight; they don’t want to lose their grip for any number of reasons, so experimentation with different models, time frames, and ideas is carefully conscripted to fit the existing curricular model. The fact that colleges have seen this problem themselves and haven’t addressed it in a meaningful manner is long-standing, too, as Marion Brady, a school curriculum critic, notes in a recent article in the Washington Post:

I don’t want to do away with school subjects. I want to put them in context and show how they fit together to form a mutually supportive, interconnected whole. Kids do that for themselves (and more) until about third or fourth grade. That’s when the core curriculum starts to really kick in. From then on, schooling is more and more about remembering canned answers to questions which traditionally schooled specialists think they should ask.

 I’m addressing a long-recognized problem:

The Association of American Colleges: “We do not believe that the road to a coherent education can be constructed from a set of required subjects or academic disciplines.” Project On Redefining the Meaning and Purpose of Baccalaureate Degrees, 1985)

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching: “The disciplines have fragmented themselves into smaller and smaller pieces, and undergraduates find it difficult to see patterns in their courses and relate what they learn to life.” Prologue to “College: The Undergraduate Experience In America,” November 1986

Letting children learn in an interdisciplinary, unforced manner, as they did from the moment they were born, is something education leaders not only do not trust, but do not believe in. They believe you must lead a horse to water and force it to drink. But, as unschoolers and teachers like Marion Brady testify, it does not have to be this way.


Homeschoolers in Fiction and Non-linear Curriculum

Here are two resources that I think can be useful to homeschoolers of all ages and interests. The first is from Lisa Cottrell-Bentley, an unschooling mom from Arizona. She writes:

I wanted to let you know that my publishing company is actively seeking submissions for children's and Young Adult fiction about realistic homeschoolers of today—something that is lacking in the world. I'd love for you to send anyone my way if they mention they've written something like that to you. Send them to:;

I've started a KickStarter crowdfunding campaign to raise money so that I can publish even more books than the ones I currently have lined up. My company has three published books so far, with five more in the works (two of which should come out this year). I'd like to publish at least 12 books in 2011 and 24 in 2012.


The second resource is a PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Marion Brady. I met Marion a few years ago in MI where I learned about his work in flexible, learner-centered curricula. Though his ideas are based on working with children in schools, any homeschooler can adapt them as they see fit, as well as use Marion’s conceptual structure as a way to describe their own reasons for not following conventional curricula and what they are doing instead.