Education: Going to School or Learning to Learn? With Dr. Naomi Fisher

QR- Dr. Naomi Fisher

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We are taught that an education is a vital component of success.  We define education as going to school.  Whether through public schooling or the more expensive version of the same concept, private schooling, children are shepherded through a system that makes learning a 12 year long process of mastering how to follow the rules and perform for rewards.

On today’s Quantum Revolution episode, we’re talking to Naomi Fisher, a clinical psychologist, about her book, Changing Our Minds: How Children Can Take Control of Their Own Learning

 According to Fisher, children today have easy access to an enormous amount of information, from all around the world. The news is not hidden from them and much of the news is not reassuring.

In addition, most of them spend their days in an environment which makes very specific competitive requirements of them, and over which they have almost no power. When they refuse to cooperate with this, they are said to be suffering from school refusal, or perhaps school phobia. This is often thought of as an irrational anxiety, a bit like being scared of spiders. But is it irrational to refuse to go to school? Instead of assuming that distressed children must be disordered, let’s think about whether school is an environment in which all children can thrive.

About 33% of children in the school system manage to do well.  Some even thrive.  But what about the other 66%?  Even more frightening, approximately 30% of children in the United States have been diagnosed – and some are even medicated for – having learning problems.  Have we really bought into the idea that only 33% of us are smart and capable of success? Could 30% of children be incapable of learning or be somehow educationally “broken” and often in need of medication to make them compliant?

We’ve talked to several scientists and thought leaders this season about the importance of a healthy foundation for life.  When we get disconnected from the value of life and the arc of time that is the lifespan of a human, it’s easy to forget that being a child isn’t a static state.  Children grow into adults.  Adults who are eventually tasked with running the world and creating the future we dream of.

While we could blame computers or over scheduled lives for this crisis, we might also have to reckon with the idea that some of this crisis is being amplified by our education system. 

We have a school system that has normalized punishments and rewards – a way of motivating children that has been proven again and again to actually DECREASE creativity and, over time, compliance.

We have a culture that has normalized the experience of bullying and being bullied in school.  It’s so normal that most of the young adult fiction that has won any kind of book award in the last few years centers around the theme of bullying.  Just this week in the news, a 10 year old Black girl with autism killed herself because she was being bullied.  I have long held the view that disempowered children have to seek their normal human need for power somewhere and that bullying is a dysfunctional response to feeling powerless in school and at home.

We have normalized treating children the same way we treat our pets.  It’s normal for teachers to use shaming language and yelling to manage a classroom of rowdy students. We use clickers to count how many times students interrupt the teacher, take away recess if they are too frisky in class, encourage them to go for extra credit and gauge their value based on how well they follow the rules and how much they are willing to do beyond the regular work in the classroom.

6.1 million children in the United States alone are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, a diagnosis rate that is not supported by post-mortem studies that show that the actual rate of brain changes consistent with ADD/ADHD is closer to .01 percent of the population.

I could go on and on with a list of how the system is broken but I want to end on an inspired note.

In Howard Gardner’s original research on Multiple Intelligences, he came up with over 100 different kinds of giftedness that children exhibit.  He was told to narrow it down because we couldn’t construct an education system complex enough to meet all the needs of all the different ways of learning.

What if we can?

What if the pathway to incorporating all these ways of learning is to let the children lead us?  To let us know what they need and how we can support them as they follow their natural, adaptive way of following the right educational path for them?

What if we trust that children contain within them a deep connection to their own inner wisdom that sparks them to follow their innate, unique and natural path of learning  – the one that is theirs to follow?  What if we redefine the parameters of success and the skillset necessary for adulthood and instead give children the space, freedom and support to grow into the people they are born to be?

Dr. Fisher in her book, Changing Our Minds brings together research, theory and practice on learning. It includes interviews with influential thinkers in the field of self-directed education and examples from families alongside practical advice. This essential guide will give you an understanding of why self-directed education makes sense, how it works, and what to do to put it into action yourself.  You may find the book on Amazon – click here or find it at your favorite book seller.

Dr Naomi Fisher is a clinical psychologist and EMDR consultant specializing in responses to trauma. She works with adults and children, including those with diagnoses of special educational needs. She has a PhD in Autism. She has hands-on experience raising two children as self-directed learners. Her writing has featured in The Psychologist, Tipping Points, The Green Parent, SEN Magazine, Juno and more.

We hope you enjoy this conversation with Dr. Fisher on how we can change the education system to help children to learn and grow in whatever way works best for them.

You can find out more about Dr. Fisher on Twitter 

Thank you for joining me for Quantum Revolution.   Please be sure to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform so you don’t miss any of the amazing shows we have in store for you.  Join us next time when we talk with Dr. Eric Kaulker about emotional effects of trauma and stress.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can connect to your innate wisdom and live a life rooted in well-being, please visit our website