Never Judge Someone Based on Their Schooling

Grant Colfax, the homeschooler who made headlines in the eighties by getting accepted into Harvard and going into medical research, has now made headlines today as an adult. The San Francisco Gate reports:

President Obama on Wednesday appointed Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco's top HIV public health administrator, to head the Office of National AIDS Policy.

Grant spent much of his youth on a dairy goat farm in Northern California, helping his parents make the farm work and following his interests, such as searching for Indian arrowheads. Micki and David gave the keynote speech, How Children Learn from Everyday Life and Work, at the Growing Without Schooling 20th anniversary conference and I wrote about it on the HoltGWS site; here is an excerpt:

"Micki analyzes how education became separated from work—indeed how education demeans most work—and cites many historic examples to support her points. She then takes issue with descriptions of her family's unschooling as a sort of "physical work program" that was imposed on her family. She notes, "Work is not construed as a means to, but an end in and of itself, as we and our children are shaped by the work we do." She discusses Illich's Deschooling Society and Holt's work and how "we do not need to make special arrangements for learning."

Then Micki talks about how play is the work of children and how it isn't necessary to seek work for children in order to fill up their days. She further explores the nature of work as an ordeal and the types of work her children did as youngsters and teenagers. Micki wraps up her talk by describing how none of the activities, work, and play that her children did could easily predict what they would be or do as adults. For instance, she and David long felt Grant would be an archaeologist, but he became a doctor and medical researcher."

In today's conventional media I detect a backlash against self-directed learning, against learning outside of school, and against parents and teachers who support change that does more than alter curricula in schools. This zero-tolerance policy towards change agents who are not in agreement with school dogma can be stifling, if not depressing at times, so it is most refreshing to see one of the tenets of unschooling/homeschooling—that you can't predict what the future holds for anyone based on their performance or nonparticipation in school—publicly verified again.

There are many ways to learn and grow, many paths to successful careers, and we need to keep expanding, and creating, these paths instead of letting educationists block access to them. Grant's continued success is his own, not homeschooling's, but his example and contribution to society is another piece of evidence that homeschooling and unschooling do not necessarily make children anti-social, parent-dependent dolts ("My momma said I don't have to do no book learnin'" is the punch line I heard one comedian knock homeschooling with recently), nor does homeschooling make them nonparticipants in the civic arena.