Reading this article in TNR about the Sudbury Valley School, near Framingham. Basically, there is no curriculum, the kids run the school, and do what they want, and yet still go on to be successful adults. The idea being, instead of inflicting a body of knowledge on kids, which they won’t remember anyway, why not teach them to learn what they’re interested in – but learn deeply. (The article talks about one student reading Hesse for fun.)
There’s a certain amount of appeal to this, and the whole unschooling movement–this idea that we should let kids pursue their interests, and they’ll thrive, or at least turn into equally capable adults as they would had they pursued conventional education. And they’re some truth to it: at least my cousin, who went to a somewhat similar school, turned out just fine, even if he was late learning to read. But it feels defeatist to totally abandon the idea of the canon. Surely there are some things all adults in our society should know? And even if our current schools teach them poorly, maybe we should be striving to teach them better, instead of abandoning the whole idea?