The Alliance for SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION

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Education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person being educated.

Let’s start with the term education. In everyday language people tend to equate education with schooling, which leads one to think of education as something that is done to students by teachers. Teachers educate and students become educated. Teachers give an education and students receive this gift. But any real discussion of education requires us to think of it as something much broader than schooling.

Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life.

Education can be defined broadly in a number of ways. A useful definition for our purposes is this: Education is the sum of everything a person learns that enables that person to live a satisfying and meaningful life. This includes the kinds of things that people everywhere more or less need to learn, such as how to walk upright, how to speak their native language, how to get along with others, how to regulate their emotions, how to make plans and follow through on them, and how to think critically and make good decisions.

It also includes some culture-specific skills, such as, in our culture, how to read, how to calculate with numbers, how to use computers, maybe how to drive a car—the things that most people feel they need to know in order to live the kind of life they want to live in the culture in which they are growing up.

But much of education, for any individual, entails sets of skills and knowledge that may differ sharply from person to person, even within a given culture. As each person’s concept of “a satisfying and meaningful life” is unique, each person’s education is unique. Society benefits from such diversity.

Given this definition of education, Self-Directed Education is education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person becoming educated, whether or not those activities were chosen deliberately for the purpose of education.

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