...igniting and nurturing creative, ethical scientific minds that advance the human condition


I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate with much of my schooling, but perhaps especially high school. The statement above is an iPad-taken, slightly blurry picture from the walls of the school — this is a portion of the mission statement.

...to ignite and nurture creative, ethical scientific minds that advance the human condition...

I’m not sure when the mission statement was written, I certainly don’t recall it from my days on campus, but I’m now a member of the alumni board cabinet, and have had reason to visit a few times recently, which gave me a chance to snap the picture.

The beginning of the Learning Webs piece had me thinking back on this place and the goals it has. It is a school — in fact, it’s a (public) residential school for 10-12th graders. But they do experiment with improving education in creative ways — both in their own classrooms, and in outreach programs throughout the state. They’ve been incredibly successful, with sought after afterschool programs and summer camps, and some incredible alumni, including two candidates for public office in this state in the next election cycle.

I’ve toyed with the concept of unschooling/homeschooling for my oldest child. But I have to admit that it’s a daunting idea for working parent — I know people who do it successfully, but I’m not yet convinced that it would be better than the local public school.

And I can’t say that I would advocate the vast unschooling proposed by this author. And I don’t think my concern is addressed at all in this essay. I happened to have a discussion over dinner about creationism and evolution — we’re in the process of searching for three new members of our department, and being a biologist, this is a common topic during interviews. (For the record, the Catholic church has no conflict with evolution.) Indeed,

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" (T. Dobzhansky)

so it’s important as a biologist to know that we’re not limited in our teaching of evolution. It’s incredibly disturbing to see what’s happening across the country, with school districts and states trying to impose “intelligent design” into science classrooms. Get rid of the classrooms, and parents and others would be able to spread this largely unchallenged… As this particular candidate found during a class visit to a creation museum, the ideas of the proponents of these “alternative theories” do not hold up to critical thinking evaluation. (The presenters arranged by the museum did a better job of convincing the students of the presenters’ own folly than the instructor felt he did.)

But where is critical thinking in this plan to move learning out of the classroom and into the world?

Well, I think I have enough here to assure a slew of spam hits…

The school with the mission statement above? The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). They’re celebrating their 25th year this year, and I’ll date myself by admitting that I was there when they first opened the doors…

And one last note… why I don’t try to keep up a blog full-time… The past few weeks have been a blur of trying to meet with 100 advisees about the coming semester, and catch up with this semester’s courses, and my two seminar’s readings, and… yeah, this fell by the wayside for a few weeks.


One Response to “Unschooled”

  1. cherry pickers Says:

    What do you think about including social media to your blog? I saw you have some shares but not a lot. Was wondering what your reasoning behind this is. I write about bucket trucks at cherry pickers and spend a lot of time using social

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