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"And I think that all young people are that capable ...if you don't tell them they can't or they're not allowed, they surprise us in a lot of ways." Ricci is professor of alternative learning at Nipissing University and an advocate of unschooling, a concept that's gaining popularity in both Canada and the United States thanks to frustration with the current public education system.In addition, there are more than 20 Sudbury schools -- private institutions that follow the same philosophy -- in North America. The unschooling philosophy is based on education pioneer John Holt's 1964 book "How Children Fail." Put simply, Holt wrote that living is learning.He believed children should follow their innate curiosity and passions rather than being forced to learn hordes of information they will never use.Experts say there are about 2 million home-educated students in the U.S., and Ricci estimates 10% adhere to unschooling ideals.Classes are offered but not mandatory -- "certifications" are required to use equipment such as sharp cooking utensils. Staff members often do not have a teaching background; they are there simply to guide students in their individual pursuits. I don't think that just anybody can sit down and help a child achieve their educational goals and needs.It's this lack of structure that has child psychiatrist and Harvard Medical professor Steven Schlozman concerned. "There's something wonderful about the idea of just letting kids be kids...
They are free to decide what they want to study, when they want to study it.
"I think our education system as a whole is, to me, in a very delicate and precarious place," Sudbury Valley staff member Mimsy Sadofsky said.
"It keeps trying to do what it can't do, which is make every child learn everything in the whole wide world.
"I would say we could stand, and would probably do better, with less structure in education...
the flip side of that though is that there has to be a middle ground," Schlozman said.