What if my kid just watches OneDirection videos on YouTube all day? [FAQ series: Curricula]

You do you, kiddo.

But to the parents rolling their eyes at the above youth-lingo attempt… First, listen to Logan LaPlante talk about what he does as a self-directed learner:

Nonetheless, your child, heck– my child, may choose OneDirection on YouTube over any and all of Logan’s endeavors, every time. Is that really okay, and if not, what do we do?

Cultivating intelligence is an amorphous challenge. The ultimate shapeshifter, intelligence differs “in accordance with the person’s neuropsychological strengths and predispositions, and with the cultural, physical, and social context in which the skills are built.

We can’t run a harmless brain scan and understand all relevant aspects of that brain’s neuropsychological predisposed strengths, how to optimize them, and how to implement said optimizations. So if we don’t know enough about any given human’s brain to determine how they learn, where do we get the authority to usurp their learning time in order to teach at them?

A self-directed curriculum respects each student’s autonomy to learn about and with his or her unique predispositions. And when autonomy leads to no apparent productive use of time, it isn’t a failure of self-motivation. It’s a question of context, and a multi-part one at that.

Fundamentally, any cultural perspective failing to perceive productivity here is counterproductively impatient with human development. While traditional schooling demands students be incessantly engaged in ostensibly productive work, the work prescribed carries a distinctly garbage ROI.

What did you guys think of math? Things are difficult when they are boring because our brains are designed to operate on curiosity. Prescribed work contradicts that intrinsic motivation, which is infinitely more potent than extrinsic motivation. That cliche ‘work smarter, not harder‘ could be improved: Work happier, and better.

But looping OneDirection on YouTube to feel happy? Really? …Really. Because autonomy. Fortunately, humans autonomously learn functional life skills via an instinct called curiosity. And curiosity operates in cultural contexts, which if you’ll recall or reread that neurosciencey sentence-link above, is the method of learning common to all the humans. And I have a confession about my own experience with tweenage culture to share with you.

Incidental to my parents’ escape from further New England snowfall, they unearthed an embarrassing piece of my nostalgia from the basement: a compact disc by Grammy Award nominees NSYNC. As many times as I listened to that album in the year two thousand, I’d probably sooner listen to my dog gag up chunks of grass today. The point of my graphic aside: No one ever told me to refine my taste in music. I just grew up.

So how do we simultaneously respect and influence the autonomy of the student who designs a year-long OneDirection curriculum?

Support. And support involves endorsement and enhancement. In this poignant example of tweenage boy band enthusiasm, I might pump some rad jams myself, casually mention the possibility of engaging YouTube a little more, maybe watch (together, because we’re BFFs now that I pump the rad jams too) this official Milky Chance Stolen Dance video and this better fan-made Milky Chance Stolen Dance video. Yeah. I’m hip. Next thing you know s/he’ll be making dope mashups. Because everyone loves a dope mashup.

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