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Episode 175 - Peter Bergson, Helping Others Keep Their Natural Creativity

Peter has had an almost fifty-year career focused on helping people of all ages develop their natural creative process. It began as a Peace Corps trainee, when he first realized that compulsory schooling leads most often to compulsory mis-education. A multi-year stint with a consulting firm specializing in creative group problem solving led him to see how that work was remedial--helping adults retrieve the thinking patterns that are natural in our youth and then get schooled out of us. Thus, in 1975 he and his wife started a non-profit called Open Connections for the purpose of reinforcing these skills in young people rather than discouraging them. Their original preschool/kindergarten program morphed into a center for self-directed learners up to age 18. In 2016, he opened a new center in inner-city Philadelphia to bring this approach to a less privileged population. He is the father of four grown unschoolers and grandfather to six more.


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"Basically there are two enemies of real learning: one is uninvited instruction, when somebody compels you to learn something that you haven't asked for. When they start giving answers to questions you have asked. Two, developmentally inappropriate instruction. We you don't have the skills to make sense of content that we're expecting to produce." "It occured to the two of us, that the work I was doing with adults was remedial. I was helping adults learn to think more like the toddlers that they used to be." "What we discussed is, wouldn't it be interesting if we could develop an educational approach for young people that would reinforce these attributes rather then school them out of them." "Usually what people mean by school and the way most schooling, certain public schooling and most private schooling is about the latter. It is about uninvited and developmentally inappropriate instruction." "It starts with a redefinition of education. Almost exclusively, when people use the term education, particularly outside of the sphere of people talking about self-directed learning and such, they are talking about content; reading writing, history etc. They're talking about the mastery of that content and the need for that content in order to be a productive member of society." "More important then that is PROCESS and to sum that up, I would say that PROCESS DRIVES CONTENT. So what education is; is the process of learning, growing, thinking, problem-solving, and collaborating. Basically living the life that you want. What we need for young people to master in their lives, is a process that helps them create the life that they want." "The purpose of each person's education is to help them enjoy life and develop a lifelong existence of satisfaction, personal fulfillment, and at least a measure of service to others." "We act in schools as if the adults know what the young people are gonna need to know. Then imposing that content on them, they interrupt the PROCESS of figuring things out and pursuing one's own interests and learning how to pursue one's own interests, and of inventing new content. Your brain gets worn out doing all of the memorization and regurgitation." "People are different and we want different things, but where we come together is wanting our young people to have, "lives of purpose and fulfillment." We think that this is a path that increases that probability that they'll get there."

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