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From 1516 to 2016

Uscolia

Uscolia

In December of 1516, Thomas More published Utopia, the book that added a word to the dictionary of every language and created a new literary genre. Utopians abolished money, private property, and social class, and found that, without owning anything, they were richer than the citizens of nations obsessed with the accumulation of wealth. Exactly 500 years later, Sycorax Books publishes Uscolia, about the extraordinary island where there are no schools and no teachers, where at home and in free-flowing facilities called studios children acquire native fluency not only in their mother tongue. The word studio is related to study, and indeed, a great deal of learning is taking place there, but make no mistake about it: there is no teaching of any sort. It is convenient to think of Uscolian studios as schools by another name, and of Uscolian exposure as teaching by another name. In truth, studios and exposure are as far removed from schools and teaching as grapes hanging on the vine are from the picture of grapes in a textbook.

But don’t jump to the mistaken conclusion that Uscolia is yet another book about deschooling or alternative schooling. It is nothing of the sort (although Uscolians have found an epic alternative to schooling). Nor is it a manifesto for teaching from birth, because Uscolians don’t teach at all, at any age (although they do expose babies to rich content from birth.)

The radical Uscolian views on learning are likely to rankle most educationists. Although Uscolians shun academic discourse and formal theories, there’s method in the nurturing of their children, and they miraculously manage to solve most of the problems of our education system. Their method is based on insights gained from observing the emergence of native fluency. The foremost principle they developed based on these insights is that of non-teaching, observed rigorously in their studios, which recreate for all content the conditions under which we acquired our native language.

It is unlikely that Uscolian studios will be popping up in our neighborhoods anytime soon, but the author describes his hands-on experience in applying, within the confines of an ordinary family home, some of the principles that guide Uscolians in raising their children.