So now what we/I do for "school?"

Oh gosh my life’s been crazy lately. I guess everyone’s going back to school soon–something I’ve never done haha. People don’t get that. They think that I’m following the same arbitrary yearly schedule that all kids have in normal schools, but I’m not! I’m just learning whenever, so that doesn’t stop just because it’s summer. 

Anyway the Zed Omega kids are now supposed to be learning stuff by themselves, not going back to school. I really really hope this goes well for them. I mean I hope that they figure out if high school is right for them, or if homeschooling/unschooling/self-directed study is going to be better. 

At the same time, I want to figure out what I should do! They all say that school is so bad, it almost makes me want to go there and try it. I’m kind of contradictory like that…yeah I know. 

Well I’ll keep y'all posted on what I’m doing and stuff…it’s not all that interesting, but maybe it’ll help me keep track of what it is I do! Maybe I’ll start to see a pattern of things that I’m drawn to…

It’s American Graduate week, and PBS is airing a Frontline special, “Dropout Nation.” It’s available for viewing online and worth every minute.

The Houston teens portrayed in this documentary come from a different world than the Zed Omegas. Dropout Nation focuses on at-risk teens, and shows in depth the challenges that outside forces can bring to a school in the form of a troubled teen. The Zed Omegas aren’t victims of outside forces – they bring questions about school itself, why it is the way it is, why it is so hard for some students, if it is truly focused on a student’s future needs, and so on. They are “at risk” for entirely different reasons.

The Zed Omegas are a great complement to Dropout Nation: they are The Other Dropout Nation. They ask the question that would come up next for the Houston teens, namely: now that I am getting a diploma, am I getting an education? If what I am learning is truly giving me a future, why can it be so boring and difficult to engage with? You might say the Zed Omegas are “Checkout Nation”…

The Zed Omegas ask hard questions of school itself. Clare and Xavier, for example, wonder why so much pressure is put on Marco to finish school when he already has a job at a deli. They are examining alternatives such as unschooling or work-study schools. Clare and Xavier are looking for jobs, and they’re hard to get. They ask if it might be better for Marco if his learning was built around something that he has already succeeded at (his job), and which is clearly important to him in his personal and family life. The school can quote statistics about Marco’s chances of graduating if he delays getting his diploma, but Marco is not a mere statistic.

Where the Zed Omegas and the Houston teens connect: they all are trying to gain a measure of control over their own futures. They want to succeed at being happy. They want to learn how to do that, and they feel they should start now.

Finally, it’s important that you know some underlying truths about the Zed Omegas… (more here on Facebook) Alan

Watch on

From Nora:

Hey, I just wanted to give a little update on everything. It’s all so interesting!! Here’s a great post that shows what’s new: check it out!

Hello! And welcome if you are just joining us. What’s happening here: we are following six teens who have “dropped out loud” from high school. On August 15 they did not go back to that brick building and sit at those desks; for individual and often muddy reasons they have opted to do a Plan B.

(Just to confuse things, when I say “six teens” I actually mean seven, because they’ve been joined by Nora, who’s been self-homeschooled all her life. So she’s a Zed Omega too, in the sense that she’s left the system, but in her case she was never in it. So there are seven: Clare Edwina Jeremy Lizabeth Nicole Nora Xavier. But Edwina isn’t technically a teenager, she’s 21, she dropped out before at 17 and was back for her GED and is now dropped out again in protest. So we’re back to “six teens”)  

A lot has happened since my last report, but I’ve got to start with one small commonplace thing: Clare’s grandfather died. So she is gone from in our midst, off with her family.

In regular school the death of a grandparent is the basis for a joke: the one where a student invokes said death as an excuse. If Clare were still in school, her absence would be excused but she would have to make up what she missed when she got back. But with the Zeds, there’s no distinction, no separation between school and real life. Clare is off on a field trip learning a special lesson.

Grandparent’s death = joke? Grandparent’s death = life lesson? This contrast sums up for me what is wrong with traditional education. Unpack it for yourself and see what you get. 

I sense people have trouble visualizing what’s actually going on here. Like: do the Zed Omegas meet every day and what’s their lesson plan and am I or Mary Johnson or some adult monitoring this situation? It isn’t actually what it looks like, six teens on their own, learning whatever?

It is the latter. It is what it looks like. It is six teens who have rejected the diploma and all it stands for, choosing a new path of their own. 

I can tell you this, however: they are listening. Go to “Conversations So Far” and you can see this happening. They get advice like this and this and this, and they hear stories like this and this and this, and get asked dream questions like this… and it affects them and their view of the world and the future. 

More soon. 

– Alan Greye and Zephyr Yilmaz, EZO fans

What’s your advice? What’s your story? Write a Zed Omega an email, or a letter; tell your story, or ask us anything. And be sure to catch (and like!) our complete story on Facebook.

As one who 40+ years ago dropped out of high school (twice) because it was interfering with my learning, and who talked about how to make dropping out of school work for you at the recent 140edu conference, I would highly recommend not trying to “fix” education. For one thing, education (and by that I mean and think you mean, schooling) is not ‘broken.’ It does precisely what it is planned to do: maintain the economic positions of the social classes and ensure that there is a steady supply of people to do low-level jobs. What is essential is that students who realize this and do not accept it walk away from the system, as the Zed Omegas are doing. If enough people walk away successfully and point out the other pathways to education, the system will either change or collapse of its own inability to adapt to changing individual and societal needs.

(later) Attempting to fix the system will prove impossible and ultimately frustrating. Instead, use your skills and knowledge to encourage others to take the paths I took and you are taking.

Deven Black to Alan Greye

Alan Greye found this:

Collaborative education with peer-to-peer learning will become a bigger reality and will challenge the lecture format and focus on ‘learning how to learn’…

Higher education lags in preparing young people for new kinds of futures in which they will have to learn how to learn.

The article asks whether the traditional university is now a “beleaguered business model” about to encounter “whirlwind forces.” How should the Zed Omegas prepare for the university of the future? By dropping out loud, are they getting ready for this vision, via Institute For The Future?– Alan

Hello! And welcome if you are just joining us. The main news is: the Zed Omegas have indeed quit school, all six of them, and if their Replies One and Two to this letter are to be believed, it will take more than a parental lecture to change their minds.

And they have already gotten more than lectures. A number of people have taken the time to render thoughtful advice, starting with Laurel’s (Tisiwoota’s) Video One to Clare and its back-and-forth in Two. Honors go to Linda for being the first to share her school experiences (not so great) and expand her story with surviving / thriving possibilities by people she knows. Thanks Linda for leading the way in Tell Your Story – there’s no better way, the Zed Omegas tell me, to get at the truth than to hear actual life stories.

Clare is an aspiring actress (as you know if you’ve seen any of her videos) and she’s had a great exchange with Derik, an actor-director who’s a graduate student. You can read the current ideas and trace the chain back from here

Deven has been here and done exactly this, and can tell the tale, and he wonders if the Zed Omegas (or anyone) should even try to “fix education.” This could begin a very interesting intergenerational dialog, based on what the ZOs have told me about their mission. Stay tuned!

And we’re starting to hear about fascinating alternative models for learning. More on this later, as the Zed Omegas start to wrap their heads around them; for now I will just point you to the idea of SCHOOL AS INQUIRY HUB.

Many other great connections beginning to happen – with unschooler Shauna, for example, who should chat with EZO’s own home / unschooler, Nora Rose Melendy. All the ZOs have been challenged to finish what they started. Jeremy, the aspiring writer, has gathered some reactions to his manifesto and still mulling over his reply. Did you see Xavier’s video to Denzel Washington? “Let’s talk dropout.” And Nicole’s used her sprung time to get herself and her music out there – on Ustream. Not bad for the first week… although…  Edwina what up? Not sure.

Join in the conversation! Write a Zed Omega an email, or a letter; tell your story, or ask us anything. And be sure to catch  (and like!) our complete story on Facebook.

– Alan Greye and Zephyr Yilmaz, EZO fans