Education Provider Voice 2

Aaron Eden – SDE Advocate and Executive Director at Brightworks

Aaron has been involved in Self-Directed Education (SDE) since he was very young. Through the consultancy, Eliad Group, which he co-founded, he works with parents, students, schools, learning centres, and leaders all over the world to “re-think our institutions and our relationships in service of a sustainable future”.

He works across the globe to help set up new schools that are trying to “re-humanize” education, and to help existing ones transform to new paradigms of learning.

Aaron also coaches parents and learning facilitators that are working to support Self-Directed Education in non-formal learning environments.

Where do you work at the moment?

I’ve done a bit of travelling or “edsploring” the world recently with my wife and three children, but I’m back now and currently based on the Central Coast of California.

I’m currently involved in a number of exciting projects, but the primary one is serving as Executive Director for the Institute for Applied Tinkering, which runs both Brightworks (a K-12 independent school in San Francisco, where equity, exploration, and tinkering are the focus) and Tinkering School (where we run camps and other programs). I also work with the managing team of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE).

The Institute for Applied Tinkering is an organization dedicated to building a 21st-century model of education. Over the past 10 years we’ve brought child-centric, collaborative, hands-on education experiences to children in many different ways, from sleep away camps to after-school programs, to teacher workshops, and more.

The ASDE is a non profit organization dedicated to informing people about the benefits of, and methods for, allowing children and adolescents to direct their own education. The Alliance’s ultimate goal, its vision, is a world in which Self-Directed Education (SDE) is embraced as a cultural norm and is available to all children, everywhere, regardless of their family’s status, race, or income.

Why are you interested in progressive education?

I think we’re doomed if we keep using domination pedagogy and keep trying to turn humans into robots!

In your opinion what are the main challenges of our current school system?

Domination pedagogy and adultism.

Our education system is outdated. Most people think of our current system as “traditional” but it’s actually far removed from how humans have learned for thousands of years.

Our education system came about as a result of needing to train people to follow directions in an assembly line during the industrial revolution, and to ingrain them to follow power hierarchies without question. We need to change this approach and we should have done so 30 years ago.

We live in a fast-changing world that no longer requires us to be crammed full of facts that we can regurgitate. Robots can do that for us. The workplace does not need people who simply follow instructions under threat of punishment.

This outdated authoritarian, coercive, non-consensual approach to education is the reason that we are seeing a reduction in empathy, resilience and creativity in our graduates. Humans of today need to be innovators not robots.

If you could make changes to state education, what would be your top priorities?

We need to re-humanize education.

How we teach is more important than what we teach.

Teachers (or facilitators) need to relate equitably with young people. Flip the accountability model and learn together rather than pretending you know everything.

Rather than ordering students to “Do as I tell you to do”, teachers should ask, “What are your goals and how can I help you to reach them?”

I’ve given many talks on this subject which you can watch here:

Re-Humanizing Education:

How we teach Co-Creative practices to Re-Humanize Education – Aaron Eden

Flipping the Script: Foundations for the Future of Education:

Education Transformation Catalyst – Aaron Eden

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

In a safe, rich environment, healthy, vibrant community, with minimal adult intervention – but strong modelling – children become educated through instinct.

Increased adult control over children’s lives is a major cause of the decreased human capacity of each generation, and a root cause the learned helplessness we are seeing so much of.

Some particularly relevant blog posts include:

Redefining Academic Rigor

Assisted Accountability: The True Flipped Classroom

The Entrepreneurial Learner

Concentrated Endeavor


Follow Aaron Eden:

You can follow Aaron on Twitter, and read his blog here: www.edunautics.com/blog

To join upcoming live, online classes on Self-Directed Education, please visit his Workshops and Classes page.

For more information about Aaron’s consulting work, please visit the website www.eliadgroup.com