Aside from Kurt Vonnegut and Barbara Kingsolver, the author whose oeuvre I’ve plunged the deepest is Haruki Murakami. Known for his gritty and mundane, yet surreal and whimsical, fiction (I especially recommend his novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and short story collection The Elephant Vanishes), this “heroically imaginative” writer exhibits “deadpan mania and genius,” according to the website Goodreads.
The following quotes come from his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I had no idea that one of my favorite writers had such a Sudbury-esque outlook. Here, it turns out, is a wildly successful, internationally renowned author for whom conventional schooling only got in the way…
“I could never stand being forced to do something I didn’t want to do at a time I didn’t want to do it. Whenever I was able to do something I liked to do, though, when I wanted to do it, and the way I wanted to do it, I’d give it everything I had…From elementary school up to college I was never interested in things I was forced to study…I only began to enjoy studying after I got through the educational system and became a so-called member of society. If something interested me, and I could study it at my own pace and approach it the way I liked, I was pretty efficient at acquiring knowledge and skills.”
What a testimonial to the power of innate curiosity! I also find it interesting that a writer from Japan—whose education system was held up for years and years as something we in the West should emulate—would come down squarely on the side of educational freedom.
“People have their own individual likes and dislikes. Some people are suited more for marathon running, some for golf, others for gambling. Whenever I see students in gym class all made to run a long distance, I feel sorry for them. Forcing people who have no desire to run, or who aren’t physically fit enough, is a kind of pointless torture. I always want to advise teachers not to force all junior and senior high school students to run the same course, but I doubt anybody’s going to listen to me. That’s what schools are like. The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school” (emphasis added).