I weep for the captive words, whose meaning might have once been noble, intended to convey something positive and worthy, until, through the power of press, by monopoly on media and policy, those who would seize all that is inherently good and turn it to their crooked purposes co-opt the meaning of the words that evolved to evoke in us admirable aspiration. School is just such a word.
Once a beacon of hope, a light that shone distantly through the darkness of forced feudal ignorance, school was associated with education, a means to better one's life. School was a tool for gaining knowledge and understanding of the workings of this world, and the task of those who ran schools was straightforward and simple.
I'm reminded of the Dave Matthews Band Song... "Funny the way it is, when you think about it.... one kid walks ten miles to school while another's dropping out."
If school is the key to opportunity and advancement in life, why would anyone drop out? Could it be that that school is not what it used to be? Could it be that it no longer holds the key to advancement in life? Certainly it still can for some, but now that school for most kids has become not a fortunate opportunity to better their lives, but instead a forced internment in an authoritarian government facility, is it any surprise that they no longer want to be there?
In The Underground History of American Education, two time teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto lays forth the nature of this problem quite plainly. The same colluding societies of powerful men who have taken control of our money system, our government, and the media have made deliberate (and now successful) efforts to take control of the education system. Gatto goes through the process whereby the big foundations (Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller) used their money and influence to create the modern compulsory education system and shape the curriculum to their ends. It was by these sinister machinations that the concept of school was co-opted. It was an easy sell, as desirous as people naturally are to be educated. People think, oh, school is good. Of course we should have school for everyone. And look, these really rich fellas, they are so nice, they're offering all this money to make sure every child has the opportunity to get an education.
Why would they do that? Maybe because they're such caring, considerate people? Or could it be that they had an another agenda? I should hope that none of my readers are so naive as to believe that the most powerful people in society have any motivation to empower others. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Ever since the modern American education system was implemented in the first half of the twentieth century, how have things changed? Has universal education lifted the unfortunate out of poverty? Have ignorance and base-mindedness been eradicated?
How many of us took a course on logic in our primary education? On debate? On philosophy? Did we study Latin? Classic civilizations? Why were these, once pillars of a basic education, removed from the curriculum? You might have seen the test from 1912 that has been circulating on the internet. This was an examination for 8th graders a century ago, and today, few college graduates could pass it. The dumbing down of our population makes no sense whatsoever if one assumes those who control the education system mean well, but it makes perfect sense once we come to understand that their goal all along has been to cripple the population's capacity for critical thinking. The modern pupil is provided the illusion of having been educated, while instead they have merely gone through an extensive program of classical conditioning, designed to create the kind of society our rulers want: malleable, compliant, obedient to authority. Smart enough to do their jobs, but dumb enough to not realize that they are being used as human chattels.
So it should come as no surprise that middle class people all over this country are pulling their kids out of the public indoctrination programs. Homeschooling is more popular than ever, and even more radical approaches have also been growing in popularity.
One such approach is known as unschooling. This means different things for different people, but essentially, unschoolers refute the importance of pounding academic knowledge into kids heads, valuing instead creative play and outdoor adventures. This doesn't mean academics are totally neglected: it just means they are not emphasized. Kids will want to learn to read. Provide them with books, and they will read. They will ask questions. We can answer them, or direct them to resources where they can learn. The main goal is for the kids to be the ones who decide how they spend their time, to follow their own interests. This changes the fundamental nature of how they absorb the experience, allowing them to retain the lessons or information in ways that no amount of forced reading or recitation can ever match. Most importantly, it teaches them that they are at the helm of their own ship, as opposed to conventional education, which teaches them to sit quietly and do as they are told all day long.
If you are interested in learning more about the unschooling movement, there are many resources available on the web. I have included links to a few below.
Off-Trail Learning: Resource for self-directed learning
Off-Trail Learning: Resource for self-directed learning
Our approach to unschooling has been organic and rather off the cuff. We didn't even know what unschooling was when we began; we simply believed that kids should be free to do what they want, and that best way to teach them things was to engage them in conversation and take to interesting places. Sometimes we buckle down and get into academics, working on writing, grammar, math, vocabulary, or history, but often we just let them play imagination games or build things with Legos or Construx.
World School - Field Trips and Travel
Earlier this year we got connected with a homeschool hiking group, which has been a great resource for finding fun adventures around the valley and getting the girls into the company of other kids. Many of the adventures below were undertaken with this group, and we've made some good friends.
As much as we can, we get out into the world to experience reality directly. We see every outing as a opportunity for learning, and we try to go places that have potential to stimulate curiosity and get the kids thinking. Being the archivist that I am, I keep extensive records of our adventures, so for those who are interested, here are some photo galleries from all of the world school adventures we have gone on thus far this year.
Roxy Ann Peak
Whale Watching, Newport
Crater Lake Snowshoe Hike
Circle of Children
North Mountain Park
Wolf Creek Easter Parade
If we have any hope of restoring our planet to peace and prosperity, we have to rethink the way we raise our children. We have to stop breaking their spirits and forcing them into our way of life, and we have to start honoring their right to be free. This doesn't mean we just let them do whatever they want and forego all parental discipline, (some in the unschooling movement may feel this way, but I do not); it means that we have to stop programming them with all the same manias and neuroses that underlie our current state of affairs in the world. We have to empower them, not overpower them, we have to guide them, not control them, and we have to encourage them, not indoctrinate them.
This kind of parenting is, in many ways, much harder. It takes much more time and patience. It goes against our cultural programming, and flies in the face of our pride sometimes. Yes, I believe it is our pride, not our highest consciousness, that gets indignant when children refuse to comply with our mandates. "I'm the boss and you'll do as I say or else!" Children who are thus reasoned with are programmed early on to accept (and resent) authoritarianism, as if might makes right. Many of us don't really believe that, and yet we are trapped in a paradigm where someone has to take charge, and if we don't lay down the law, then undesirable consequences result.
I don't claim to have all the answers about parenting. I still break out the authoritarian parental trump card from time to time, when gentle, patient persuasion isn't sufficient to accomplishing whatever objective is at hand. I do my best to avoid this, but as an adult whobears the responsibility for our having a home, I reserve the right to insist the house I live in be kept in some semblance of order, and that the food I buy not be high-graded or wasted. I follow the non-aggression principle and the philosophy of voluntaryism. Yet even in voluntaryism, those who initiate aggression must be dealt with, even with force if necessary. When my kids are violent towards each other, I step in and arrest the aggressor, isolating them from the group and levying further consequences if appropriate. I don't believe in spanking, but I do believe in removing violent offenders from shared space.
I try not to direct my children's behavior with threats, but sometimes I feel justified in withdrawing my services (such as serving food or reading books) if I am feeling disrespected. Threatening punishment for any infraction or violation of my wishes is not what I consider good parenting, but at the same time, raising children without consequences for disrespectful behavior is not good either. They need to understand that even in a totally peaceful, voluntaryist society, if they disrespect others or somehow otherwise cause problems, they are going to face consequences. They are going to lose friends or lose their welcome. Peaceful parenting, by my reckoning, doesn't mean the kids just get to walk all over us. Some balance of allowance and setting of boundaries is important, and each family has to work out its own dynamics. The main thing is that we respect each other, and that we impress upon our children the importance of self-governance and taking responsibility for themselves. If an entire generation of children was raised this way, we would very quickly see a different, much improved world.