Unschooling Is All the Holiday Rage

26 12 2006

I don’t get why columnists pick Christmas as the Season to Rant Against Unschooling? Maybe the prospect of being home with one’s own children frightens or angers them, and they need to rationalize those feelings somehow, make them socially acceptable. . . or they are disciples of School, profit prophets who make their own living by believing in, and vigorously perpetrating, all its forms and functions.

Hey fellas, the holiday mantra is ho, ho, ho — not No No NO.

And what lazy, wrongheaded assumptions to wrap up as educated thinking for any season, sigh. Modern homeschooling as an institution is admittedly conservative, but so is modern schooling! Hidebound even, a mindlessly anti-individual hell of not working to the point that either one can eat its own young. Literalism, paternalism, judgment, duty, sin, shame, guilt and congregational discipline from the right OR the left all stifle unschooling. I don’t know a single unschooling family –snarling or not– who combines unschooling joy with political rage, do you?

All screeds against other parents and how their children learn sound uncannily alike to me, and this one tells me LEFT-wing rage drives out joy the same way any other kind of rage does.
Let’s call it all “self-righteous rage” then — and educate our own against it whenever possible!

“No more teachers’ dirty looks”

There is a brand of contemptuous, snarling, right-wing American rage, a damnation of all things liberal, that has been rather quiet — sulking perhaps — since the recent election. In this job, I hear it expressed a lot, or used to, but never felt it much myself. Though there was one moment, I recall vividly, when it cracked through my soul like an arc of electricity. I was listening to a lullaby, “Child of Mine,” by 1960s singer/songwriter Carole King.

“You don’t need direction,” she sings, one assumes to her raggy, unkempt babe, “you know which way to go. . . .”

No, no, no, NO!! If I’ve learned one thing raising boys for the last 11 years, it is that kids need direction and lots of it, plus guidance, oversight, discipline, monitoring and constant upkeep. Left to their own devices, they will set the sofa on fire to see what happens. They will juggle knives, or try to. They will spend their days eating frozen sticks of butter and slapping their video game controllers until their fingers bleed.

Thus I was a little unsettled by Rosalind Rossi’s provocative front page story Sunday about “unschooling,” the practice of letting kids drop out of school and, basically, teach themselves whatever they like on their own schedule.

No doubt it works for certain rare — very rare — kids.

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