Unschooling the Public in 25 Words or Less

17 08 2007

You could call NHEN’s Laura Derrick a dedicated public educator — she educates reporters and editors about home education, so they can help educate the public.

Like the Chinese kids translating Harry Potter, it’s a true labor of love and she does it beautifully.

This time her challenge was to respond in 25 words or less, to a personal attack on home education from the founder of USA Today. It is an ignorant ink-by-the-barrel throwback to Horatio Alger fables, full of mindless mixed metaphor and unexamined prejudice (mothers have apron strings, fathers have bootstraps??) all pandering to the public’s right NOT to know imo.

The NEA’s Reg Weaver, national teacher union mouthpiece, was the other invited response, not that reporters and editors ever ask NHEN to pile on when teacher unions are attacked by the press (do newspapers even print attacks against teacher unions though, much less have their founders pen them? Hmmm . . .)

But Laura raised none of these issues and she didn’t rise to all that stinking bait. She rose only to the occasion at hand, and responded within the newspaper’s absurdly contrived limits. She even had one word to spare! — although picayune zero tolerance NCLB accountability literalists might notice Laura used two contractions, which if counted as two words each, would put her one over the limit and perhaps prevent her from marching at graduation?

“Children can’t fly if they aren’t free, and they aren’t free if the conformity of a classroom is the only acceptable path to education.”

— Laura Derrick, president, National Home Education Network

Daryl did an unlimited, unabashed and therefore most enjoyable encore for his blog here, and I wrote a carefully counted (not counting one contraction) 25-word response too, just to see if I could:

“Daycare, a bedtime kiss after homework, supervised weekend visitation
— otherwise all kids are creatures of the State and that’s the only way
to raise ’em?”

I based mine on Judith Warner’s NYT parenting blog, specifically her parent involvement post that throws into such stark relief the media’s ignorance of School as the number one environmental toxin for a family-friendly culture.

I am worried about the toxic effects on humans of institutional school systems. After Abu Ghirab, a Stanford psychologist detailed how “place” can win over “person” through concepts like institutionalization, escalating dehumanization, stress and stereotyping, the seduction of boredom, the evil of inaction and much more.

Sounds too much like what’s gone wrong between school and education — we’ve institutionalized thinking and learning and productive work, and lost the individuals we meant to inspire and empower in the process.

So I can’t help focusing on all the ways Thinking Parents can create healthier education environments for ourselves, for our own children and families, for our neighbors and communities. I’ve been struck at almost every stop by the connections, how the ideas and information are the same and how opening your eyes to one can open your mind to the other.

(Hey, maybe that explains the liberal media’s virulent bias for schooling over real education, that their own K-12 schooling was like childhood lead poisoning, an insidious and invisible environmental killer of brain cells? And maybe that in turn suggests the breakthrough formulation of a real solution — get the lead out, before another whole generation loses its mind! )

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11 responses

17 08 2007
Alasandra

Great post!!!

17 08 2007
JJ

I should’ve waited to publish it until I found this! 😉

How deliciously oxymoronic — a tough love traditionalist dad of six kids from the WWII generation, posing as the namesake for a “Free Spirit” scholarship as all the while he looks down his nose at actual free spirits and the unschooling families who nurture and protect them!

17 08 2007
Deanne

What a joke! After following up on the comment about his son’s book, I found this: http://www.controllingparents.com/ ‘Give your children wings,’ yeah right!

17 08 2007
JJ

WOW! Good find Deanne — and if there are 15 million such parented American adults today, surely they are screwing up the culture more than a few million happy homeschoolers!

Con·trol·ling par·ent (ken-tröl’lîng pâr’ent):
Adult or guardian who uses excessively perfectionistic, overbearing, authoritarian, confusing, or manipulative methods of childraising. An estimated 15 million American adults living today grew up with controlling parents. See also, lit.: The Great Santini, Mommie Dearest.

17 08 2007
JJ

As an adult I read both The Great Santini and Mommie Dearest. Unbelievably horrifying domestic disturbance faking it as parenting.

I’ll take unschooling over authoritarianism any day of the week and twice on Sunday, as cultural progress led by healthy Thinking Parents rather than the seriously damaged . . .

17 08 2007
JJ

According to a comment at USA Today, this is an adopted dad of six kids. Maybe he’d find this meaningful then?

. . . this New York Magazine [adoption] feature makes me think about education. Like adoption, alternatives to regular school used to seem shameful and second-class, if not shocking.

Even to otherwise liberal thinkers?

But now there’s a “huge wave of alternatives” for Thinking Parents in education as well as adoption, and choosing among them is about love and family empowerment, not about being desperate and anti-social — all sorts of families opt to not do traditional school for their own good reasons, despite social taboos and cultural strictures.

In so doing, we help create new family portraits, new kinds of family and parenting, maybe a whole different world. . .

19 08 2007
JJ

I’m sending Laura this Newberry Medalist’s speech from 1937, in case NHEN ever needs another pithy zinger about kids in free flight. I see several 25-word beauties in this passage (snook-cocking salute to “Susan” from Unschooling Discussion):

“There is, of course, this matter of being afraid to give freedom to
young children.

I believe they have that within themselves which makes it possible for them to meet the world and life, and interpret it more
nearly aright than can we. They carry with them that inheritance of faith and imagination undimmed; and that tremendous surging desire to know, to see, to feel and to do, which is rarely betrayed.

In our desire as adults to lay hold of a child’s life, to grip it, mold it to our own values, we do unwittingly a great harm. We confront children with our own fears, our own lack of faith; to safeguard them we attempt to thrust between them and life those many false illusions which we have picked up in our own twisting, turning way.

Children take a far more advantageous highroad.

A free child is a happy child;
and there is nothing more lovely . . .

— Ruth Sawyer, in her acceptance speech upon winning the Newbery
Award for “Roller Skates” published in 1936

And here’s a reader’s blogpost about Roller Skates’ theme as real learning in unstructured freedom. I’m thinking Mr. “USA Yesterday” should have learned these award-winning early 20th century ideas, since those were his own formative years!

[Lucinda] barely escapes living with her horrible Aunt Emily who has very definite ideas about how girls should behave, and lives instead with Miss Peters and Miss Nettie, two single women who treat Lucinda as very much older than her ten years. Lucinda comes and goes as she pleases–mostly on her roller skates.

. . . Roller Skates is a story of freedom and escaping the rules and regulations of growing up–a story of belonging entirely to yourself and skating where you will.

I do love books that tell of a different time–a time when children were safe to run and roam and explore their worlds.

. . . And that’s the timeless appeal of the story–the freedom of this season in Lucinda’s life to be just herself. She realizes its uniqueness too, for at the end of the story she realizes “she’d never belong to herself again,” never have another summer of being free and being ten years old.

19 08 2007
JJ

Good “Open Spaces” magazine article about valuable life lessons that children love to learn from freely available Newberry books (without school.)

21 08 2007
JJ

Another way to go with home education’s response — agree that “schooling is like flying” and link to this —

22 08 2007
Marcy Muser

JJ,

Thanks for the info about the Roller Skates author. I have a copy of Roller Skates – sounds like it’s about time for a new read-aloud at our house! 🙂

22 08 2007
JJ

Cool. 🙂
I remember us reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins early on, and a Newberry read-aloud favorite of ours was Konigsberg’s Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Also The Westing Game, when Favorite Daughter got a bit older. And of course the first three Harry Potter books . . .

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