What follows is the classic Fourth of July column from the Parent-Directed Education website. Snook essays for “free” reading on this topic include:
“Power of Story Worthy to Lead Education”
“Choose to Learn, Learn About Choice”
“What Harvard Homeschoolers Know Best”
“Schooling as Sincere Ignorance and Conscientious Stupidity”
“Social Capital: We’re Better Together”
MisEducation’s Mind Field of the Moment:
Lessons of Freedom
by JJ Ross, Ed.D.
MisEducation regularly corresponds with many Thinking Friends of Freedom –those who compose stirring patriotic music and missives, those who write charming poetry, even those who live for fireworks and aren’t above setting off a bottle rocket between holidays just for effect.
When occasionally feeling quite bold, MisEducation may invite a small party of free-thinking firebrands for luncheon, to thrill her in person with their discourse.
MisEducation is pleased to share this account of a recent gathering of fiery friends in her breath-taking summer garden, as they discussed lessons of independence at her exquisitely flag-festooned table. (The names of her guests, as is only proper, will remain STRICTLY confidential!)
Having begun the day’s entertainment with the following, guests were invited to consider and comment upon this declaration:
The great virtue of a real education (however obtained) is cultivating a humble curiosity and sense of wonder, animated by a deep appreciation for discovering new connections, asking more and better questions and collaborating with other good minds to use those answers as a springboard to seek out even better questions to pursue.
It is the friend of freedom.
The great danger of a false education (however obtained) is developing the delusion that there is one right answer to every question and that one’s mission is to nail them down as dogma and, armed with that answer sheet and the power of the teacher’s red pen, to instill that set of answers whatever the cost.
It is the enemy of freedom.
The legitimacy of our living Constitution and system of self-governance rests on much more than any person’s idiosyncratic interpretation of history or moral beliefs. Thank goodness!
Let us celebrate all the Thinking Parents who create “real education” in their homes and thereby change our world for the better whatever their personal beliefs.
The guest to MisEducation’s left offered this insight:
What children are led, taught or allowed to believe matters SO much to us that we spend an obscene chunk of our government dollars trying to control what those lessons will be.
Eliciting a response from one of the more outspoken guests:
History lessons are about human values and Power of Story.
What about Thinking Parents who believe the biggest lesson of history is that standardized schoolish ways don’t work for teaching courage and character or even the overthrow of tyranny, that today’s school system is contradictory to the very values it’s meant to teach — that the leaders most worth learning about were individuals who diverged from the path others would have chosen for them?
What if we believe well-educated citizens determined to remain free are inspired from within by a muse, a cause, a passion they’ve discovered within and defined for themselves — and that to be worth fighting for, any cause we choose had better be important enough to sustain our individual souls in the face of all odds and even tyranny?
What if freedom is a history lesson only those free to learn can possibly learn?
A young man of admirable posture, with fireworks in his pocket, retorted that this was nonsense fit only for women and children. That the only Power of Story with Power was Power!
He continued — in a most alarming way:
Currently, the education establishment is conducting an “advanced course” in how raw political power is created, kept, and wielded. They’ve been conducting it for over 70 years. They are in the process of bankrupting entire states while creating not just “uneducated” but nearly “uneducable” kids.
I just want the Education Establishment disemboweled . . .
At this, MisEducation retreated to the veranda for her fan, and when she returned heard him sum up:
. . .This leads me to the conclusion that “raw power” (translated as “raw political power”) is the only coin of the realm, and I challenge you to prove otherwise. Therefore, only the exertion of political power can change things. . .The idea that there are really any checks on power is an illusion. The only check on power is a countervailing power.
The somewhat more mature matron to his left let slip her usual merry countenance and replied:
And . . . what will protect us from *your* unchecked raw power? If you actually can seize the raw power to govern education, then I need to keep as close an eye on you as I do on anyone else grabbing power in the name of “my” freedom.
If my vision of educational freedom and self-determined learning doesn’t match yours, why then — philosophically, morally, reasonably or any other way — should yours prevail? Simply because your political machine can enforce it more ruthlessly? Sounds like “might makes right” to me, not real freedom.
Education and principled self-control (not raw power used to control others) is the answer to all its own questions. I think most citizens know this in a Jeffersonian sense, and are willing to support any
public resources that help create it, which is why they’re so frustrated with schooling that demonstrably fails to teach future citizens this all-important lesson.
If you’re right that we’ve devolved in our willingness to stand up for true education and principled self-governance, and have fallen to struggling for control of each other instead, then there’s so much
education work to be done!
Encouraging and sufficiently arming adults to educate themselves about education, to do the hard thinking for themselves, with historical perspective and important new knowledge being discovered constantly, is the real answer.
Having bade her perhaps overly-invigorating guests good travel to joyful holiday observances with their own families, MisEducation retired to the deepest shade of the garden to nap and dream of freedom.
She roused to pen heartfelt thank you notes to each of the Friends of Freedom who had joined her that day, signing off with the thought that
“The Most Powerful Power of Story
Can Be Learned Only In Freedom.”
(Copyright JJ Ross, July 2005.)
Even more “free” reading for Thinking Citizens and Parents, especially homeschoolers:
A college professor herself and unschooling parent of three college-level creatives, Pam Sorooshian found this professor’s very “unschool-y” advice. I’m posting it whole because it applies to most discussions here, and nearly every line is quotable. Here’s his set-up:
“. . . many young adults have been cheated by years of excessive schoolwork and teamwork, too many extracurricular activities, and a straitjacketed “just say no to anything risky” upbringing.
I am convinced that modern childhood generally does not build enough independence and thirst for knowledge. . .[w]hat your child really needs, though, is an inventive, self-reliant, restless spirit.”