Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Lately I've been reading a book called "Learning All the Time," by John Holt. At the same time, I've been loving watching my children blossom. Their curiosity, their enthusiasm, their pure joy in learning and doing is remarkable. Yesterday Sam, 5 ½ years old, started reading "Brighty of the Grand Canyon" aloud to his grandmother and me. Outside of correcting his pronunciation from time to time, he did fine. ("An- jel, not an-gul") It's just challenging enough to be interesting, as he reads slowly but steadily, only stopping to sound out a word every third or fourth line or so. Trin isn't interested in reading yet, and he doesn't do it very well; but he and Sam have worked out a symbiotic reading relationship, and you can often see them sitting together, with Sam reading aloud. Every time he gets stuck on a word, having trouble sounding it out the right way, Trin jumps in and helps him with the correct pronunciation. It's beautiful, it's teamwork it's each learning from the other.

With this background, juxtaposing Kristin's recent blogs on Unschooling and School leaves me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, wonder and joy at the freedom and self-paced progress of my own children; on the other, a deep sadness that so many children experience school in a way that is painful, oppressive, and dreadfully boring and confusing. I know that was my experience of school.

On a macro scale, the universal "big picture," this oppressive and ineffective schooling is unnecessary.

On a micro scale, within the context of the economy, culture, and society we have created, I'm not so sure. Many people I know really don't have that choice – they're two-earner families, and school, as affordable child care, is an economic necessity. Others are single parents. Others are overwhelmed and unable to relax into the role of unschooling family without more help and appreciation from society. Still others are sincerely convinced that children would not learn what they need to learn without school, and send their children off with conviction that they are doing what is best for the child.

It's clear to me that schools are not doing the job they're "supposed to do" very effectively. It seems to me that what schools do best is to indoctrinate children with values of obedience to authority and suppression of their own and others' needs, and prepare them for a life of mediocrity. Not that I came to this conclusion by myself. It is simply my own experience and observation, coupled with reading the works of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, and Alfie Kohn.

As usual this election cycle, there are school bonds on the ballot. I'll probably vote for them. If a kid's going to be schooled, she should get the best schooling available. But I have real doubts that the current system can be reformed. I think maybe we should just scrap it and start over.

And the first place to start is to make school a choice.


anne said...

Hey girl,

Don't get me started about school. For two years I came home every day crying and tried to be sick every day. My mother said she just finally gave up, but bragged for years that I learned everything I had outside of school. In later years I ditched school to hang out at the library.

Max did one year of public school and the police came after him after a couple of incidents where he stood up in school for other children. Even in private school he had trouble with teachers wanting to send social services to interfere with his family arrangements.

I don't sympathize with the two earner family even though our dollar only purchases 1/3 of what it did when we were kids. It is possible to do without and have happier kids. There are also families I knew who did homeschooling co-ops, so that took care of the ignorant parent thing. But every parent knows how to read and add. At any age below 6th grade, that's pretty much it. Parents just don't want to babysit and they want to have their own lives. Well, they should not have had children.

Children take an enormous amount of energy and time. With more people staying at home, the burden of this would be distributed better.

Every time I read about some school getting shot up or a busload of children hijacked, I know that had those children been at home it would not have happened.

Schools can work, but not the way we have them. As I said, don't get me started! Schooling along with nursing a baby and feeding a kid organic food, not getting them immunized and etc., is a radical move that is way beyond politics in the normal sense.

You're both activists--of course it's hard. But good.

(p.s. Sky likes Trin. He thinks that you all are heroic for keeping your kids out of school, too.)

I'm cheering for you!

Seda said...

I hear ya, Anne! My own school experience was hell, and I learned pretty much in spite of my schooling. College was different. I also had social services visiting my mom, because at the time we lived in a log house without indoor plumbing, heated by a wood stove and a wood range for cooking, without (gasp) television. We had a string running across the room where we'd hang index cards with a word that stumped us on one side and the definition on the other.

Ah, well, this could really get out of hand with both of us on the same soap box. I'm going to bed.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our