Monday, July 23, 2012

Reply to @JoFoeSho regarding education & schooling

I am very interested in pedagogical (education) theory and technique, and as such, I often find occasion to post tweets or blog posts regarding what I see as what I consider to be authentic-learning/education as opposed to inauthentic/authoritarian/forced/coerced/domination-'learning'/'education'.

Just Jo (@JoFoeSho on Twitter) asked the question: "what if you have no choice but public school for your child"

I would like to express my intention of implying no criticism of parents who due to financial constraints or other extenuating circumstances, utilize public-"education" services.  My concerns are that some people may be led to believe that what occurs in institutions of "education", could be confused with authentic-education and therefore, I post such things to inspire a re-thinking of what truly represents education; I wish to inspire teachers to re-think those pedagogic-memes that imply domination of children and inspire all persons to take children more seriously as persons, to respect their inherent dignity as human-beings that are in the process of development (which, we all are, or at least should be, in the process of development).

I can certainly understand, how a parent, hearing my criticisms of institutions of 'education' that imply memes of domination, could also hear in those criticisms, a judgement that they as parents are making the 'wrong' choice by sending their children to those institutions.  While I have grave concerns regarding many wide-spread pedagogical approaches, I attribute no fault or blame to parents who, would wish for a better means of education for their children, are financially constrained or are otherwise unable to foster that education for their children.

Ultimately, to know how much a child/adult is actually harmed by an institution of domination, we may only ask the child/adult whether they enjoy their interactions within that institution; if they are happy and/or content by their participation in schools, then I suspect that little actual harm is being done (although this does not imply that any significant educational benefit is being conferred either). 

I would encourage parents of any child, that for whatever cause, is not happy, is not contented, in their interactions within public-schools, to do everything reasonable given their means, to find some alternative to institutional-schooling.

I think that the good news, is that a parent need not "provide" an education to their children, for the "provision" of education as is the model of public-schooling is exactly the kind of meme that is at question; children are natural learners, and it generally takes 13 long years of inane pedagogy, tedium & boredom within a school, to drive out the native-curiosity of a high-school graduate; they have come to associate "learning" with learning what someone else tells you to learn, with tedious repetition of exercises that hold no interest, of a young-energetic body coerced to "hold still", "behave" and "be quiet" at hours at a time, before all interest in learning becomes associated with negative feelings of domination & exploitation.

Children when not dominated as described, are naturally curious about their world, they naturally want to copy and emulate the actions of adults, they want to understand, they want to learn the names of things, to understand how things work and they need only the opportunity and space to explore to learn.  The answers, fundamentally cannot be given to the learner, the learner must first conceive of the question, before any "answer" will be relevant to their developmental-learning-needs at that time; therefore, the parent does not need to have a college-degree to provide a space for authentic-learning to occur; education cannot be "provided", it must be learned, but what can be provided, is the space to explore, to make mistakes, to ask questions, and then pursue where those inquiries/curiosities take the learner.

I would confess, that I am certified in this "state" as a public-school teacher, although, currently I have other employment.  I have reservations regarding finding employment within the public-school system, because I feel it would be almost impossible, for even myself, to do no harm to children, and still maintain employment within an institution of domination.  Currently, my daughter is two years old (we have another daughter soon to arrive into the world) and I am something of a stay-at-home papa for the time being.  As my daughter grows older, I fully intend to offer her the opportunity to attend a public-school, with the understanding, that if she changes her mind and does not like the experience there, I would do everything within my means to allow her to un-school (like home-schooling, but learner-driven/inquiry-driven education).  I would have no concerns whatsoever regarding her grades at school, I would possibly even encourage her not to do homework or study for tests she is not interested in; my research into the college recruitment and candidate evaluators indicates that grades are almost of no consequence to those evaluators if initiative and ability is demonstrated; and therefore I have no concern whatsoever, that my daughter would be barred or prohibited from post-secondary educational opportunities due any performance she may exhibit in primary or post-secondary schools.

My hope is that my words would provide you some idea of my intentions concerning my criticisms of public-"education" and that they would provide you with encouragement that all is not lost, that hopefully, if your children are content with their experience in schools, that likely, very little harm is being done them; that they have been strong enough to brush off the attempt to dominate and subjugate their natural curiosity, and such being the case, if need be, you may certainly consider public-schooling to be a "free" if inept day-care program, which allows you to work to provide for your family and allow them to experience what authentic-education is, in a loving-nurturing learning-space.


  1. Thank you kindly for your thoughts on this matter. I have had others of the Libertarian thought tell me that if I truly cared for my child, that I would by any means necessary find an alternative. Unfortunately it is just not an option for me.

    My son is 5 years old. I have been active in educating him since he was a baby. Not only on the ABC's, numbers, colors, shapes, ect. I encourage thought and questioning. I tell him all the time that he will have "educators" however I will ALWAYS be his "life teacher."

    Last year he attended preschool. I had my reservations in enrolling him because it wasn't necessary at the time, but thought it would prepare him for when he would have to go to kindergarten. He thrived in that environment, as he is a very social child. As a vigilant parent everyday I asked him exactly what was discussed, what they did, ect. The only disturbing thing to me was the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. I took action by explaining the best I could line for line and asking if he agreed with the statement. In the end HE made the decision that he did not wish to participate in this aside from saying "and liberty and justice for all" at the end. Trust me this brought some questions from the "educators."

    It is a tough situation to not be able to provide better than this for him. It truly breaks my heart. I know the damage of the institution as I became a casualty of that myself. Failing every grade however a GATE student. Had many altercations with "educators" regarding their misinformation. Ultimately being thrown into an independent study program for "problem children."

    I will remain vigilant in what they are placing in his mind. I will continue to ask for a recap of all lessons he learned that day. If there is anything I disagree with I will tell him, and find him material containing truth. I could not bear stand by and see them turn my bright little boy into another robot.

    I will also hope that in the future I may have the means to provide better. Whether on my own or through a private school which reflects similar values as far as what learning should be.

  2. You are most welcome. I extend my empathy and sympathies to the situation, in which you find yourself, which does not appear to completely satisfy your needs to care for your son; I think I have some understanding of how it would be unsatisfying to feel it necessary to make compromises of some needs-meeting, in order to meet other important needs. My wife and I had considered for a time, the possibilities of daycare for our daughter in order that we could have more income, but fortunately, in our case, we could satisfactorily subsist with less income, if it meant that our daughter could be home with me. I mourn for the children and the parents that find it necessary to be separated against their wishes, into circumstances that are less than satisfactory.
    I confess to sometimes, becoming angry with a tax-code and regulatory-framework that steals from the workers and creates barriers to market-entry that stifles economic productivity to such an extent that a single parent is prevented from providing more to their family in much less labor-time. How much is expropriated in this way is ultimately incalculable, but it could easily be as much as 80-90% in a given implied time-set; imagine if you could make four to five times as much income in the same labor-time... everyone's options would be so much the greater... it boggles the mind to conceive of the reduction of human-satisfaction due to the intervention of institutions of domination.

    If you were interested, you might wish to look into "The Unschooling Unmanual" by Gestel et al, "Guerrilla Learning: How to give your kids a real education with or without school" by Grace Llewellyn, and/or "The Unschooling Handbook: How to use the whole world as your child's classroom" by Mary Griffith.