Unschoolers Will Not Learn To Do Things They Don't Want To Do

I think the unschooling segment I appeared on with the Yablonski/Biegler family on The Good Morning America TV show probably caused more heat than light today. There were so many important points to make—schooling is not the same as education, lack of curriculum is not lack of instruction, how and why different scopes and sequences for learning work—but, in the total 4 minute segment, it was all I could do to mention that children are natural learners from birth. As you can see, today’s interview didn’t have the negative edge of yesterday’s presentation, so at least that’s an improvement.

But yesterday's damage is done; unschooling is just a version of hookey that produces uneducated kids to those viewers, not a genuine way to help children learn and, as the host kept implying, it should be more regulated. If only we could have spoken about how kids can do serious work without being coerced into doing so, how learning can be rich and non-linear when it occurs outside school, how unschooled kids fare in college and the world of work. There are plenty of books and videos and studies we could have discussed, but instead it all got bogged down in the refrain, "Isn't it the job of the parent to teach the child to do things that they don't want to do?" What a negative way to think about learning and work: "I have to do things I don't want to do only because someone with power over me tells me I should." So much for self-starters, questioners, think-out-of-the-box employees; no, according to this concept we want to primarily educate our children to become adults who Obey. The world is full of opportunities that teach us how we must sometimes do things we don't want to do in order to accomplish something we do, so I don't think that's a lesson parents, or schools, need to endlessly drill into kids. I think the job of parents is to show how joy for life and love of learning can be sources of discipline and hard work, not fear, bribery and misery. Children do help out with chores around the house, cooking, and more without bullying them into it. In fact, I read about a study that shows altruism is inherent in children as young as 18 months; kids really want to join in and help and we can work with that ability instead of quashing it so they'll only help when we command them to do so. There's much more to say on this topic, but I'll get off my soap-box now.

On another note:

I recently listened to a podcast entitled John Holt: Libertarian Outsider, by Jeff Riggenbach. It is an interesting portrayal of Holt’s work, with some excellent quotes from John’s books, particularly Freedom and Beyond. Sponsored by the Mises Institute, the 20-minute presentation often makes John seem like Captain Ahab, pursuing the education whale with monomaniacal intensity. As a result, Riggenbach neglects to mention Holt’s other causes and interests, such as music, fiction and ecology, but this is a minor matter. If you want to learn more about John’s work and speculate about why Holt didn’t become a “capital L Libertarian,” as John used to say or, as Riggenbach notes, a “Movement Libertarian,” this is a good place to start.