One of the criticisms of life learning / unschooling that riles me the most is the myth that unschoolers are sheltered from the life of their communities, and/or don’t associate with others of different backgrounds or cultures. Public school systems, these critics say, form the foundation of a caring, tolerant, and democratic society. And, by extension, unschoolers are not part of that.
That generalization is wrong, of course. And it is based on a misunderstanding, even ignorance, of both schooling and unschooling! As I wrote in my 2000 book Challenging Assumptions in Education, “Scratch the surface of most public school systems and you will find something quite different from justice and democracy, in spite of good intentions. You will find an archaic institution that … perpetuates social hierarchies, disempowers people and forces them to do things against their will – supposedly for their own good – and encourages a destructive level of consumerism and consumption. If a democratic society is one in which people are collectively in control of their lives and the lives of their communities, then our present-day school systems are anti- democratic.”
In Life Learning Magazine, we often publish articles that elaborate on the criticism about non-participation and others put forth by otherwise progressive thinkers. For instance, here are two, another one, and a third.
Right now, we’re working on a feature about life learning / unschooling families and their direct participation in the democratic life of their communities. Have you and/or your kids have been involved in civil society – activism or volunteering in the form of such activities as helping at a food bank, raising money for a cause, public education about an important issue, participating in government meetings or at public protests, to name just a few possibilities? If you or they are willing to write about it, or answer some questions via email, or share a photo or two, I’d love to hear from you within the next month for inclusion in the article.
Life learners/ unschoolers are not sheltered. They live and learn in the real world, not the “pseudo world” that can be school. We think it is important to share our experiences with each other and the broader world.