Often, in the news, we hear the term “anarchy” incorrectly used to describe incidents of vandalism, violence, or other mayhem said to have been perpetrated by “anarchists.” In reality, anarchy can be defined as a society without a popularly recognized government or a central governing authority. And that, most people assume, will automatically lead to vandalism, violence, and mayhem.
Why do they think that? Most people just can’t imagine living without hierarchy, leaders, and authorities telling them what to do and how to do it. In the same way, most adults cannot believe that children are capable of managing their own lives and learning without adult direction and intervention. Most people simply do not trust themselves and other people, including their own children, to live peacefully and productively without being directed by others who are thought to be more capable, better informed, and/or more enlightened. They assume the alternative is chaos – what they incorrectly define as anarchy.
That’s because most of us have been brought up to be followers who do what we’re told – in our families, churches, schools, and other institutions. As I wrote in my book Challenging Assumptions in Education, the school assembly line has conditioned us to think that anything more difficult than which brands to buy should be left to the “experts.” Doctoring ourselves is irresponsible, constructing our own houses is not feasible, organizing within our communities is subversive, and learning on our own just doesn’t work.
The world is currently experiencing mayhem – economically, environmentally, politically, and socially. Will we ever find just the right style of government, political party, or leader to fix things? Probably not. In fact, we just might have to take matters into our own hands, as people around the world have been doing. In our culture, we are not used to active participation and problem-solving, so many people find the prospect scary. However, we need to develop those tools and many more in order to find a way out of the mayhem my generation has created.
Fortunately, kids who are growing up without school – and with their active questioning abilities, self-esteem, self-reliance, and other important qualities intact – can provide the solution.
As life learning parents, we can help create change, in the world and with our children, by modeling self-reliant thinking and trust in our decisions about how our families live and learn…as well as about issues like politics and the environment. We might not create anarchy, but we can certainly create a better world than we have now.