Making It To The Front Of The Line and Stepping Out

I came by this blog post last week and I am absolutely astounded by this young student’s ability to so eloquently speak out against the educational system of which she was emerging from as a valedictorian of her graduating high school class. There are lots of comments to read through at the bottom of this post and a lot of them are hostile towards the valedictorian, accusing her of biting the hand that feeds her.

I don’t know about you, but I appreciate people who question authority and have enough courage to think and act outside the majority. This young woman clearly excelled beyond all of her classmates and still felt like she was gypped out of whatever the prospect of traditional schooling ultimately promised her.

Why should or shouldn’t we question a convention such as traditional schooling? Some people defend it viciously and honestly believe there’s just no way to adequately (or excellently) education our youth en masse by non-traditional means. Also, with the world’s economy taking shape as-is, where is the incentive of paying tens of thousands of dollars to institutions that don’t prepare you for or guarantee a good job?

Who’s failing here? Who’s accountable? Parents? Teachers? Schools? Our government? Or, are the kids to blame? I personally don’t care about blame, I’m just getting impatient for a smart, competent and completely irreverent Edupunk of some sort to take a sledgehammer to the suffocating walls of academia as we know it and give future generations a new way to stretch their legs and their minds whether inside or outside the classroom.

There Are Some Things I Wish I Could Un-Learn

As I’m packing for my return flight back to Madison, my mom was watching ABC News. This program came on about a family in Westford, MA¬† who was practicing “unschooling” their children by letting them learn as they wanted, when they wanted without courses, text books or set hours. Granted, this family looks like the typical liberal wealth that you find in Westford, I was slightly intrigued by this methodology and how the kids reacted to it.

This really is a ballsy approach to teaching kids these days. With an endless supply of seedy, harmful and perverted information just waiting to be accessed through all streams of media, one must wonder how much supervision these parents must need to provide for these kids to learn properly.

However, it goes on to show that these kids have very little guidance and through their interviews, seem to have a curiosity for things in life that teenagers their age might not either understand nor care to learn about. Japanimation, nerdy sword fighting, cross-cultural learning… yeah, all stuff I was into as a dorkalicious young man.

These parents must have highly flexible and progressive work schedules in order to accommodate the natural needs of these kids though. I look at my departure from young adulthood into adulthood and I recall all along, a steady distaste for structure, authority (still, these parents have authority, just a different kind) and regular business or schooling hours.I thought I was just a lazy punkass who was smart and would have to rely on being sneaky around my teachers and bosses for the rest of my life to put up the appearance of being who they wanted me to be, while relaxing as much as I wanted, all the while getting my work done and then some.

This style of teaching takes all of that pressure off the kids to be something they’re not. They can be whomever they want to be. While traditionally trained teachers will attempt to instill children with a cookie cutter version of cross cultured tolerance, whether they like it or not, these kids seem to have an objective view of life that their parents also seem to have.

I can only imagine the conservative, institutionalist parents gnashing their teeth at the idea of this. So many highly trained teachers with technology and the passion to teach at their fingertips. But, maybe we don’t need that? Maybe our culture is so saturated with self-defeating principals that by perpetuating these ideals via line after line of ineffective teachers, we’re damning our youth to compounding effects of mass-idiocy?

I had a pretty traditional education steeped in the Catholic tradition that I have come to hate. I learned a lot about being judgmental of others based on a text that was thousands of years old, how hypocrisy was an earned right and many other things I hope to contextualize and stomp out before they can become part of my future child’s ideas down the road. However I also learne about morals, public service and despite shunning the mythical tenets of Christianity, have considered myself to be a fairly decent person because of what I was able to separate from lies and common sense.

I don’t know if I would have done better or even been able to compete under this “unschooling” principal, but I see basic good things in it that could possibly help future generations of children to break free from the social-economic shackles that seem to restrict a great number of minds, year after year. Or maybe this is just another couple of rich, whacky, liberal parents fucking up their kids with half-baked parenting ideas they may have come up with while stoned back in college. Who knows?

What do you think of unschooling? Do you think it’s something that appeals to you? Would you ever consider it as an option for teaching your children down the line?