I have lots of discussions with people about education - which, as an unschooler, I bet is not an anomaly. People are naturally intrigued when you step aside the common path, sometimes even appalled.
Every once in a while, I have such a discussion with someone who has spend some time considering education options himself and who - in the end - did choose to go along, become a teacher or enroll their children in some sort of formal schooling.
When I then utter that I oppose the entire structure and system of formal schooling, even if there are some initiatives for slight change for the better, a frequent rebuttal is that you can’t change a structure by ignoring it, and stepping out, and that they aim to change it from within.
While I do admire the effort, and completely agree that lots of things can be changed at the schooling system, so why not start today, I do wonder about the validity of this stance.
Change from within by enrolling your child
I don’t quite see how (much) you can change the schooling system by enrolling your child into it. Sure, if you are a very active parent and if you have a somewhat receptive school, they might make exceptions for your child. If you are truly lucky, some of the points you raise and the changes you try to make (through joining the school board, petitioning...) will be permanent. But in the end, it remains up to the goodwill of the school and their liberties within the larger system and until they do change, your child may well be the one who loses in your battle, as he is the one who will have to submit to the system on a daily basis. If the child has not himself chosen to be schooled, then I wonder why he should be the one taking the risks for your ideals.
Change from within by becoming a teacher
Becoming a teacher, if one has a vision of greater freedom, is a nice thing to do. And yes, you might be able to change some things for the children who are there while you are. The question is how much you will change within the limitations of the structure. How will the structure go along? If you are the only teacher that makes a difference, how much good does that do to the students who see dozens of teachers each year?
Instead of making small changes and hope for a better future, should we not just reform the entire structure. Trying to change a structure that is such a dinosaur as is the ‘modern’ schooling system, is like putting a mere band aid over a diseased leg.
Reforms in the schooling system have been taking place worldwide, but they are merely placebo’s and they don’t get to the root of the problem. The issue is not in the curriculum, or the standard, or the uniformity. The issue is not in globalizing the whole thing so that ‘everyone has the same chances’. Reforms have continuously been looking in the wrong direction. They have been looking towards the future of the student, instead of his very real present. They do not see the child or adolescent as a person, but as something that needs to be shaped and molded into a citizen.
Setting oneself up against the structure does make a change, because when many people start doing this, it gets noticed, and eventually might shake some decision makers to make drastic change.
I will not submit my child to a system I do not believe in and of which I know its negative effects, just because I think that maybe, in some faraway future the system will be better or cease to exist. My child is a child now, and is not to be a mere pawn in a scheme to achieve change for the future.
The system as is can be a lot better, but I aim for more. I do not aim for a reform, I aim for an eradication. Maybe then decision makers can start thinking about something new and inspiring for those who don’t have the time and the means to school at home. Maybe then they will make up something that is part of the times we live in, instead of some archaic structure that lives towards the obscurity of the future. Maybe they’ll think of a dynamic way of integrating children in life, instead of ripping them out and tucking them away.