Google+ Authentic Parenting: Change From Within

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Change From Within

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.

Image: Dreamstime

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.



  1. Ok mama poekie. I love your writing, I am a fan. Please dont take this message as any kind of personal attack on you. its really not. BUT.... I honestly don't think everyone is capable or wants to home-school or unschool their child. I have been an evangelist for the cause myself and I think it's entirely mis-spent energy to try and convert the rest of the world. All you can do is live your life your way and hope it inspires others. Actively trying to change the entire system is futile unless you become a politician or big-time celebrity of some kind. I understand the arguments, am a fan of John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, have quoted them lots.. I think he's pretty insightful but am growing less and less to see both these guys as some kind of messiah, in fact I think JTG is blinded to the possibility that some people like school and enjoy their experience and go on to become happy, rounded people in spite of it. It's not as black and White as JTG argues in his two legs bad four legs good way that school is bad, home is good, 100% in every last situation, location, etc etc..... Some home schoolers / unschoolers I know are less than perfect, even downright questionable. I used to feel threatened by comments like this - I have written articles shouting from the rooftops about how amazing home Ed is, how amazing unschooling is, basically preaching, evangelising, looking down on those who don't. But ya know what? The world is full of good people who don't. They're not bad people. I don't want to alienate myself from everyone except for unschoolers, by telling them hey you're not as good as me because I unschool and that's the only way to educate properly/ care for your children properly. I actually love unschooling, I do it myself, but I don't think converting everyone else to it is worth bothering yourself with. If people want to follow what you do, let it be because it really speaks to their heart and is therefore authentic to them.
    With much love to you mama poekie - from motherfunker x

  2. Hi Motherfunker,
    You haven't offended me at all. I actually completely agree with you. I'm sorry if this article came over as preachy or converting. As you said at the start of your article, all I wanted to say here is that change from within is something that is nearly impossible. And personally, I wouldn't submit my child to schooling out of idealism.
    Indeed the are children who thrive in schools and it doesn't necessarily have to be a damaging experience. And I do know that some people have to school their kids, and that unschooling isn't an option for everyone. I don't even think everyone should unschool, frankly, there are lots of kids who are better off at school.
    Throughout my writing I have been very open to choices.
    This article is just my personal view. It was written because when I talk about schooling with people, I often get this remark, that they are schooling their kids or involved in the system because they want to achieve change, and frankly, I think this is rather delusional. That doesn't mean there are no good reasons to school your child, just this isn't one of them.
    Again, sorry if it came out wrong, I hope you understand the article better now and can see that I am not out here to lure people to the dark side ;)

  3. Hehe, my hubby has a t-shirt that says 'come to the dark side, we have cookies! '

  4. Oh wow! I have to get that for my husband, because he's actually the one who calls it "the dark side" (all the while laughing sneakily and wringing his hands)

  5. I applaud your enthusiasm and I totally agree with you about unschooling. In the meantime I am a working mother who has to work, and I have to put my children into school systems (not even private, because I can't afford) that are far from perfect! All I can try and do is to teach my children to think for themselves, and to help them broadening their own lives by books, opportunities and experiences.
    What advice do you have for me, when I am "stuck" (debatable, I know!) in the "system", MamaPoekie?

  6. Hi Karen
    As I mentioned in the above comment, I know all too well that some people have little choice but to put their children in the school system, and some kids actually do good in it. I am sorry if this article came off as preachy. I just voiced my opinion and frustration with the change argument.
    First of all, I think, when your children are in the system, that you should choose a school that fits your philosophy as much as possible, there are alternative schools nowadays, so that would be an option.
    Second, it's important to make agreements with the school/teacher (like no homework etc...)
    The child also has to know that schooling isn't replacing his general education and that school is not all there is. School cannot replace a parent, so it's important to remain present and involved.
    And then of course there are life choices you can make to make school have less of an impact in your child's life (like part time schooling...)
    School isn't the only option either, there are parent groups, care facilities etc. It's important to pick a solution that fits your beliefs as closely as possible, so think creatively.

    I must say, that if I were to live in a more population dense situation, I'd probably find some way to have one or two half days 'off' too. I think some time away from your child (when they have reached an age where they are ready and eager) can be beneficial for both parties.
    Even now, I have a nounou, who plays with my daughter mornings (though she is never far away, and my daughter can come to me whenever she wants). It has helped me to maintain the high flow of this blog's posts and all the backstage work


I love comments! Drop me a line