Friday, September 04, 2009

The Thing for Me About Unschooling

Yesterday morning, while crossing Poydras downtown with my sons, I flashed on this memory from a couple of years ago, a time when a fellow street crosser at that very intersection barreled into me for no apparent reason, and with no apology or remark of any kind. It wasn't the first time that's happened, but it stuck in my mind on that day because I'd been home for just a few days from the Live & Learn Unschooling Conference, where we'd had a wonderful time, and where, frankly, no one was ever quite so rude to me.

Just that morning, though, I'd been reading the online comments of another conference attendee who had some bad experiences, and who described exactly what I had experienced on Poydras as having happened to them at the conference. For this person, the encounter was being held up as an example of those of us invested in unschooling possibly being on the wrong path, being, in fact, on a path to rudeness! Because, you know, it was a younger person (I don't remember now if it was a young child or a teenager or someone in between) who had run right into this person with no apology, no acknowledgment, and so this led them to a place of saying, hey, how are we raising these kids, anyway, are we actually bringing them up to be rude, thoughtless folks in the name of unschooling?

So I read this and then later that very day, pow, a fully grown adult smacks right into me on the street and just keeps going. Rude! Unschooled? Hey, maybe, but you know, I have no idea. This is what I think, though. I think that so often we take encounters - negative, positive, whatever - and we assign characteristics to the people involved based on really, very little. So, if I wanted to, I could take the person who ran into me that day and say, well, there you go, that just proves the rudeness of, say, white people. Or women. Or middle aged people. Or tourists. Or people who walk around downtown New Orleans in the middle of the day for whatever reason.

The thing for me about unschooling, though, is that at the heart of it is a rejection of the small worldview that comes with this kind of instant labeling and boxing in of people, this idea that who you and I are, and who we can be, has already been determined by the categories that we have been put into, by others as well as ourselves, and that we are inherently unable to change, to learn, to grow.

I believe that as long as we are living, there is nothing that can happen to prevent you or I from changing, from learning, from growing. And what I want for all people is for them to know that, about each other and about themselves.

It's no catchphrase, and it would make a lousy bumper-sticker, but it's how I feel.