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.


Lone Star Ma said...

Very well put.

Lisa said...

wow. love this.

Zoe said...

Maybe he or she wasn´t American. I spent the first half of this year in Brazil. People often bumped into me on the street and continued on without apologizing or acknowledging me in any way, and I got pissed because I found it rude. In a conversation with a native Brazilian, though, I learned that since the social space in Brazilian culture is much less than in American culture, Brazilians wouldn´t consider this kind of bumping as rude at all. In fact, it´s not even noteworthy. He had spent a year in London and thought that Londoners were ridiculous for constantly apologizing for bumping into people on crowded streets. This conversation was another one of those moments in which I realized that even something as basic as bumping into someone has a cultural context and that what I considered rude, was not even a thought to the Brazilians around me.

Stephanie said...

In my circle there's been talk on manners and such lately...

I had the priveledge of hearing John Taylor Gatto speak the other night. One thing that struck with me that I hadn't considered in quite these terms was when he said something close to "Manners (as in politeness) is important because otherwise you're frozen in your own small social setting."
Wow! I thought.
And true. Being gracious (not taught arbitrarily, but something seen and witnessed and therefore learned) will definitely get you through a party of a roomful of people you have nothing in common with, or are at least perfect strangers.
Mine (babes) are young, but still, something I will keep in mind.
NIce to meet you! :)