Tag Archives: children

From Feminism to Unschooling

Wendy Priesnitz

Just got through reading Wendy Priesnitz piece, “Unschooling as a feminist act” that was republished in the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) Education Revolution magazine. Wendy is a fellow comrade in the large circle of activists for education alternatives where AERO functions as part of the connective tissue among us. Within that larger group, Wendy and I share a focus as unschooling (what she refers to as “life learning”) activists. So I was intrigued by the title of her piece given the fact that I consider myself both a feminist and unschooling activist.

My take on Wendy’s thinking here, is that she sees a connection between feminism and unschooling because both challenge our society’s remaining patriarchal traditions and values that see men (particularly adult men) in the superior position to women and children in societal hierarchies of control, where “father knows best”.

Certainly our state-run public school systems in the U.S. can be viewed as hierarchical organizations with students (young people of both genders) under the authority and control of teachers (mostly adult women) who are then subject to a controlling hierarchy of authority above them. A controlling hierarchy that becomes more male-dominated, the higher you work your way up the levels of that hierarchy to the state legislators, ed secretaries and boards at the top of the pyramid. This is not unlike our society’s political, economic and religious institutions which continue to be male-dominated (though trending in a more egalitarian direction).

Writes Wendy in her piece…

It had never occurred to me that unschooling and feminism were mutually exclusive. In fact, I am quite certain that it, in all its label-defying glory, is the ultimate feminist act, for a variety of reasons on which I’ll elaborate in this article.

In my reading of her article I would summarize those reasons as follows…

1. Our male-dominated society devalues the child-rearing function including mostly relegating it to mothers and not paying the female-dominated childcare and teaching professions comparably to more male-dominated professions

2. Feminism took a great step forward empowering women to work outside the home, but if women are to be fully empowered, they should equally be empowered to choose to focus their lives within the home raising children

3. As empowered mothers, women should not play second fiddle to the conventional wisdom of mostly male societal experts who claim to know better than those mothers what is best for their children

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Looking Back on My Youth

I’ve been focused lately on education issues in my blogging, but I feel like giving it a rest and getting back to the main thrust of my passion and advocacy. That thrust is encouraging human development, and particularly the “rules of engagement” in that regard between adults and youth.

I say “youth” rather than “children”, because I think the “C-word” has become a derogatory term in our culture, implying either complete dependence or inability as in “you’re behaving like children!” In my opinion it is that inquisitiveness of a young person and willingness to ignore conventional wisdom that has empowered adults like Steve Jobs and earlier Bill Gates to revolutionize our use of information technology.

Given that prevailing connotation of the C-word, I can barely recall a time in my own remembrance of my youngest years when I felt either dependent or unable, except perhaps at times when I got caught up in the machinations of the schools I attended and the adults in those institutions that I ceded my native self-direction to. It seems like most of the memories from my thousands of hours sitting behind a school desk have faded due to the irrelevance to who I really was then and am today.

Instead I recall the times from age five on as I mostly directed my own life, including…

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Celebrating the Birth of a Child… Every Child

It’s a rainy “winter” day (currently a bone-chilling 57f) here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles as I sit cozily in my little Perks wi-fi cafe and look out the window at the gray sky and the drops of water making little splashes on the pavement of the strip-mall parking lot full of glistening wet cars. The owner Gayle has told her staff to regale their customers with a satellite radio channel that plays all Christmas songs all the time. Though I enjoy a lot of the songs (some bringing back fond memories of the holidays from my youth) it can wear on you after an hour or so when they start repeating “Jingle Bell Rock”.

One of the schmaltzier classics caught my ear this morning, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, sung by perhaps Bing Crosby. The specific lyric was…

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–
Let us bring him silver and gold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.”

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Children & Youth

Childish BehaviorOne thing you will probably notice in my prose (including the language I use throughout this blog) is my minimal use of the words “child” and “children” while substituting for both with words like “youth” or “young people” or the more colloquial “kids”. I have become more and more uncomfortable with the “C Word” since its varying forms are often used to describe immature or unmediated behavior, dependence, or otherwise convey a derogatory context. Whenever you hear, “You are behaving like a child!” or a description of “childish behavior”, you can bet there is a criticism involved. Continue reading →