Lefty Parent

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Circle of equals

Posts Tagged ‘youth rights’

From Feminism to Unschooling

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

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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Thoughts on Participatory Democracy

Friday, February 24th, 2012

In my opinion, there is no more thoughtful and well-written person out there contributing to the discussion about the continuing development of American society than my friend and activist for education alternatives, Ron Miller. His recent piece, “Toward Participatory Democracy”, published in Education Revolution, eloquently elaborates on an activist thread in American history that motivates my own cheerleading for a more egalitarian world.

Ron has done his research and connected a lot of dots in American history from Colonial times through the Industrial Age, 20th century “progressivism”, radicalism of the 1960s, and the political-corporatism of our current situation. Looking at the big picture, Ron writes…

There has always been a struggle in American history between democracy and elitism, and despite the cherished memory of Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln, this nation has never fully trusted “the people” to govern themselves. Sometimes this mistrust reflects sophisticated political reasoning, in the tradition of Plato and the British conservative Edmund Burke, asserting that governance is a complex and delicate art best practiced by those who are specially educated or fit for it, or by those who claim to have a greater stake in the outcome.

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Young People – The World’s Last Chattel?

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

This latest round of high-profile revelations of at times systemic cover-ups of the sexual abuse of young people at Penn State and elsewhere has been topping the news lately. There seem to be ongoing issues with this within the Catholic denomination but that is no longer news. Still in much of the world young people are coerced into military service, marriage or as sex workers under the threat of violence and often death. They are essentially “chattel”, human assets that are either owned and controlled by adult family members by accident of birth, or by “legitimate” or illegitimate sale to or seizure by others.

From my reading of history, at least since the beginnings of formal hierarchical organization of society perhaps 5000 years ago, the most prominent civilizations have featured an elite group of male people wielding power and authority (what I and others call “patriarchy”). The overwhelming majority of people – whether slaves, peasants, women or children – were essentially voiceless, owned and/or controlled by this elite group of men. With the ethical innovations of the “Axial Age” (~800 to 200 BCE) the legitimacy of slavery (particularly of adult males) began to be challenged, though it was still practiced in parts of Europe and the United States well into the 19th century CE. And in many parts of the world even today women continue to be virtual slaves to their fathers or husbands.

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Teachers Take Control of a Detroit School

Friday, January 21st, 2011

The Palmer Park Preparatory Academy

Just read the Education Week article, “Teacher-Led School Innovates With Student Regrouping”, about some innovative governance and methodological changes happening in a Detroit public school. Detroit, if you are not aware has had a crumbling public school system, even before the current recession has put extra pressure on state budgets and as a result, school spending. What I like about what’s happening at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy is that former worker-bees from the conventional educational hierarchy are demonstrating agency beyond what is expected of people at the bottom of the pecking order. As my mom always said, “The teachers should run the schools”, and that is what’s starting to happening here. The only missing ingredient IMO… bringing the students into that school administrative and governance processes. (more…)

Summerhill: Fully Engaging Youth in their Education

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The Summerhill school in England was one of the world’s first, and along with the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, one of the world’s most successful and enduring “democratic-free” schools. “Free” in that the students are completely in charge of what, when, where, how and from whom they learn. “Democratic” in that the students and the staff jointly participate in school governance through use of the democratic process, with youth and adults having an equal voice and vote in most matters.

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Moving Beyond “Adultism” & Disrespect of Youth

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

It is stunning to me the “adultism” demonstrated by the disrespectful ways many adults still treat children and youth, particularly their own kids. I think it is one of the last vestiges in our society of pure patriarchal “power-over” protocol that is still considered acceptable by many adults in dealing with their children and youth. That protocol involves the assumption that the “superior” adult/parent has the absolute command and control over the “inferior” young person/child, such that any inappropriate behavior by the “inferior” reflects on and is highly disrespectful to the reputation of their “superior” and must be forcibly modified to save face.

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Thoughts on Liberty for Youth

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

As I have said many times before (from my reading of human history), the development of our species for the past five millennia has been all about the transition from patriarchal institutions based on the rule of strength to more partnership ones based on the rule of law. This transition involves more people becoming stakeholders with the liberty to chart their own course, check the power of their leaders, and contribute their two cents to the growing collective wisdom that has brought us such breakthroughs as the 2008 election of Barak Obama as President of the United States.

For me, a logical step still ahead of us in this progression is conferring more liberty upon our young people so they can be greater stakeholders in their own development, prior to their reaching adulthood. (more…)

Defining Adultism

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Childish BehaviorSo you have probably already been “ism’d” within an inch of your life and may be ready to roll your eyes if I attempt to direct your attention to another one! Seems the 20th Century was full of positive movements and negative systems being coined as “isms”, including “feminism”, “progressivism” and “environmentalism” on the one side and “sexism”, “racism” and “militarism” on the other. Some might make a good argument that we should leave all those “isms” behind with the last century and turn our focus forward and reframe the way we look at liberating movements and the restricting systems that hinder human development.

Given those disclaimers I want to alert you to one more “ism”, “adultism”, that has been defined by and comes out of the milieu of thoughtful people, youth and adults, working in the democratic education and youth empowerment movements. One of my colleagues in the newly formed Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA), Adam Fletcher, has compiled information calling out this negative system on his website (freechild.org) page titled “Challenging Adultism”. (more…)

Age Segregation and Youth Human and Civil Rights

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Youth RightsWhen I was a young teen I spent six hours a day, five days a week, forty weeks a year in age segregated classrooms where I was often uncomfortable, stressed out, and felt disrespected by many of my peers and even some of the adults that controlled the classrooms and the encompassing school environment. And I certainly was not there by choice, finding every excuse I could (usually illness… real or imagined) to stay away. Looking back I think I was suffering from institutional age segregation and having my rights as a human being given short shrift. Certainly, as a youth and not an adult, I had no guarantee of full civil rights under the U.S. Constitution.

First of all, I will admit to being a bit of a provocateur in that initial paragraph to build my “hook” for this piece. But I am hoping that it is a prescient, though provocative, statement of a step forward in human rights that is still percolating in our future, and the debates to come surrounding the evolutionary trajectory of the human race. (more…)

The Long Road to Agency

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

women-voteI’ve just started reading a book called “From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present” by Jacques Barzun. Its the last of my three year long plunge into 27 books John Taylor Gatto recommended reading (at the end of his “Underground History of American Education”) to give one 10,000+ pages of context for the American education system. Barzun’s premise is to do a post mortem on the “Modern Era” which he says began around 1500 with the decay of medieval culture and the turning things upside down by the Protestant Reformation and presumably is now transitioning into a new era. Our so named “Information Age” I guess is the first act of this new era, and we can’t even begin to know how the era will be labeled five centuries from now. (more…)