Tag Archives: parenting

Civilization 2.0 – The Facilitation Edition

Version 2For five-thousand years human civilization has been about a small privileged elite mostly directing the activity of the rest of us. The bankruptcy of this approach to human society, if not evident previously, became brutally so in the 20th Century when some of the most “advanced” countries on Earth sent millions of their young people to slaughter each other for national pride and systematically exterminated millions of other people simply attempting to live their lives in peace.

Better late than never, there is a more egalitarian approach to human civilization that we have to date only seen small glimpses of. In the vision of great thinkers like Isaiah, Laozi, Gautama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Michael Servetus, Mikhail Bakunin, Maria Montessori, John Dewey, Emma Goldman, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Aung San Suu Kyi. In the consensus governance practices of the Quakers and the Iroquois. In the egalitarian societies of Scandinavia and the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Some of the key principles of this revised approach to civilization beyond control and conformity include…

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Reincorporating Hunter-Gatherer Wisdom in our Society

Stroller and SlingIn my previous piece, “Traditional Wisdom of Child Development”, I looked at how contemporary social scientists are rediscovering some of the wisdom of traditional hunter-gatherer societies, which were for most of our time on this planet the predominant human organizing principle and are arguably a more natural form of human community that the high-technology society that most of us humans live in today.

I got a handful of thoughtful comments on my piece, but I’d like to highlight one that I think was posing issues that really continue the discussion.  Amy Costello Wilfong wrote…

It’s not that I disagree with what you’re saying… but the immersion-type parenting you’re talking about is, quite literally, impossible for many people in modern American society. Two (or more!) incomes have become necessary to cover even basic expenses for families in many places, and I just don’t see that changing anytime soon. So the question then becomes, how can we accomplish raising children in an “immersive” fashion when we are forced to spend the vast majority of our time away from them? And how can and should teachers respect these basic principles of child development in the face of ever-increasing scrutiny, judgement, and standardization?

I think this is a well crafted “problem statement” for a key challenge we face as a society.  We (or at least our predecessors) have built a society where though we are free citizens and not slaves or indentured servants, many of us have to work so many hours to earn a living wage (if we can at all) that it constitutes a de facto indentureship.  Add to that that the massive scale of our society with the disenfranchisement and alienation it breeds, combined with perpetuation of ancient patriarchal “us and them” values, creates a subculture among us that is predatory toward out groups (“them”) particularly poor people, minorities, women and young people.  The latter in particular making it problematic for parents to let the “village raise the child”, sequestering kids instead in “schools”, institutions that paradoxically isolate kids from the dangerous real world while trying to prepare them for it.

So given the problem statement, what is the solution, or at least a path forward towards a solution?

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Are U.S. Kids Spoiled Rotten?

In an article in the July 2 edition of New Yorker magazine titled, “Spoiled Rotten: Why do kids rule the roost?”, anthropologist Elizabeth Kolbert takes a critical look at the “rules of engagement” between young people and their parents, based on studying everyday life for a group of middle class Los Angeles families. Kolbert’s conclusion is that the conventional approach to parenting among the studied families shows a permissive attitude that leads to young people being more dependent on their parents even well into young adulthood, a dependency she labels “adultesence”. Though this longer period of dependency could in theory be an indicator of a longer period of time needed to become functional in an increasingly complex society, Kolbert posits that…

Adultesence might be just the opposite: not evidence of progress but another sign of a generalized regression. Letting things slide is always the easiest thing to do, in parenting no less than in banking, public education, and environmental protection. A lack of discipline is apparent these days in just about every aspect of American society. Why this should be is a much larger question, one to ponder as we take out the garbage and tie our kids’ shoes.

Numerous examples are cited of kids in the study ignoring repeated directions from their parents to do various chores and demanding that parents do routine tasks for them like tying their shoes. Also examples of young adults returning to live with their families after college and exhibiting similar irresponsible behaviors, what Kolbert coins as “adultesence”.

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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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Strong Parenting Is Key to America’s Future

My eye caught the above title in an Education Week magazine on-line teaser and couldn’t resist reading the article, by Joseph Gauld, the founder of the Hyde Schools. I certainly wasn’t comfortable with his Cold War “us and them” framing of the need for good parenting…

Not so long ago, we vigorously opposed Russian Communism’s threat to our American beliefs. Now China is projected to replace us as the world’s economic leader… To reaffirm democratic principles for ourselves and other nations, we must meet China’s economic challenge to our leadership… Today, we need the leadership of American mothers, fathers, and all surrogate parents. We need them to begin to develop a standard of excellence in parenting and family, now and for future generations.

Classic hierarchical patriarchal stuff here, framing everything in terms of a high stakes competition between adversaries to determine superiors and inferiors, good and evil, within the pecking order. That rather than a more egalitarian view of China as a problematic peer and partner.

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Welcome to Lefty Parent

Me in my home office
Me in my home office

Hey fellow travelers… whether you are involved with raising your own progeny, someone else’s, or are just playing a role as an adult in some kid’s life, I want to share that experience with you, because there is nothing more profound than helping people (young or otherwise, and even including yourself) come into their own in this world and move forward on their evolutionary path.

Having spent over half a century in this incarnation on earth, and almost half of that as a parent, you can bet that I would have some thoughts, posing perhaps as wisdom, about this very fundamental role in human society, and I wager that you do as well. You cannot go through the experience of helping kids on their journey to agency and adulthood without feeling at times inadequate, moved to tears, longing to have another chance, blessed, relieved and many other gut-checking emotions. It is hard work, and as many have noted, you are more likely to feel guilt and get blame for failure than feel pride and get kudos for success. Continue reading →