Deschooling Our Stories

My feed reader is my personal daily news. Everything in it is something I find stimulating enough to invite into my life on a regular basis. It’s the stuff I want to read.

The stuff I don’t want to read but others think I ought to read  — stuff about Libya and Scott Walker and the federal budget, for example — seeps in on its own, so it’s not like I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I just don’t let it on my feed.  It takes some vigilance to avoid becoming a sponge for all the crap put out into the world.

Anyway, two thoughts came together in my mind as I read through this morning’s feed. One had to do with deschooling, the other with stories.

The deschooling thing came up on Sandra Dodd’s daily blog, Just Add Light and Stir, which I love for the very reason that it’s so often a launching pad for ideas and connections.  In  today’s post she writes, “Deschooling is needed much more by parents than by children.”

We’re the ones, after all, who were immersed in the school experience from the time we were small. We’re the ones who have lived for decades in a culture where school is so firmly entrenched. Even unschooler parents who were raised outside of the school system aren’t impervious to the dominant schooly culture.  Stuff gets in, it gets absorbed, and when it presents itself in our lives, and in our thinking, we have to have the presence of mind to, as Sandra puts it, “wrestle with it, encapsulate it, and forget it.”

Which leads me to this notion of  stories.

Stories are the essence of our lives.

We all have them. We all have a personal story and a meta story, the first comprised of the things we tell ourselves about who we are and how we got that way, the second about what the world is like and how it got that way.  In my reading this morning I was reminded that our stories and our schooling are intimately entwined.

The launch point was a Dear Sugar column at the Rumpus, in which Sugar was deconstructing someone’s interpretation of events and inviting them to change the story they were telling themselves about their situation. As I read, I scribbled in my journal that one thing unschooling asks of us is that we reconsider our stories.

The stories our culture tells

One story our culture tells is that kids don’t know anything.

I’ll never forget the interviewer on that Good Morning America unschooling segment laughing at a teen unschooler who described an unsatisfying school experience, saying, “You were in second grade! What did you know?”

Another story our culture tells is that there is a specific body of knowledge all kids need to master within a certain time frame, and that body of knowledge can only be delivered through school.

I’m sure you can come up with lots of schooly stories you’ve absorbed over the years and have (perhaps) since rejected. But even when we overtly reject them, these stories can still inform our thinking, because stories are rooted not in rationality, but in emotion, and emotion has such enduring  power. Stories we’ve absorbed about how things are can live for a long time in our subconscious, carried like a dormant virus.  This is one reason why we can so fully embrace life learning only to find ourselves suddenly worrying over the paper-math skills of our kids.

To deschool means to rewrite our stories.

Our kids can be a big help to us here. My unschooler daughter runs into schooly meta-stories all the time, but her personal story is a life-learning one, so she has less difficulty spotting the stories that don’t align with her own experience.  She recognizes their falseness right away.

Me, I suspect I’ll always be deschooling, uncoupling links made long ago. I still carry unfounded assumptions, and I continue to absorb unwanted stuff in my life, sponge-like, even when I’m vigilant.  My process of deschooling means I have to wring out the damn sponge, not just once, but again, and again, and again.

3 comments

  1. This is sort of tangential to the main point of this post, but thank you for introducing me to Dear Sugar! She is brilliant and reminds me a little bit of Cary Tennis who writes at Salon. I feel like a slightly better person just reading their work.

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