I've decided to start a new series of posts, on the subject of Why People Don't Get Unschooling (I have a strong urge to write that Twitter style: #WhyPeopleDon'tGetUnschooling). We all know how many misconceptions about unschooling there are, how many questions people have, but I think it's also interesting to explore why people have these reactions, and what myths are commonly believed that inhibit people's understanding of life learning.
Welcome to post #1: Don't Trust Yourself!
“All I am saying ... can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” ~ John Holt
I think that quote sums it up nicely: as children, people are taught not to trust themselves. Taught that they don't know what's best for themselves; are incapable of making even the most basic decisions (like what to wear or when to eat); are unable to learn by their own volition, or to know what they should learn at any given time; and are just generally untrustworthy. This message, that they are incapable and untrustworthy, is pounded into people throughout their childhood and teenage years. Then suddenly, as Adults, they're expected to be both capable and trustworthy. As if a switch has suddenly been turned in their head from the "irresponsible" setting to the "responsible" one! I suppose it's little wonder that many people continue to make themselves dependent on various institutions, on their workplaces, throughout their lives... They don't know how to live without turning to a higher/outside authority. They don't know how to trust themselves.
So what we're doing when we ask people to accept unschooling, is to not only accept the idea that parents are trustworthy, and thus capable of making decisions about their children's education (a hard enough concept as it is, as evidenced by this comment I once came across in response to an unschooling article: "how do people have the arrogance to say that parents know what is best for their children?"), but that the children themselves are deserving of trust, and capable of pursuing their own education.
That's a pretty big thing for people to swallow. Hell, it's a pretty big thing for unschooling parents to come to terms with: the fact that, despite everything they've been taught, they are worthy of trust, and quite able to choose a much freer, more consensual way of living for their children and themselves, and their children are quite capable of blossoming in just such an environment. Even for the unschoolers themselves it's difficult, since even if their parents are supportive of unschooling (and there are definitely instances where this isn't the case), the rest of the world is sending those same dis-empowering messages to them. Our society seems determined to keep people from realizing and acting on their own power. In trusting ourselves, and trusting our children (and by "our" I mean children collectively, not just the ones who share some of your DNA), we take a big step forward in reclaiming that power.