Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Being Academic (Or Not!)

Here's the thing: I'm not a very academic person.  And by that I mean, quite simply, that I'm just not very into academics.

I read this post recently, by a grown unschooler who states that "many grown homeschoolers are wide-ranging academics on the side, but most people are not. That’s a problem."

I'm inclined to agree with him that many older and grown unschoolers seem to be pretty into academics, though that might just be my perception. Because there have definitely been times when I've felt a bit out of place, or really self-conscious at the very least, because of my lack of interest in more academic pursuits, when among, or in discussions online about, older unschoolers.  It does sometimes seem like most unschoolers hit a certain age, and go all academic suddenly, and like maybe I just missed that.  Was it supposed to happen?  Am I lacking something?  Will people think less of me??  So says my insecure self, though I know it's unlikely either that I'm missing anything or that people will think any less of me for it!

And when I say it could quite likely just be my personal perception, I say that because as recently as yesterday, an unschooling friend commented that she's felt left out at times because she's really into academics, and it seems to her that most grown unschoolers are going on grand adventures instead!  Which says to me that it really just is a matter of perception...

However, I do take issue with is the author's assertion that not being an academic is a problem.  I'm really not an academic: you won't find me "sourcing obscure books, visiting research libraries, conducting experiments or doing field research."  What you will find me doing is dancing around barefoot; reading fantasy novels; writing blog posts; daydreaming; having really long and interesting discussions about oppression, patriarchy, anarchy, control, and similar jazz; reading books and articles and posts on unschooling and freedom-based education; drinking tea at cafes... 

I'd much rather read about dragons than Renaissance history. (Source)

I think one of the most important aspects of the unschooling philosophy is the realization that no one type of learning is more valuable than any other.  There isn't a hierarchy of value, with the most academic subjects at the top, and the least academic at the bottom.  And choosing to delve deeply into a subject is no better than choosing to look only briefly into it (the point should be sating your interest, however in-depth or not that interest turns out to be).

Sure, sometimes I let insecurity creep in (well, okay, a lot of times), but I really do believe absolutely and completely that all learning has value.  And that whatever I (or anyone else) decide to do with my time, be it studying biology, hiking, learning Latin, watching bugs crawl up stalks of grass, or (even!) playing video games, it all has value.

Now I think it's time for me to go read the fantasy novel I'm in the middle of...

13 comments:

  1. I think as long as you're enjoying "dancing around barefoot; reading fantasy novels; writing blog posts; daydreaming; having really long and interesting discussions about oppression, patriarchy, anarchy, control, and similar jazz; reading books and articles and posts on unschooling and freedom-based education; drinking tea at cafes..." THAT's the important thing.

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  2. "...sourcing obscure books, visiting research libraries, conducting experiments or doing field research..."

    That is a rather sadly limited definition of "academic," and this post indicates that on some level you have bought into it. So, my first response is to question your assertion that you lack interest in academic pursuits. There are several things on your list that would find favor in an academic setting. Case in point: Those long and interesting discussions are how Socrates taught!

    Beyond that, I agree with you completely, and I absolutely love this:

    "I think one of the most important aspects of the unschooling philosophy is the realization that no one type of learning is more valuable than any other."

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  3. I'm not really sure what you mean by "academic." Do you mean specific fields of study, different standards discussions and ideas can be held to, the idea of making a "real contribution" to knowledge?

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  4. That seems to be fun, but that is easy if you are wealthy enough to do it. But I have find it difficult to understand that a woman in 2011 do not want to be independant in the respect of finances. You will have to rely on someone all your life to provide money for you to dance around barefoot, to read and to daydream.
    What about when your father will no longer be there as a provider?
    Have you ever earn a single penny to pay for what you eat, for the clothes you are wearing and for the roof you have over your head?
    As an anarchist, are you going to rely on Social welfare?

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  5. Louise,

    Deciding to NOT be an academic (which is different than not being academic) is probably one of the best moves a person can make in terms of their financial future. A photography teaching position opened up at my school, and over 150 people applied. In fact, inexperienced plumbers make about as much as inexperienced college professors.

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  6. Louise, in case you don't know Idzie, she is in fact building a career here as a blogger and mentor. She is an internationally respected speaker and author. She may not be earning much yet, but as Jeff points out, that is fairly typical for entry level positions!

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  7. (Okay, the bit about the plumber wasn't true. I need to do my research a bit better before commenting)

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  8. @SamDIBO: If the focus of education moved away from "success" and instead to happiness, I think things would be much better!

    @Ronnie: Hmm, good point! Basically, this is a response post to this one: http://www.unschooler.com/2011/02/confronting-a-world-where-people-don%E2%80%99t-study/ So I was using the (as you pointed out, limited) definition that the author of that post seemed to be using.

    @Jeff: What I wrote in this post was basically a response to this: http://www.unschooler.com/2011/02/confronting-a-world-where-people-don%E2%80%99t-study/ I was using the definition of "academic" that the author of that post seemed to be using. I should probably have expanded on that definition in the post, though!

    @Louise: Hmm, that seems like a rather judgmental, and not terribly well-informed, comment, to be honest. My point was that all fulfilling/enjoyable activities have worth, whether or not they look like what people traditionally consider "learning" or "education". Daydreaming has as much worth to me as, say, public speaking or studying history. But daydreaming obviously isn't all I do. As Ronnie so kindly pointed out (thanks, Ronnie!), I've built an international reputation as a writer and speaker. I'm not even 20 yet: most people my age aren't earning much. But I've built a foundation: a set of skills, a body of knowledge, and very importantly, what amounts to a fan base (that sounds silly, but not sure how else to put it): a community of people who know my name, and want to hear what I have to say. Doesn't that sound like a very good starting point for a career as a writer?

    As to your assertion that unschoolers will always be dependent on others, I'd suggest looking at this list of interviews with grown unschoolers: http://yes-i-can-write.blogspot.com/2010/05/unschooling-grows-up-collection-of.html You'll see that all of them are managing quite well as adults. Trust me, I love my parents, and don't plan to live off of their money forever. I'm young yet: give me a little time to get things going before you start condemning the way I've chosen to live. ;-)

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  9. I see what you are saying. For example, everything I read about unschoolers describe them as loving to read and visit libraries and want to learn about this or that.

    Sometimes it makes me insecure about my 10 yo daughter. We have been unschooling for the past few years and she has never showed interest in reading books (although she reads well) and hates to visit libraries. She is very active physically and likes to pretend play alot so I just figure it's her niche..unfortunately this makes her even more of an outcast to society because she has no interest in academics. Unschooling is then blamed for her lack of interest in the three R's.

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  10. Idzie,

    I definitely didn't mean to imply that not being academic is a problem; that idea might have snuck in due to hasty writing, because I definitely don't think it is a problem. I was more trying to talk about the frustration of studying on an independent basis and not having much support for it.

    And I agree with Ronnie that my use of "academic" was somewhat slapdash, too. I was just trying to say that I am curious and study things more than it seems others do.

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  11. Sometimes I suffer from feeling like I am not curious enough, too. If that's part of what you're saying.

    I definitely think there can be a pressure to be awesome as a homeschooler, and that kinda sucks.

    http://www.unschooler.com/2011/01/fighting-the-expectation-to-always-be-awesome/

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  12. As an unschooling parent, my wish for my daughter is to live her entire life happy and fufilled, whatever that means for her. I want her to find out who she is, and what interests HER, not what is popular or mainstream or in fashion. I am and will be proud of her no matter what she does, as long as she is true to her belief system, values, and to herself. True happiness is my measure of success and it has nothing to do with GPA's or how much money you make!

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  13. That's really funny that you don't think of yourself as academic, Idzie! Is writing not academic then? What about philosophy and politics, which are abundant and well-developed in your posts and your self-labelling. Is reading fiction not academic?
    Those are all firmly on the academic spectrum in my book. Non-academic pursuits would be sports, gardening, cooking, arts etc - the doing of these.. The reading and writing about starts to be academic again.
    I think you're an academic after all Idzie! Maybe just not a boffin (unaware of the world around them).

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