Recently I'm realizing more and more, as I've been in contact with an ever growing amount of local unschoolers and alternative schoolers, as well as similar "radical" educational types, how very precarious the state of all non-institutionalized schooling is in my home province of Quebec.
I grew up hearing some homeschoolers worrying about having the neighbors call child protection services, and I remember hearing of a couple scary stories when they were called... Things never seemed all that bad, though, overall.
But in recent times, it seems to me that the climate here is becoming increasingly unfriendly to those outside of traditional schools, even as (or perhaps because of) the steady rise in the amount of people choosing to stay far away from the school system. I'd wonder if maybe my personal perspective has changed as I've gotten older, and I'm just noticing it more now, except that others in the area are saying the exact same thing: from speakers at a local Christian homeschooling conferences, to freeschool advocates and anarchist unschoolers. The government really is cracking down on what they seem to see as a potential threat to their control of the minds of children and teens.
When I commented about this on Facebook, several people suggested it was a fallout from the recent publicity unschooling has been getting. I can't speak for anywhere else, but I know that that's certainly not the case here! The general population in Quebec pays very little (I'd go so far as to say no) attention to news in the States. And even beyond that, this isn't something that recent: I think the last several years have shown an increase.
But those comments raise an important point (one I've talked about a bit before, and thought about a lot more), about whether publicity, and whether being very outspoken, is a good thing or not?
Many unschooling and homeschooling families choose to be "under the radar". To just quietly go about living their lives, without bringing much if any attention to *how* they're living. I totally understand and respect that as a personal choice: either because you don't want to deal with the annoyance of being constantly questioned, or even more importantly because unschooling is borderline legal where you live (as in Quebec), so being open about it can be downright dangerous, depending on your situation (I know that my family didn't even admit to being homeschooled [let alone unschooled] when we were younger, if we could help it. We all felt safer that way!).
But I take issue with the idea that people in general who have chosen non-traditional paths in education *should* keep quiet about it, stay under the radar, for fear of government crackdowns and restrictive laws.
I think that's a horrible way to go about things, and honestly a very selfish way. People who are unschooling, people who have started or send their children to or go to democratic or free schools, people who are natural, autonomous learners of all types, are showing that the alternatives are wonderful. We're going beyond the theoretical and actually showing, through our lives, how joyous life can be without a coercive schooling system. To keep these alternatives quiet seems a gross injustice to everyone currently in the school system.
I watched The War on Kids last night, screened as part of this month's Festival of Anarchy. It's a GREAT film, though very depressing. I cried at multiple points during it, and I just kept thinking "thank you mom, for never sending me to school!". To allow things to continue the way they are, to keep quiet when so many are suffering--depressed, self-harming, suicidal--in school doesn't feel right to me.
I think that those who feel comfortable, and those at least risk by doing so, have, well, I'd almost go so far as to say a *duty* to be outspoken. To share our stories, speak out, write about it, write "Ask Me About Unschooling (Freeschooling, Homeschooling...)" on our shirts... ;-) Just to be OUT THERE, willing to discuss and share.
My family is at a point where both my sister and I are old enough to be safe from government intervention. I'm past compulsory schooling age, and Emi would be finishing her last year of high school were she in the system. So we're in an excellent position, and one we're taking advantage of, to be very outspoken. My mother, sister and I spoke at a local homeschooling conference last month. I'm speaking as part of a panel on radical education at the upcoming Anarchist Bookfair. We've been connecting with lots more local educational radicals of all stripes. And there's also other amazing local stuff going on, promoting alternatives to the traditional educational model: a local mother is helping to start a freeschool, as well as writing a book about how harmful the school system is (which I'm helping to edit/organize); a young Quebec teacher is putting together a documentary on how bad a job the schools are doing, and how many wonderful alternatives are out there!
I'm thrilled to have connected with so many locals recently, excited to be a part of this movement for educational freedom in Quebec, and looking forward to connecting with many more people in the coming days...
Not only do I think being outspoken is incredibly important, it also just feels so GOOD to share something I'm so passionate about, to be a part of a movement I think is so important!
For all of us who have solutions outside of the mainstream, institutionalized models, I really do believe the best way forward is to speak up! The more voices, the better. :-)