Monday, March 24, 2014

When You're An Unschooler, Ignorance is the Greatest Sin

The other day as I was driving somewhere with my sister, I turned to her thoughtfully and asked "do you feel like you've learned to hide when you don't know something so people don't blame it on unschooling? Because I feel like I do that automatically." She agreed that she did that as well. "It's not a good thing, though" she said. "It's not," I agreed, "but it is a thing."

Growing up as an unschooler, it often feels like people are watching you like a hawk, just waiting for you to stumble, so they can shout "aha, I knew unschooling wasn't a good idea!" You never want to provide fuel for other people's judgement, so it becomes easier to just pretend you know what's going on around you, or that you understand that unfamiliar word someone just used. Most people, regardless of their education, tend to do this to some extent, but I think unschoolers and homeschoolers can fall into the trap of doing this to a much larger extent, just because we know that our ignorance will likely be taken as a reflection of an entire philosophy and community.

It strikes me as rather ironic that those most concerned with how much unschoolers do or don't know, those who frequently decide it's appropriate to quiz people as soon as they discover their educational background, are actually making it harder for unschoolers to learn. If you learn that expressing curiosity around strangers comes with the risk they'll react badly to it based on your education, you're going to quickly stop asking as many questions, and thus miss out on learning a lot of interesting things!

My ignorance is great when it comes to drawing.
I am, however, quite good at cooking!

I'm trying to unlearn that habit now, as an adult, since as my sister noted, it really isn't a good thing. But right now I still only really feel comfortable showing ignorance around trusted people: either unschoolers and unschooling types, or trusted friends from different communities who I know won't judge me for it, or think that unschooling has led to my, you know, not knowing everything.

Lest it sound like I think unschoolers are less curious because of this, I don't think that's the case at all. I just think the widespread judgement we face can, sometimes, lead to people being more cautious of which environments they express that curiosity in.

Which, no matter how you look at it, is just a real shame.

1 comment:

  1. uhmmm no - hiding ignorance is soooo mainstream! It is rampant, and one of the main (if not only) tools of surviving in school, around people, in the face of teachers, parents, grades. No one comes out of school (or even makes it past 5th grade) without having learned this skill; or its sister-skills: fake it, lie about it, make an excuse, create a drama to cover it, appear to be the silent type, wear your cool why-would-I-care-about-this mask, and probably more that I am not thinking about right now. The difference between schoolers and unschoolers (or at least you and Em) is that you are consciously aware of it - while it probably only dawns on the rest of us (or at least me) in our thirties! Until then, we believe in the masks and fake-outs as part of who we are and what we are good at!