It is estimated that more than 50 million students are enrolled in elementary and secondary public schools this fall. Another 5 million are enrolled in private schools and more than 20 million are enrolled in post-secondary schools. All this adds up to more than 75 million students entering classrooms in the next couple of weeks.
Hundreds of thousands of families have chosen to opt out of the standard education system though. This year, more than 1.5 million students will be homeschooled. More than an act of love and concern for their own children, homeschooling is a brave act of defiance to a statist system of indoctrination and conformity. Staying outside of the perceived “norm” of society, these families are trailblazers. They are defining a new way of thinking about some of society’s most influential institutions.
Another group of families has gone even further by unschooling their children. Unschooling lets education be directed by the interests of the child. It sounds radical to those of us who are products of the factory schools, but it has proven to be effective for some children. A recent study discussed in Psychology Today looked at adults who had been unschooled. It found that they had higher rates of completing advanced degrees than conventional students.
Participants in the unschooling survey “wrote about the freedom and independence that unschooling gave them and the time it gave them to discover and pursue their own interests. Seventy percent of them also said, in one way or another, that the experience enabled them to develop as highly self-motivated, self-directed individuals.”
The idea that school is not for everyone or that it is a prison is nothing new. In Book VII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates says; “…Because a freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge of any kind. Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body, but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind. “
H.L. Menken said; “The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda – a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make ‘good’ citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.”
Unschooling works for some children, homeschooling for others, and, for many, a conventional public or private education is best. We should not understate the great work being done every day by dedicated public school teachers. They often struggle in a seriously flawed system, yet still manage to deliver a valuable education to America’s youth. There is a downside to mass education though; a sickness of staleness and conformity. In the market of ideas, it is likely that the unschoolers and the homeschoolers will lead the way out of dark side of the public factory education. In our battle for freedom, we must protect those who are leading us to a better way.
Worcester Tea Party