“The Center of the Universe” ? ?

I don't think so . . .

ABC’s Good Morning America program ran a segment on unschooling, which I read about here. If you have a few minutes, would you mind reading it? If it makes you as angry as it made me, I hope you’ll add your comments to the piece, as I did.

My problems with what I read are numerous, but here’s a quick rundown:

  • A “parenting expert” (Wow! Can I be one of those, too?) states that unschooling is “sending a message [to kids] that they’re the center of the universe.” Excuse me? I believe that one of the greatest benefits of uncontrolled, un-public, free learning is that it promotes the idea that we are all tiny parts of the universe—that the universe is so grand, so awesome, and so full of knowledge, it will take our entire lives to even make a dent in it. Exact opposite concept.
  • A psychiatrist feels that, with regard to giving children freedom to set their own bedtimes, eating routines, etc., “if a child was a little adult I think it would be great, but he’s a child.” Excuse me, again? I believe that one of the greatest benefits of giving children freedom to define and pursue their own happiness is that it reinforces the fact that children are people, just as grown-ups are people. Labels like “child” and “adult” don’t serve much purpose, except in situations in which an adult can exert control over a child, and that’s not a situation unschoolers are likely to find themselves in. According to our beliefs, everybody is a person, and people treat each other with kindness and respect. Exact opposite concept, again.
  • The reader is told that the children being profiled in the piece do not have “any plans for college.” Dum de dum dum. Well, that nixes this whole unschooling thing, if there was ever any doubt! Of course, one of the kids is quoted as saying, “”If I wanted to go to college, then I would pick up a textbook and learn.” But it seems that no one asked her to expand on that. I suppose the reporter just assumed the educational model in which teachers impart knowledge and kids receive it, making the unschooled girl’s scenario impossible. Excuse me, again, again. Kids can learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it. Period. That’s the truth. Exact opposite concept, again, again.

But, you can’t expect much from people who believe that it’s a parent’s responsibility to “teach his children to do things that they don’t want to do.” To his great credit, the parent in question stated, “they will do what they need to do, whether or not they enjoy it, because they see the purpose in it.” A child leading a personal-purpose-driven life? Hmm, that sounds like something society should discourage . . . it might not include enough consumerism and submission to lowest-common-denominator ideals.

Sorry for all the sarcasm today, but media representations like this one are a knife in the heart of unschooling. And that makes me so mad.


10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Shirley said,

    I found so many things wrong with that article it isn’t even funny. Firstly, the author isn’t a journalist. It’s someone who has no clue about parenting. Even though my kids did attend public school for a short time, it wasn’t the teachers that taught them the A,B, C’s it was me. My son’s reading teacher was impressed that he knew what punctuation was at the beginning of the school year (first grade). Again, a public school teacher was not the teacher.

    I admit some of the comments got to me too when someone labeled it Liberal piece of junk or some such. I’m a liberal and I home school. Party affiliation has nothing to do with the article.

    I just wish people would learn to respect each other and stop trying to run each others lives.

  2. 3

    Frank said,

    Give me full control over five minutes of airtime, to edit how I choose and overdub what I choose, and I can make Gandhi seem lilke a serial killer or I can make Ted Bundy seem like a gentle, misunderstood guy-next-door. This is not journalism, it’s entertainment and they know their audience and intend to pander to it.

  3. 5

    Cassi said,

    I haven’t read the article yet, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m going to. I am usually incredibly frustrated by main-stream media in general, and when they try to approach unschooling, it drives me up the wall. A friend of mine just recorded a newstory on our local news for me on the topic of unschooling that I’ll watch this weekend when I see her. But, I’m never very hopeful that they will do the concept justice.

    I guess I just care too much about how we’re portrayed, so these things really bother me.

  4. 7

    Diane said,

    I did see the video this morning. We are not an unschooling family but we are very relaxed in our schooling. I feel like the media probably put on the screen what they wanted America to see. They didn’t ask the right questions or if they did they didn’t put it in the segment.

    • 8

      sgaissert said,

      Exactly! I just had a conversation about how unschoolers and schoolers (or whatever labels you choose to use!) need to respect each others’ choices. Thanks for your comment. Susan

  5. 9

    kewkew said,

    I saw the link to your blog in the comment section of the article on Radical Unschoolers on abc. I am looking forward to looking into your blog more fully and the links you have provided. My children are still young, but I have been researching homeschooling and have read about unschooling (Personally, I don’t think I have what it takes to unschool, but I think we will be relaxed). I was also frustrated by the report done on abc and by the comments it generated.

    • 10

      S Gaissert said,

      Thank you for reading and for your comment. Relaxed is great, in my opinion. I wish the mainstream media would try to understand and then accept and respect different educational choices. As for having what it takes to unschool, I think it takes trust, courage, and an open mind. I’m sure you have those things, but I accept and respect whatever conscious choice you make. : )SusanApr 21, 2010 12:41:51 PM, comment+otd90_-h1tu92lhce@comment.wordpress.com wrote:

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