Freedom And Education 2

Since my mindset is on alternatives-to-education I’ll take “Learning & Freedom” as my topic for this forum and avoid the oxymoron of the other. This gives me two learning/freedom threads, to develop one is the freedom-to-learn ; the other is learning-to-be free.


Freedom to learn has been a topic of a long list of critics of education including Froebel, Goodman, Illich, Holt, Friere and others. It has also been the cry of an increasing number of today’s activists. My concern here is the gap between the wise men of the past and the activists of today. Although the leave school advocates and activists is rising at a impressive rate with the advent of homeschooling, charterschools, cyberlearning, vouchers, and a conglomerate of other educational modalities, very few, if any, have escaped the syndrome of educate/teach/school. Christian schooling is the whipping boy for a different purpose for brain washing. But nearly all other school refusers are based on the non existent “parental rights” — the right of parents to teach whatever they want to their children. They are almost paranoid in choosing or designing a¬† Freedom ¬†curriculum for their children to follow. Ofttimes the state demands such a curriculum before they will recognize the right to homeschool.

Unschooling was used by some older critics to emphasize the student’s right to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want. Unschooling was meant to let the student from birth to practice hir own choice of learning. The parent was expected to be a mentor only help the children find the resources to learn whatever came to their minds. In practice “unschooling” has been only a slightly modified form of homeschooling. In a recent listserv for unschooling weeks were taken discussion how a parents could be sure that their children were learning the correct code of ethics. At some times it went further to discuss how parents could be sure that a sound basis for a future job was being built.

I think my own idea of unschooling, or freedom to learn, came during a three month stay at a hotel run my a Buddhist monastery in Katmandu during a U.N. project I was working on. Every morning I awoke with the chanting of the monks. Before breakfast the waiters lined up at one end of the dining room holding the spread out table clothes high above their heads. With the doors open at the other end of the room they wiggled the table clothe the herd the flies out. That was a lesson on refusal to kill. But my unschooling lessons came from a series of lectures held in the third floor library. While I an other listeners sat cross legged on the hard floor, the lead saffron robed monk sat on a silk cushion slightly higher than the learners. Since some of us spoke only English we had an interpreter. After each short pronouncement from the leader the interpreter would follow with “Articha says ….” and give us his translation. The eight lectures were on the Eight Fold Path — right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.