Archive for April, 2010

Making our own mindful meanings, valuing our independent insights

April 6, 2010

This morning I was trawling through some books on home-ed, and I came across two with rather useful reviews, salient parts of which are copied here.

The first was of John Taylor Gatto http://www.amazon.com/Dumbing-Down-Curriculum-Compulsory-Schooling/dp/0865714487/ref=pd_sim_b_4#reader_0865714487
and was about how he had been a seven-lesson schoolteacher, with confusion the first lesson for all schoolkids. “He reveals the curriculum of public schools nationwide under the headings: Confusion, Class Position, Indifference, Emotional Dependency, Intellectual Dependency, Provisional Self-Esteem, and One Can’t Hide. He asserts that the true goal of childhood learning should be to discover some meaning in life…a passion or an enthusiasm that will drive subsequent learning pursuits. Instead, schools cram irrelevant facts into young minds, substituting book-knowledge for self-knowledge.”

The second was by Rachel Gathercole > http://www.amazon.com/Well-Adjusted-Child-Social-Benefits-Homeschooling/dp/1600651070/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_4
Not having read the book, knowing nothing about the author, still this one review addresses the other most-raised issue for home-educators, socialisation, in a straightforward and sensible way.

“Gathercole, who has spent 10 years homeschooling her three children, says what most people wonder about is whether homeschooled children can work and play with others, in other words, their socialization skills. She begins by noting that “once upon a time, all children were homeschooled” before more formal schooling and the development of “school culture.” She notes that conventional schools offer “socialization” through peer pressure, the stress of choosing between popularity and academic performance, and excessive attention to appearance. Drawing on her own experiences as a homeschooler, she details the networks of other homeschoolers who provide opportunities for their children—and themselves—to socialize. Gathercole also points to research showing that homeschooled children have stronger self-concepts than children attending conventional schools. Focusing on how homeschoolers address misperceptions, she explores concepts of socialization, the importance of friendships with other children, strong relationships with parents, and how homeschoolers eventually integrate into the “real world.” ”

Also this morning I reviewed an old favourite book of mine, Sheldon Kopp’s ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him’ > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Kopp.
“Dr. Kopp, who practiced in Washington for 35 years, wrote 17 books. Much of his writing was meant to guide readers in finding importance in their lives. A book that got much attention was ”If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him,” published in 1972. […] Dr. Kopp analyzed the ways in which people sought to recognize significance and value in themselves, rather than rely on gurus.”

Put together like this, these comments clarify a particular problem in presenting home-education.

Our task is to emancipate ourselves and others from inevitable intellectual and emotional and epistemological dependency on others, psuedoauthorities and peers, and empower ourselves to think for ourselves, by presenting to press and politicians (who have a ‘class position’, primus inter pares, to gain or lose) the idea that the only position that really counts in life is with our own insight in integrity (as perhaps per Kipling’s poem ‘If’).

This is over-idealised, perhaps. Or not, since we have to develop some philosophy and principles to guide ourselves in our daily practice, to understand how we want to behave, what works well.

The oracle at Delphi had two well-known maxims: Know thyself, and nothing in excess. (Apparently a third was, surety [as oath-swearing] brings ruin.)

The Kotzker Rebbe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menachem_Mendel_of_Kotzkhad said something similar: “a person should carry a slip of paper in each side pocket. On one it should be written, ‘the world was created for me’, on the other, ‘I am only dust from the ashes.’  He also said [one must] “guard himself and his uniqueness, and not imitate his fellow … for initially man was created in his own image, and only afterwards in the image of God.” (Or of any government…)

Perhaps the salient issue is to present press and politicians with the idea that family-home-education is an effort by families to enable their members to think in different ways about the meaning and meaningfulness of life to them, in providing a central meaning structure at a small-enough scale and local-enough scope to promote development of a sense that meaningfulness through mindfulness can be made from and for life’s actions.

Most school mottos moot this. The difference is that the individual and their immediate family – a mindful and meaningful unit – and their own insights and interests – are inevitably centrally salient to family-home-education as focussed on a family’s children as a meaningful and mindful integrated unit.

This is an example of the medium (of education) being the message (of education). It explains why schools’ main message is of accident and/or arbitrariness in amalgamating children into classes and assembling overall curricula.

Hence acceptance of apparent meaninglessness in institutional aspects of individual life, as evident and experienced in postcode lottery syndrome, hence also apathetic non-mindfulness of many individuals much of the time, since their interest hasn’t often been engaged, hence also much actual manifest indifference of institutions to individuals adversely affected by their action or non-action.

The implications and ramifications of discouraging of questioning by children as to why they’re together in a particular unit, and/or why they’re studying a particular set of subjects at a particular time in a particular way, are profound. We pay a price for learning to accept it’s always jam tomorrow, and learning to believe six impossible things before breakfast…

In presenting ourselves to press and politicians, there are important questions to be asked of press and politicians. In particular, it is important to ask them what they think are the most important things they do as the free press and franchised politicians in a liberal democracy.

If their answer involves any element of integrity in individual independent thought over institutionalised inequality, any commitment to improving aspects of life for everyone by exposing the emperor’s new clothes, any desire and determination to challenge the status quo, then it might be useful to ask them how they came to see conventional/consensus thinking as wrong or at least wrong-headed.

It might also be interesting to ask how long they endured an imposition on their sense of integrity before they felt able to challenge it, how it was they felt obliged to endure it at all, how it was that speaking out immediately wasn’t an option for them.

It might be useful to them ask whether challenging institutional oppression involved freeing themselves from habits of deference to imbecilic authority to realise their own oppression by that imposition…

This may provide some means to show the values for their own independent insights and integrity that home-educators seek to inculcate in their children.