down on the right column, under “influences” there is a link to a talk astra taylor gave in october 2009. after seeing it for the first time a couple years ago, i took another big step toward the unschooling life. she immediately became my poster child. i watched her film examined life and decided that i loved her mind. i recently looked for a sign of her out there in the slipstream and found she had published an article in n+1. i ordered it immediately. it arrived today. i just finished reading her essay titled unschooling.

n+1 (issue thirteen, winter 2012) – some of it is from her talk at the walker – she asks important questions about privilege, race, politics, action and emotion. she gives a birds eye view into the albany free school whose unofficial adage is : “never a dull moment, always a dull roar.”

she paraphrases rebecca solnit: “politics of prefiguration” – one tiny corner of the world – one small community, one co-op, one school – models a different way to run things, embodies principles we want to see more of: democracy, egalitarianism, compassion, creativity. “activism in this model, is not only a toolbox to change things but a home in which to take up residence and live according to your beliefs,” solnit writes, “even if it’s a temporary and local place, this paradise of participating, this vale where souls get made.”

“many people, liberal and conservatives alike, are deeply offended by critiques of compulsory schooling. every day we’re told that schools hold the key to equalizing opportunity, that the proper credentials will allow poor and marginalized people to participate fully in society, and that education provides the only legitimate path out of poverty. the question is a difficult one. are schools social levelers or do they reinforce the class pyramid by tracking and sorting children from a young age? presumably they do both.” (n+1, p.77)

“growing up i experienced unschooling as a compromise, the more appealing of the two extremes available in georgia given my family’s modest budget: staying at home and teaching myself, or going to public school and having my spirit crushed. what i really wanted – what i still want, even now, as an adult- is that intellectual community i was looking for in high school and college but never quite found. i would have loved to commune with other young people and find out what a school of freedom could be like. but for some reason, such a possibility was unthinkable, a wild fantasy – instead, the only option available was to submit to irrational authority six and a half hours a day, five days a week, in a series of cinder-blcok holding cells. if nothing else, we should pause to wonder why there’s so rarely any middle ground.” (n+1, p.78)

order now – support this publication. accolades to n+1 for printing such a piece.

then read:

astra taylor!


“Education can be a dangerous thing. Accordingly, I intend to focus on the problem of education, not the problems in education. It is time, I believe, for an educational “perestroika,” by which I mean a general rethinking of the process and substance of education at all levels, beginning with the admission that much of what has gone wrong with the world is a result of education that alienates us from life in the name of human domination, fragments instead of unifies, overemphasizes success and careers, separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical, and unleashes on the world minds ignorant of their own ignorance. As a result, an increasing percentage of the human intelligence must attempt to undo a large part of what mere intellectual cleverness has done carelessly and greedily”.

“This first and overriding danger is that it will encourage young people to find careers before they find a decent calling. A career is a job, a way to earn one’s keep, a way to build a long resume, a ticket to somewhere else. For upwardly mobile professionals, a career is too often a way to support a “lifestyle” by which one takes more than one gives back. In contrast, a calling has to do with one’s larger purpose, personhood, deepest values, and the gift one wishes to give the world. A calling is about the use one makes of a career. A career is about specific aptitudes; a calling is about purpose. A career is planned with the help of “career development” specialists. A calling comes out of an inner conversation. A career can always be found in a calling, but a calling cannot easily be found in a career”.

“A second danger of formal schooling is that it will imprint a disciplinary template onto impressionable minds and with it the belief that the world really is as disconnected as the divisions, disciplines, and sub-disciplines of the typical curriculum. Students come to believe that there is such a thing as politics separate from ecology or that economics has nothing to do with physics. Yet, the world is not this way, and except for the temporary convenience of analysis, it cannot be broken down into disciplines and specializations without doing serious harm to the world and to the minds and lives of people who believe that it can be. We often forget to tell students that the convenience was temporary, and more seriously, we fail to show how things can be made whole again. One result is that students graduate without knowing how to think in whole systems, how to find connections, how to ask big questions, and how to separate the trivial from the important. Now more than ever, however, we need people who think broadly and who understand systems, connections, patterns and root causes”.

“Third there is the danger that education will damage the sense of wonder – the sheer joy in the created world – that is part of our original equipment at birth. It does this in various ways: by reducing learning to routines and memorization, by excess abstractions divorced from lived experience, by boring curriculum, by humiliation, by too many rules, by overstressing grades, by too much television and too many computers, by too much indoor learning and mostly deadening the feelings from which wonder grows. As our sense of wonder in nature diminishes, so too does our sense of the sacred, our pleasure in the created world, and the impulse behind a great deal of our best thinking. Where it is kept intact and growing, teachers need not worry about whether students learn reading, writing and arithmetic”.

The Dangers of Education by David W. Orr