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!

“As to his pedagogical theories, (Francisco) Ferrer drew heavily on both precursors and contemporaries, from Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Froebel to Kropotkin, Tolstoy, and Robin. He was in the direct line of an educational tradition which, rooted in eighteenth-century rationalism and nineteenth century romanticism, involved a shift from emphasis on instruction to emphasis on the process of learning, from teaching by rote and memorization to teaching by example and experience, from education as preparation for life to education as life itself. With “freedom in education” as its watchword, this tradition aimed to do away with the formality and discipline of the conventional classroom, the restrictions and regulations that suppressed individual development and divided education from play. It cultivated physical as well as mental development, crafts, and arts as well as books. Hostile to dogma and superstition, it emphasized reason, observation, and science, as well as independence, autonomy and self-reliance. Anitcoercive and antiauthoritarian, it stressed the dignity and rights of the child, encouraging warmth, love, and affection in place of conformity and regimentation. Among the key words of its vocabulary were “freedom,” “spontaneity,” “creativity,” “individuality,” and “self-realization.”

“I am convinced that constraint arises from ignorance, and that the educator who is really worthy of the name will obtain his results through spontaneous response of the child, whose desires he will learn to know, and whose development he will try to further by giving it every possible gratification.”

“Education is not worthy of the name unless it is stripped of all dogmatism, and unless it leaves to the child the direction of its powers and is content to support them in their manifestations.”

“I am not a speaker, not a propagandist, not a fighter. I am a teacher; I love children above everything. I think I understand them. I want my contribution to the cause of liberty to be a young generation ready to meet a new era.”

-Ferrer quoted in The Modern School Movement by Paul Avrich