Jon's been reading the Ishmael trilogy lately. In the last book, he discovered two chapters on education, which he thought was the perfect synthesis of arguments for unschooling. He spent an hour reading to me aloud (something only my mother does, and from the newspaper) at 3 a.m. last night. In the end, my reaction was something along the lines of, "Have you not heard what I've been saying all these years? I already said all this!" He did indeed hear me, but this morning it occurred to me to share it with all of you.
The story does what I've often done: it asks questions about what the fundamental point of education is and why we're so attached to our methods.
So what is it? Why do children need to go to school? One might say to learn necessary skills, to interact with other children, to be prepared for the world (or, at least initially, for more schooling). The point of education underneath all of our other reasons, underneath the need for creating people who are the same, who are part of the mechanisms of an industrialized and specialized society (via enforced conformity, skill assessment and the forced understanding of one's place in the social order - all of which are intrinsically interconnected) - underneath all of that education is about getting kids to adulthood knowing what they need to know in order to take care of themselves.
Ishmael points out many flaws in our system which change the real need for education into something else entirely - namely the regulation of the flow of workers into the competitive job market. Which just highlights the fact that there are too many damn people on the planet. Either that or industrialization, centralization, and a specialized workforce are fundamentally just bad ideas which disconnect us from each other and The Source.
When I say "The Source," I'm saying lots of things. I do indeed mean the planet, Mother Earth, Gaia, et cetera, but I do not really mean it in a spiritual or woo-woo pseudo-spiritual way. I mean literally The Source - the source of our lives, that whice feeds, shelters and clothes us, that which we most depend on and that which we have dumbed down to merely a commodity. Our resources are of course commodities, but they are not merely commodities and resources are more than resources.
The raw materials that we depend on to live are more than a tangible good to be bought and sold (or even the abstract representation of that tangible good as numbers in markets). The raw materials on which we depend are not merely a set of tools which we use at will. Our raw materials are finite and how we use (and more importantly, replace) them is just as important as that we can. To talk about these materials as merely goods is to reduce their meaning and to handle them as such is to divorce them (and ultimately ourselves as well) from the place from which they come, the work that was done to retrieve them, and the profound act of thoughtfully seeking to replace them or allowing them to replenish themselves.
These days, our source is the grocery store rather than the ground. It is no wonder there is a rise in religious fundamentalism - people are desperate for connection. And that is not at all what we are giving our children with our educational system. We do not seek to show children how to fully function in our culture that they might support themselves and future generations. We seek to actually stifle that ability. It is not a flaw in the system that high school graduates cannot sustain themselves. It is not a flaw that maintains impossibly low wages for the "unskilled" labor. It is, in fact, the design.
And thus I keep going off on philosophical rants and in the end I cannot tell if I'm discussing raising children or raising food. Ultimately, they amount to the same: we have done terrible things to both children and food and if we are to regain a sense of our place on this earth, we shall have to undo both. We need to raise children like weeds that they learn from the ground how to feed themselves. We need to raise food like weeds to regain an understanding of how to continue to feed ourselves.