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Getting an Education, Living a Life – August 24, 2009
Recently, someone tried to talk me out of using the term “life learning” and encouraged me to “support” use of the term “radical unschooling.” And that, he said, is because most people only understand education in terms of schooling, so “unschooling” is a good first step to get them to think more broadly about ways to get an education. He quoted author James Marcus Bach who says he doesn’t oppose schooling, he opposes “schoolism:” the belief that schooling is the only way, or the best way, to obtain education.

While I certainly agree that school is not the only or best way to obtain an education, that is not what I – nor, I suspect, many who call themselves “radical unschoolers” – mean when we discuss the lifestyle we are living with our families. Using a term like unschooling seems to support the notion that one needs to get an education, but just not at a school. And that once the education has been acquired, life and that odd phrase “making a living” can proceed. The dictionary meaning of the word education involves a process of drawing out an individual’s latent potential, inferring that an education is done to a learner by an educator.

When I use the term life learning, I’m referring to all the types of needs-based learning that happen continuously throughout one’s life – from birth (or even pre-birth) to death. Some of that learning will be what we call “academic” in nature, some not. Some of that learning will involve life skills such as walking and talking, building a house, growing a garden, and caring for a loved one. Some of it will involve those moments of insight that help us continue to fine tune ourselves as compassionate, emotionally well balanced human beings. Compartmentalizing and differentiating among various types of knowledge and when and how they are learned is encouraged by those who commodify education. Some bits of knowledge are deemed important enough to be taught in schools (or obtained by other educative means) and measured and tested; others aren’t. When we talk about getting an education or becoming educated – in school or otherwise – we are talking about a certain, externally ordained set of facts called academics – reading, writing, chemistry and history, as opposed to another set that involves things like gardening, plumbing, bicycle repair or playing the harp. In fact, the latter bits are scorned in academic circles, considered frills at best and, at worst, a place to relegate kids who can’t or won’t do (the more important) academics.

Unschooling – even the radical sort – is about obtaining an education; life learning is about living a life and learning what one needs along the way.
Posted: 2009/08/24 12:31PM

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