The unschooling antidote to sheepwalking

I define sheepwalking as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them brain-dead jobs and enough fear to keep them in line…It’s ironic but not surprising that in our age of increased reliance on new ideas, rapid change, and innovation, sheepwalking is actually on the rise… Training a student to be a sheep is a lot easier than the alternative.  Teaching to the test, ensuring compliant behavior, and using fear as a motivator are the easiest and fastest ways to get a kid through school.  So why does it surprise us that we graduate so many sheep?   And graduate school?  Because the stakes are higher (opportunity, cost, tuition and the job market), students fall back on what they’ve been taught:  to be sheep.  Well-educated sheep, of course, but compliant nonetheless.

This is a quote from Seth Godin’s book Tribes, and I wish I could have it printed up on little cards to hand to people when they start questioning unschooling and its’ ability to prepare children to succeed in the ‘real world’.

I imagine myself handing the card with this quote on it to people and asking them what they think it means to succeed in the apparently elusive ‘real world’.  (Where do they think unschoolers spend their time?  In some elaborate underground tunnel system completely removed from the reality of life on the surface of the earth?)   Do they think success means getting a college degree?   A masters degree, maybe?   Hey, check the card.  There lies the way of compliant sheepwalkers who boast a masters degree.   Impressive piece of paper, but still sheep.

I imagine that if I really did have such cards printed up to whip out at a moments’ notice, and if I really did hand them to people while questioning their definition of success, they might be offended.  Or stare at me mouth agape.  Or display full blown anger and indignation at my audacity.  Yet I am expected to endure endless questioning, both personal and insulting, on my choice of lifestyle and learning when it comes to my kids.  My sanity can be questioned.  I can be told outright that I am ruining my kids’ chances at success; that they will never learn all the things they need to know, and WHAT ABOUT ALGEBRA?!

Yes, I know that these questions (sometimes) originate from a desire to understand, or blameless ignorance.  You don’t know what you don’t know, right?  Very often, I respond by patiently explaining the process of life learning and how in fact my kids will learn what they need to know, when they need to know it.

What I would like to say is, “I am not raising my kids to be sheepwalkers who can only do as they are told and whose major motivator is an intense fear of failure.  I will leave that to schools and compulsory education.  I am raising kids who can think for themselves and who will do a thing because they desire to do it and not because someone else has told them they should.  Unschooling is the antidote to sheepwalking.”

Diplomatic?  Not really.

True?  You bet.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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