Humanities: Unschoolers need not apply?

You know what I find really interesting?  The same people who will tell you that the only path to success – career and financial stability – in life is by going to college & probably grad school are the same people who will get all high and mighty when you point out that there are other ways to create financial stability; less expensive, more comprehensive ways.   THEN those people go on a long tangent about how college is not about pursuing a career; it’s about expanding your mind, reading the classics and being pushed to deeper levels of thought.

In fact, we unschoolers are the money-grubbing greed-a-holics whose only interest is the next big start-up.

At least, so says Leon Wieseltier in a recent article for the New Republic.  He refers to Dale Stephens as the “gloating” founder of UnCollege.   He says that the only knowledge that can be acquired without the aid of a teacher is not knowledge at all, but information, and that the only information unschoolers are interested in is of an entrepreneurial nature.  That we believe the humanities to be “useless study”.

To prove him wrong, we are all apparently supposed to sit around philosophy and literature classrooms so that teachers can instruct us on the art of deep thinking.

THAT’s what college is really about, people!   You can’t be a good citizen otherwise, don’t you know.  You can’t possibly read Dickens or Shakespeare and come up with any worthy opinions without the aid of a trained professional.   Let’s not even mention Kant or Nietzche.  No one has ever read their work outside of a classroom and had it mean something to them.


When people meet and/or spend any amount of time with my kids, they universally comment on how composed they are, how self-confident, mature, “together”.   At the same time they are amazed at their willingness to play and have fun without structure.     These people know we unschool, but (with the exception of my immediate family) they do not attribute my kids’ behavior to anything connected with unschooling.

‘Cause it’s all due to me and my fabulous parenting skills, of course!

Or if they admit that perhaps there IS a connection to unschooling, then my kids are the exception to the rule (the rule being loud, wild, unwashed children who run amok).

I mention this only because Leon Wieseltier believes that introspective or analytical thought must be taught; that young people are not mature enough to come by it on their own.   Of self-directed learners, he says “One wonders about the preparedness of this untutored “self” for this unknown “direction.”

He is wrong.   My kids’ behavior seems more “together” than their schooled peers precisely because their learning has been self-directed.   They direct themselves toward art and books as well as vlogs and YouTube and come up with assessments and opinions that go far beyond anything I could have imagined at their age.   Introspection or the “schooling of inwardness” as Wieseltier calls it,  comes about largely as a result of maturity and self-confidence.   Because of this, it is my opinion that kids who grow as unschoolers have a better chance of thinking beyond boundaries and contemplating a larger picture than do schooled children.   Perhaps if Wieseltier had spent any time with unschoolers before writing his article, he’d have perceived as much.

Just as with the sciences or business, access to the humanities should not be and is not the prerogative of those who can afford thousands of dollars in tuition.



3 comments on “Humanities: Unschoolers need not apply?

  1. Steph says:

    One of the saddest moments was when a student said, “I don’t like school but I have to go or I’ll never get a good job.”

  2. Daven says:

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! If you pursue financial security, you’re a moneygrubber; if you pursue ideas for fun, you’re impractical and ignorant. But if you borrow money to pursue ideas the way other people tell you to so they can certify you so you can make money later, now you’re educated!

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