Talking unschooling with John Stossel

The education debate makes for strange bedfellows.  It’s no secret that I’m pretty liberal in my political views, and in my mind the decision to unschool is a liberal one.  Radical = having roots or pertaining to the root, and that’s what unschooling is.   It goes right to the root of learning.     So imagine my surprise when I found out, after writing this blog for a while and coming in contact with other unschoolers who are not in New York City, that a lot of them are libertarians or conservatives and disagree with me on almost everything except education & learning.

And you know what?  It’s ok.  It’s more than ok, actually, because if we are going to stop coercive education, then families from every walk of life, every socio-economic, religious & ethnic demographic need to stand together and say “We all agree.  This needs to change, and we will change it.”

Yesterday I was interviewed for national television by John Stossel, a staunch libertarian, who has a show on Fox Business Network.  Fox, as I’m sure most of you know, tends toward the conservative.  (To put it mildly).  In fact it’s a good thing they don’t have access to voting records at their security desk or they might have refused me entry into the building!    Stossel believes that many of the problems in the school system stem from government involvement, and I can’t disagree with him on that. I of course would take it even farther and say that any school system that is coercive needs to go, no matter who funds it or runs it.

The segment for which I was interviewed (along with a fabulous unschooled boy, Jude) is part of a larger broadcast on education.  It will air on Fox Business Network tomorrow night, March 7th at 9pm EST and it should be interesting.   One of the interviewees was Michelle Rhee, another was Ben Chavis, the founder of a military-type school in California that has garnered a ton of controversy.  (My take on him? He’s insane.  I’m not kidding.)  In fact, our segment on unschooling was probably the least contentious of them all.  Jude and I got along famously, and my one and only complaint about Stossel was his impromptu ‘quiz’ of Jude; he threw him a multiplication question which Jude answered, but I strongly disagree with that type of thing, and was disappointed in myself afterward for not calling him out on it.  (I think I probably just smiled.  Ick.)

But in any case, this is encouraging.  It’s a national spot, and recently unschooling has been in the news more than ever, from Dayna Martin’s interview on the Jeff Probst Show to Dale Stephen’s book “Hacking Your Education” and Peter Gray’s book “Free to Learn“.  Maybe it’s my imagination, but unschooling seems poised to break into the mainstream in a way that has never happened before.   We need to get behind this momentum, because the push-back will be vehement from those who are vested in the status quo (the Common Core might just be a warm up).    I’m happy to stand beside anyone of any political persuasion who supports the freedom that only unschooling can give.

In the green room (which was brown) with Lisa Nielsen and Jude

Many thanks to Lisa Nielsen of the Innovative Educator (and the DOE) for encouraging Stossel to do a piece on unschooling and then giving him my name when he agreed!



5 comments on “Talking unschooling with John Stossel

  1. Michelle Steffers says:

    I am Jude’s aunt; I thought he was wonderfully genuine. I also felt that the dynamic between him and Amy was subtle but powerful.

  2. Mary Ann says:

    I finally got a chance to watch the clip and you (and Jude) did a great job! Thanks for being willing to do this. I just loved it when Jude asked, “What do you think I need to learn to succeed?” That’s really the heart of the matter – people have the wrong metrics (and sometimes the wrong definitions) of success. So glad the John Stossel was willing to do this segment.

  3. […] Millstein, of UnschoolingNYC, and 14 year old unschooler, Jude Steffers-Wilson, gave a brief explanation of unschooling on […]

  4. Heather says:

    I haven’t seen the Stossel segment yet, but find your post interesting. I am a parent who has spearheaded the opposition to Common Core in Indiana. Those on both the conservative right and the left agree that Common Core has to go, which is one reason our former Superintendent, Tony Bennett, lost his bid for re-election. Is this an issue in which you are involved or have a position?

    • Amy says:

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks for your comment and kudos to you for opposing the Common Core! My involvement takes the form of my advocacy in favor of self-directed learning and unschooling but I fully support parents of schooled children who are speaking out against it. It will take all of us from all sides to make the necessary changes. The Common Core is a move in the wrong direction; away from any kind of freedom in learning, which of course you already know. My Mom keeps me up to date on the progress of the opposition in Indiana – I’m glad to hear that it is strong and ongoing! Keep up the good work

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