In case it hasn’t been clear, I have an agenda – a goal toward which this blog is focused.
That goal is for each and every child, no matter their socio-economic status, race or religion be able to learn in the way that suits them best. My goal is to do away with coercive methods of schooling; of the idea that education must be force-fed, and instead to implement a system where each child can choose their own path, with the support and encouragement of family, or friends, or caregivers or teachers, or all of the above.
That is what unschooling is all about. It means encouraging each child to continue the path of self-directed learning which starts at birth. It means assisting them in finding the way that works best for them. That way may include a classroom or not. It may include things that look like “traditional” schooling, or it may not. As long as the choice is made by the child with the support of those around them, I am all for it.
So when my friend Priscilla Sanstead invited me to join the Badass Teachers Association on Facebook, which in just a few days has well over 16,000 members, I immediately accepted.
According to Priscilla, who is one of the founders of the group, the mission is as follows: “Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.”
The organization is made up, not just of teachers, but parents and concerned citizens who “wish to reclaim America’s education system”.
In a matter of a few days, the group has gotten a lot of press, from a blog post by Diane Ravitch, to an article in the Sun Sentinel and another on the Yahoo News feed just to name a few. On Monday the group bombarded the White House with calls and tweets, calling for the removal of Arne Duncan and his love of Common Core & high stakes testing.
After observing the group for a few days, reading threads and clicking on suggested links, I decided to find out how many chairs were available at this new table of education transformers. I posted a comment in which I basically stated my belief that teachers (or at least Badass Teachers = BATs) and unschoolers have a common goal and might benefit from working together. I threw it out there and asked for thoughts and ideas about how the type of change we all seem to want could be most effectively implemented.
The ensuing discussion was very encouraging, and that is important.
Here’s why: The only way to implement systemic change is to find the common ground among people with wildly disparate methods and ideas. The only way to succeed is to remember the common ground and be willing to entertain ideas that we may not find ideal for ourselves but that move us in the right direction as a society. We must be willing to disagree with respect, keeping in mind that our common ground is more important than our differences. We must even, at times, be willing to compromise. (Contrary to current popular belief, the ability to compromise is a sign of strength, not weakness.)
In my perfect world, would every child be unschooled? Yes, of course. Unschooled and with every resource available to them. However, my perfect world – or at least a version thereof – could manifest by merging with the vision of some of the BAT’s, by creating open learning centers, supporting democratic schools, encouraging schools of 200 students or less, making individualized instruction & self-directed learning the norm, or at least the goal, and of course doing away with testing.
Unschoolers should realize that transforming the school system benefits everyone – even us, even though we are not part of the system. The world will be a better place if every child has access to more freedom in learning; if they are all encouraged to learn in the way that suits them best, whether in school or out.
Likewise, teachers and administrators should realize that no group understands self-directed learning better than unschoolers, and that we have a lot to bring to this discussion. Pick up anything written by John Holt, John Gatto, Wendy Priesnitz, Pat Farenga, Grace Llewellyn or Blake Boles, and I guarantee you will learn something that will improve the way you view learning, children, and the world as a whole.
The time has come. Join forces, find our common ground, and change the world.
If you would like to join the BAT’s, simply go to Facebook and search for “Badass Teachers Association”. Once you click “Join”, your request will be moderated by the admins. Contrary to some reports, it is not a closed group.