Penelope Trunk has a great blog post this week titled “There are no lazy people”. My favorite part is where she writes:
When I tell people we don’t do forced curriculum at my house, invariably people ask me how my kids will learn to do stuff they don’t like. Here’s what I think: “How will your kids learn to stop doing things they don’t like?”
I love that, because people are always saying the same thing to me. Kids learn to deal with people they don’t like at school, and if they don’t learn it there, when will they? Or school is necessary to teach kids that in life, you don’t always – or maybe never – get to do what you want to do.
And so we pound it into kids from a young age. Learn to accept the misery now, because this is your life. Sure school sucks, but hey, that’s the way life is. Get used to it! Wear it like a twisted badge of honor. (Our Puritan ancestors must be so proud. Of course they would never say so, pride being a sin and all. They were more the “suffer in silence and burn naysayers at the stake” kind of people. But you get the point.) We are a culture of people who spend our entire lives doing things we don’t like and bragging about it.
If you are at a dinner party and people start talking about stuff from when they were in school, what are the stories that get told? The social faux pas horror stories, the bullying, the hated classes and how many you skipped, the the weird teachers etc. etc. A friend of mine who is a psychologist told me once that the number one anxiety or stress related dream that adults have is about school. You know, you show up without most of your clothes, you can’t find your locker, you haven’t been to class all semester and have a final exam coming up…
It’s miserable. Join the club.
Then, the drudgery of school gives way to the drudgery of work. Have you ever listened to a bunch of people talk about their work? More often than not, it is to complain about their boss, or their hours, or their workload, or the work itself, or the lousy pay. A person who loves what they do and says so is stared at, wide-eyed, as though they had just apparated from the land of make believe.
Even relationships are not immune. Teenagers are expected to be a pain in the ass and to hate their parents. Mothers in law are unbearable, not to mention those lazy husbands or high maintenance wives! Children are a burden, and on and on.
I believe one of the biggest reasons that people dismiss unschooling as unworkable on a large scale is that it is a threat to the Cult of Unhappy in which most of our population is firmly entrenched. If you are happy there must be something wrong with you. (If you don’t believe me, walk down the street singing or laughing. People throw you odd glances and move out of your way.) Imagine raising happy kids who don’t hate you and who eventually make their living doing something they love and look forward to! Imagine kids who find partners whose company they enjoy and with whom they make a lifetime of happy.
Most people can’t.
So it’s up to us. It’s up to us to encourage our kids to keep doing what they’re doing – learning what they love and building bonfires, as Penelope says.
If we don’t do it, no one else will.