Rodger’s Journey, the Free State Project, & Radical Unschooling (47m) – Episode 095

Episode 095 welcomes Rodger Paxton of The LAVA Flow to the podcast for a chat with Skyler. Topics include: Rodger’s podcast production company Pax Libertas Productions, mid-90s awareness of Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, the New Hampshire Free State Project, the importance of homeschooling to advancing liberty, Rodger’s experience with radical unschooling, the heavy costs of authoritarian parenting, drunk driving as a victimless crime, and more.

Listen to Episode 095 (47m, mp3, 64kbps)

Show Notes

Rodger Paxton, Facebook Profile, Twitter
Podcast, The LAVA Flow
Pax Libertas Productions, Website, Facebook Page, Twitter
Free State Project, Website, Facebook Page, Twitter
Podcast, Essential Libertarianism

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Chapter 4 – Radical Unschooling

Table of Contents
Previous – Chapter 3, Schooling

Chapter 4 – Radical Unschooling

As shown in the previous chapter, schooling is an extremely poor practice for building a culture of liberty. Parents who’ve begun building that culture at home through attachment and peaceful discipline will find schooling to be a major counter-productive step in the socialization and enculturation of their children toward liberty.(30) Instead, such parents should educate themselves on the philosophy known as radical unschooling.(31) Not only does it meet the psychological and intellectual needs of children better than schooling, but it’s also the best way to continue building a culture of liberty.(32)

Interest-led Learning

Unschooling is the philosophy that says that children learn best when they are focused on what interests them most.(33) Rather than following someone else’s plan for learning, unschoolers are given the freedom to explore the world around them in their own way and on their own timescale. Both knowledge and wisdom are obtained as a matter of living joyfully alongside the necessary resources, which includes people, beginning but not ending with mom and dad, and things.(34) Unschoolers usually have unlimited access to the resources around them, which allows them to spend sufficient time learning or doing the things they find interesting. Because unschooled children are in complete control of their lives and their focus, they are naturally socialized into expecting such liberties in the future.(35) My own children show remarkable assertiveness when the liberties they’ve been granted are being encroached.

Rules vs. Principles

What separates radical unschooling from unschooling is the former’s focus on principles over rules. Rules are arbitrary and dictated, and may or may not be based on wisdom, but principles are a matter of reason and discovered through respectful dialogue and negotiation.(36) Going to bed at a certain time and place, eating all of one’s food, doing chores on certain days, et cetera, are rules usually imposed on children by their parents. Contrary to rules like this, radical unschooling parents would discuss each of these things with their children, respectfully explaining why one should or shouldn’t do this or that as it concerns each, and then let the child choose his own course of action.

For example, with bed times, mom and dad wouldn’t assign a time for their kids to go to bed, but instead discuss with them any plans they have the next day, and what each person’s needs are in keeping them.(37)  Dad might have to work early, and so needs to retire sooner than the rest of the family. And because dad needs a quiet house in order to get the sleep he needs to wake up on time for work (which finances everyone’s lives and interests at the moment), he would appreciate it if everyone staying up could refrain from making too much noise. So long as this is all talked about respectfully, with willing consideration of everyone’s needs, the family is likely to find an acceptable solution for all. Because radical unschoolers focus on principles rather than rules, children learn wisdom, negotiation, and respectful communication.(38) They also learn that their opinion matters and that they have a legitimate choice in the actions they take.

Natural Authority

When children have choice, have control, they learn something different about authority. Rather than authority being the person or persons who makes the rules that others must follow – or else! – authority is the person that can help others learn what they want to learn. Natural authority, in other words. Unschoolers discover all sorts of natural authorities throughout life as they explore and do interesting things. Nobody’s born knowing everything, and so we must learn, and quite a bit of learning comes through the help of others. When others help us with our interests, our passions, they earn our respect and admiration as authorities in their field. Rather than being an arbitrary master, those who are considered “authority figures” are in actuality, servants. And any attempt at mastery over others is more likely seen as morally outrageous by those who’ve been socialized to view authorities in this way. Mom and dad included.(39)

Intellectual Freedom

Unlike those who are forced to go to school, unschoolers enjoy intellectual freedom, ie. freedom of the mind; the right to choose one’s intellectual pursuits. Curiosity is one of humanity’s greatest traits. It’s unfortunately curtailed and often abolished through schooling, ie. educational compulsion. Anyone who’s ever had kids will tell you how curious and fascinated about new things young children are.(40) This isn’t something that’s supposed to disappear as children get older. It only seems that way because schooling is the norm and people lose that natural drive to be curious and desire to learn new things when so much of their time and mental content is being forcefully prescribed by others. Those who maintain or re-discover their curiosity become the saviors of the world, those who invent new things and embark on new entrepreneurial ventures. The more people retain their natural curiosity, the harder it is to take away their liberties. And any attempt is more likely to be thwarted in creative ways.(41)

Respect

All of the above has the effect of creating genuine respect between adults and children. Respect is earned as a matter of the bonding that occurs between individuals. Bonding requires the commitment to allow each other to be and control themselves however they choose. Children who feel respected are socialized and enculturated into expecting that respect is earned on this basis. They are more interested in earning the respect of those they encounter in life. As they understand the requirements for genuine respect, they are less likely to be interested in domination-based relationships. This bodes well for building a culture of liberty.


Many homeschoolers practice aspects of unschooling, but unfortunately homeschooling can be just as incompatible toward building a culture of liberty as is schooling. All compulsory means of education should be abandoned if the goal is liberty.(42) Children won’t grow up understanding and demanding freedom if they don’t experience it in their formative years. A radical unschooling home – and to a lesser extent attending a Sudbury Valley-modeled democratic school – is the best environment to building and maintaining a culture of liberty.(43)

(30) Read “The Trouble with Traditional Schooling” by Gregory Diehl at http://skyler.link/evctrouble
(31) Read “A Primer on Radical Unschooling” compiled by the author at http://skyler.link/evcunschooling
(32) Read Free to Learn by Peter Gray, available in several formats at http://skyler.link/amznfree2learn
(33) Read “The Unschooling Philosophy” by Pam Sorooshian at http://skyler.link/joyphilosophy
(34) Read “Living Joyfully: Unschooling” by Pam Laricchia at http://skyler.link/ljunschooling
(35) Read “Whatever They Want” by the author at http://skyler.link/evcwhatever
(36) Read “Living by Principles instead of by Rules” compiled by Sandra Dodd at http://skyler.link/doddrules
(37) Read “Sleeping” compiled by Sandra Dodd at http://skyler.link/doddsleeping
(38) Read “Living by Principles” compiled by Sandra Dodd at http://skyler.link/doddprinciples
(39) Read “Parental Authority” compiled by Sandra Dodd at http://skyler.link/doddauthority
(40) Read “Born to Explore” by Missy Willis at http://skyler.link/evcexplore
(41) Read “Fifty Ways to Leave Leviathan” by Jeffrey Tucker and Max Borders at http://skyler.link/fee50lev
(42) Read “The Right to Control One’s Learning” by John Holt at http://skyler.link/evclearning
(43) Read “Children Educate Themselves” by Peter Gray at http://skyler.link/ptpgcet4

Next – Chapter 5, Agorism

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Building a Culture of Liberty IV: Radical Unschooling

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“One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” is an original column appearing most Mondays at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OVP-only RSS feed available here.

Building a Culture of Liberty I: Definitions
Building a Culture of Liberty II: Parenting
Building a Culture of Liberty III: Schooling

As shown in the previous installment, schooling is an extremely poor practice for building a culture of liberty. Parents who’ve begun building that culture at home through attachment and positive discipline will find schooling to be a major counter-productive step in the socialization and enculturation of their children toward liberty. Instead, such parents should educate themselves on the philosophy known as radical unschooling. Not only does it meet the psychological and intellectual needs of children better than schooling, but it’s also the best way to continue building a culture of liberty.

Child-led Learning

Unschooling is the philosophy that says that children learn best when they are focused on what interests them most. Rather than following someone else’s plan for learning, unschoolers are given the freedom to explore the world around them in their own way and on their own timescale. Both knowledge and wisdom are obtained as a matter of living joyfully alongside the necessary resources, which include both people, beginning but not ending with mom and dad, and things. Unschoolers usually have unlimited access to the resources around them, which allows them to spend sufficient time learning or doing the things they find interesting. Because unschooled children are in complete control of their lives and their focus, they are naturally socialized into expecting such liberties in the future. My own children show remarkable assertiveness when the liberties they’ve been granted are being encroached.

Rules vs. Principles

What separates radical unschooling from unschooling is the former’s focus on principles over rules. Rules are arbitrary and dictated, and may or may not be based on wisdom, but principles are a matter of reason and discovered through respectful dialogue and negotiation. Going to bed at a certain time and place, eating all of one’s food, doing chores on certain days, et cetera, are rules usually imposed on children by their parents. Contrary to rules like this, radical unschooling parents would discuss each of these things with their children, respectfully explaining why one should or shouldn’t do this or that as it concerns each, and then let the child choose his own course of action.

For example, with bed times, mom and dad wouldn’t assign a time for their kids to go to bed, but instead discuss with them any plans they have the next day, and what each person’s needs are in keeping them. Dad might have to work early, and so needs to retire sooner than the rest of the family. And because dad needs a quiet house in order to get the sleep he needs to wake up on time for work (which finances everyone’s lives and interests at the moment), he would appreciate it if everyone still awake could refrain from making too much noise. So long as this is all talked about respectfully, with willing consideration of everyone’s needs, the family is likely to find an acceptable solution for all. Because radical unschoolers focus on principles rather than rules, children learn wisdom, negotiation, and respectful communication. They also learn that their opinion matters and that they have a legitimate choice in the actions they take.

Natural Authority

When children have choice, have control, they learn something different about authority. Rather than authority being the person or persons who makes the rules that others must follow, or else!, authority is the person that can help someone learn what they want to learn. Natural authority, in other words. Unschoolers discover all sorts of natural authorities throughout life as they explore and do interesting things. Nobody’s born knowing everything, and so we must learn, and quite a bit of learning comes through the help of others. When others help us with our interests, our passions, they earn our respect and admiration as authorities in their field. Rather than being an arbitrary master, those who are considered “authority figures” are in actuality, servants. And any attempt at mastery over others is more likely seen as morally outrageous by those who’ve been socialized to view authorities in this way. Mom and dad included.

Intellectual Freedom

Unlike those who are forced to go to school, unschoolers enjoy intellectual freedom. Freedom of the mind, the right to choose one’s intellectual pursuits. Curiosity is one of humanity’s greatest traits. It’s unfortunately curtailed and often abolished through schooling, ie. educational compulsion. Anyone who’s ever had kids will tell you how curious and fascinated about new things young children are. This isn’t something that’s supposed to disappear as children get older. It only seems that way because schooling is the norm and people lose that natural drive to be curious and desire to learn new things when so much of their time and mental content is being forcefully prescribed by others. Those who maintain or re-discover their curiosity become the saviors of the world, those who invent new things and embark on new entrepreneurial ventures. The more people retain their natural curiosity, the harder it is to take away their liberties. And any attempt is more likely to be thwarted in creative ways.

Respect

All of the above has the effect of creating genuine respect between adults and children. Respect is earned as a matter of the bonding that occurs between individuals. Bonding requires the commitment to allow each other to be and control themselves however they choose. Children who feel respected are socialized and enculturated into expecting that respect is earned on this basis. They are more interested in earning the respect of those they encounter in life. As they understand the requirements for genuine respect, they are less likely to be interested in domination-based relationships. This bodes well for building a culture of liberty.

Final Thoughts

Many homeschoolers practice aspects of unschooling, but unfortunately homeschooling can be just as incompatible toward building a culture of liberty as is schooling. All compulsory means of education should be abandoned if the goal is liberty. Children won’t grow up understanding and demanding freedom if they don’t experience it in their formative years. A radical unschooling home, and to a lesser extent attending a Sudbury Valley modeled school, where, other than attendance, kids have total freedom of their activities, is the best environment to building and maintaining a culture of liberty.

Building a Culture of Liberty V: Agorism
Building a Culture of Liberty VI: Moral Outrage


Read more from “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective”:

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Introduction to Radical Unschooling

The following essays comprise Section Four of Everything Voluntary: From Politics to Parenting, a book compiled by the editor, Skyler J. Collins, and intended to introduce the educational philosophy called radical unschooling.

The Trouble with Traditional School, by Gregory V. Diehl

“When schooling is passive and not incited by the curiosity of the students, it usually results in very fragmented and incomplete education. Teachers and rulers determine for the students which arbitrarily divided subcategories of information are most pertinent and valuable to learn, in what sequence they will be learned, and on what schedule.

When an education is compartmentalized and centrally planned like this, students are given content with no context. They come to see the world in segmented chunks of the loosely known details, intermittently obscured by gaping holes of the bluntly unknown. This happens in place of an active and voluntary education, where every new piece of information would fall into logical consistency with and compliment every previous piece of information in the gradual building of an increasingly accurate worldview, like a lens slowly coming into focus. Instead, old topics are seen as outdated and irrelevant compared to whatever the favored subcategory of the moment happens to be.

Ultimately, the passive learners become highly refined specialists on one particular sliver of reality, while largely ignoring the rest of existence and passing off all other knowledge as someone else’s field and responsibility; nothing is integrated with past knowledge and the student excels only at regurgitating and applying professionally the same conclusions that were presented to him during his schooling.”

Read the full thing »

Schooling: The Hidden Agenda, by Daniel Quinn

“The need for schooling is bolstered by two well-entrenched pieces of cultural mythology. The first and most pernicious of these is that children will not learn unless they’re compelled to – in school. It is part of the mythology of childhood itself that children hate learning and will avoid it at all costs. Of course, anyone who has had a child knows what an absurd lie this is. From infancy onward, children are the most fantastic learners in the world. If they grow up in a family in which four languages are spoken, they will be speaking four languages by the time they’re three or four years old – without a day of schooling, just by hanging around the members of their family, because they desperately want to be able to do the things they do. Anyone who has had a child knows that they are tirelessly curious. As soon as they’re able to ask questions, they ask questions incessantly, often driving their parents to distraction. Their curiosity extends to everything they can reach, which is why every parent soon learns to put anything breakable, anything dangerous, anything untouchable up high – and if possible behind lock and key. We all know the truth of the joke about those childproof bottle caps: those are the kind that only children can open.”

Read the full thing »

The Right to Control One’s Learning, by John Holt

“Young people should have the right to control and direct their own learning; that is, to decide what they want to learn, and when, where, how, how much, how fast, and with what help they want to learn it. To be still more specific, I want them to have the right to decide if, when, how much, and by whom they want to be taught and the right to decide whether they want to learn in a school and if so which one and for how much of the time.

No human right, except the right to life itself, is more fundamental than this. A person’s freedom of learning is part of his freedom of thought, even more basic than his freedom of speech. If we take from someone his right to decide what he will be curious about, we destroy his freedom of thought. We say, in effect, you must think not about what interests and concerns you, but about what interests and concerns us.”

Read the full thing »

What is Unschooling? by Earl Stevens

“A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can’t buy with a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, ‘doing real things’ invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge. It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling.

While few of us get out of bed in the morning in the mood for a ‘learning experience’, I hope that all of us get up feeling in the mood for life. Children always do so – unless they are ill or life has been made overly stressful or confusing for them. Sometimes the problem for the parent is that it can be difficult to determine if anything important is actually going on. It is a little like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we examine the garden, it is difficult to verify that anything is happening at that particular moment. But as the season progresses, we can see that much has happened, quietly and naturally. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.”

Read the full thing »

Whose Goal is it, Anyway? by Pam Laricchia

“With my goal of helping my children as they learn the skills they need to pursue their goals, they are gaining experience and learning how to learn. I can’t predict what they may want to learn some day, but lots of experience in figuring out how to gather information and piece it together will help them build their unique view of the world over their lifetime. It’s not about telling them what to learn, but helping them figure out how to learn. As futurist Alvin Toffler put it: ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, un-learn and relearn.'”

Read the full thing »

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Radical Unschooling vs. Permissive Parenting

Editor’s Pick. Written by Dayna Martin.

Over the years, Radical Unschooling has been mistaken for “permissive parenting,” and many judgments have been made about it based on this misbelief. The truth is, Radical Unschooling is an extension of Attachment Parenting philosophy and is a very hands-on, involved approach based on connection, rather than control. The philosophy is about being a child’s partner and focusing on their true needs and helping them get what they want in life through partnership and love, rather than the traditional focus on training a child through behavior modification to meet the parents needs for compliance and obedience. Radical Unschooling honors the child’s needs just as much as the parents, and a side effect of this is children grow up learning that everyone’s needs matter equally, not just those in power. After all, children learn what they live!

Read the full thing at DaynaMartin.com »

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