The past five days I have been home with the flu. During these days I have spent a lot of time researching and educating myself online. Something that I have particularly spent time investigating is the educational philosophy of radical unschooling. Radical unschooling is an educational but also political activist philosophy that supports the notion that we as human beings learns best when learning is self-initiated and when what we learn is something we are interested in learning. Radical unschoolers therefore see life in its entirety as the educational space in which a child learns and emphasizes an absolute trust in a child’s natural learning ability, that the child will learn what is required for it to learn in life, if only facilitated by caring and responsible adults.
Radical Unschooling is based on the principle that we learn much better – in fact that we can only learn – that which we understand the purpose with, that which we have made a decision to learn for ourselves. That is something I can adhere to, as I have learned so much more from doing my own research into things that interested me, than I have from years in school. This however poses the danger that the things we’re interested in, aren’t genuine interests but in fact preprogrammed into us via innumerable forms of brainwashing and propaganda.
A specific element of radical unschooling thus has to do with a detoxification period that parents as well as child who have been in the school system, have to go through called ‘deschooling’. One of the key aspects of deschooling is that especially the parents have to go through a process of deconstructing and letting go of preconditioned fears and beliefs programmed into them through their own school years. This could for example be the parent thinking that “a child needs boundaries and routines” or that “punishment teaches the child that there are consequences in life.” Another aspect of the deschooling process is a period of ‘binging’ on things and activities that previously would have been seen as ‘sinful’ such as gorging on candy, computer-games, movies or staying up very late. According to many unschoolers this is a natural part of the process that will slowly but surely even itself out, where the child and adult will become more inclined to making decisions that are best for them as they get in contact with their authentic selves beyond the limitations of rules and restrictions.
So as I continuing investigating unschooling I started thinking about that I could also unschool myself. What I realized is that we tend to do things and move ourselves to get things done during the day based on various experiences of fear, desire, moral obligation and expectations to ourselves. We move and motivate ourselves based on external influences, where most of the time we probably wouldn’t be able to explain the purpose with our actions and why we are doing the things we do – from a self-honest starting-point.
So then I started considering: what if I were to make a decision today to have absolute trust in my own decisions, where I no longer let myself be ruled by ideas, rules, restrictions, morality or fear? What if I trusted myself to do what is best for me in every moment – and so best for all? What this would mean is that I wouldn’t be restricted by for example a belief of having to sleep a certain amount of hours per night. I would be able to trust myself to sleep and wake up in accordance with my body’s needs and would thereby be able to sleep more or less without thinking that I either have slept too much or for example not enough.
Then I started considering that in order to live like this, in absolute trust that I will do what is best for me, and so best for all, there are some points that requires to be sorted out first:
At the moment, most of our definition of ‘what is best’ is based on preconditioned ideas and experiences, exactly as in the case of a child having to ‘deschool’ and literally ‘detox’ from the restrictive school system before it can effectively unschool itself in a supportive way. Meaning that, as long as certain actions are polarized, we will interact with them accordingly.
A good example here is playing computer games, which for many children has become a space of escaping from the tediousness of ordinary life. It has become something they do to rebel against their parents, where they can feel free and where they can empower themselves. But as long as playing computer games are done as a reaction to something else in one’s life, it will be a polarized action. It will be ‘best’ from the perspective of the mind’s need to escape – but it won’t necessarily be best in the context of the amount of hours one plays, because there won’t be a natural consideration that “I need to sleep now” because playing will be an act of defiance where the child will want to do it even more because its not allowed to.
So – as long as I cannot trust that my definition of what ‘best’ is, is in fact what IS best for me and so best for all, I cannot give myself the trust to exist without restrictions – which is a shame, because it means that I have to live as though there is a part of me that can’t be trusted, that I have to keep in control, so as to ensure that I don’t compromise myself.
Let me give another example: growing up I was not allowed to eat candy. This has created a polarization within me where I’ve developed a strong desire to eat candy, because I’ve associated eating candy with being free and doing what I want, thus in my child mind defining eating candy as what is ‘best’ for me, ‘best’ for me because I generate a positive mental experience when I eat candy. This then unfortunately overrules any bodily responses to the candy, where I’d for example get stomach aches, which would be a signal to me that eating candy is indeed not what is best for me in fact, because what is best would include a consideration for the totality of myself, including my body – but even my environment and the world as a whole, such as a consideration of how the candy is produced and what resources have gone into producing it.
Secondly, for me to live in absolute trust that I will do what is best for me, I also have to be absolutely self-honest with myself. Otherwise, this new ‘freedom’ can very easily turn into a total abdication of responsibility and it very easily opens up for backdoors to justify not taking responsibility for myself or my life.
Fortunately I know people who live like this, where the trust they have in themselves is so absolute that their lives are a lot freer. What this means is that they don’t have to restrict themselves, use punishments or discipline to motivate themselves, because they know in an absolute way that they will do what is best for themselves and so best for all. So I also know that existing in a state of polarity within oneself, between rebellion and punishment, between restrictions and indulgence is not what is best. The need to discipline and restrict oneself is only required as long as one doesn’t trust oneself and the only reason one wouldn’t be able to trust oneself is if one is not absolutely self-honest.
So I see that taking the leap into an unschooled life with regards to living unschooled for oneself comes with an agreement of taking absolute responsibility for oneself.
As I’ve been discussing all of this with my partner, I’ve realized that I have a conflicted relationship towards the words ‘must’ and ‘have to’ – especially in context to morality. Whenever I remove the moral expectation to do something I can do it with a lot more ease and a lot less resistance.
Interestingly enough, when investigating the word ‘must’ the following stands forth:
Old English moste, past tense of motan “have to, be able to,” from Proto-Germanic *mot- “ability, leisure (to do something)” (cognates: Old Saxon motan “to be obliged to, have to,” Old Frisian mota, Middle Low German moten, Dutch moeten, German müssen “to be obliged to,” Gothic gamotan “to have room to, to be able to”), perhaps from PIE root *med- “to measure, to take appropriate measures” (see medical (adj.)). Used as present tense from c.1300, from the custom of using past subjunctive as a moderate or polite form of the present.
1640s, from French médical, from Late Latin medicalis “of a physician,” from Latin medicus “physician, surgeon, medical man” (n.); “healing, madicinal” (adj.), from mederi “to heal, give medical attention to, cure,” originally “know the best course for,” from an early specialization of the PIE root *med- “to measure, limit, consider, advise, take appropriate measures” (cognates: Greek medomai “be mindful of,” medein “to rule;” Avestan vi-mad- “physician;” Latin meditari “think or reflect on, consider;” Irish miduir “judge;” Old English metan “to measure out”);
Looking at the word must in this context, it can be brought back to and purified from its totalitarian and authoritarian notions of control and redefined as the act of taking appropriate measures based on knowing/understanding the best course of action in any given circumstance. It is thus a decision to live principled, where the word ‘must’ refers to the commitment of acting according to that which one has seen is best for all.
As Bernard Poolman says in this blog-post: “I commit myself to remove from my design anything related to what I have to do and to replace it with doing that which is what is best for all life within the understanding that to do what is best for all life is not a ‘have to do,’ it is common sense.”
I have realized that if I am to create the life for myself that I see is possible through the potential that I see within myself, I cannot simply sit and wait for it to happen. The same goes for this process. I will not ‘magically’ wake up one day and be clear of all self-interest and backchat and suddenly live principled in a way that is best for all. No, I have to literally, physically and practically change myself in my practical living, not just thinking about it or seeing it and then being satisfied with that, but actually bring this realization into living application.
Therefore, before living in an unschooled way or even simultaneously with that, a process of deschooling is required. But to get trust, we have to give trust. As the educator famous for coining the term ‘unschooling’, John Holt says: “Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.”
Every day I take it upon myself to learn something new, I am amazed and astonished at my own capacity to learn, my passion for learning. Every day I am also astonished to see how limited I have allowed myself to become and I realize how important it is to deschool myself – so that I can walk the process of unschooling myself in self-trust. To make the decision to trust myself means to make the decision to take absolute responsibility for myself. That is radical self-unschooling.
To be continued…
For more information on radical unschooling I recommend the following links:
Investigate Desteni, investigate the forum where on is invited to write oneself out in self-honesty and where any questions regarding the Desteni Material will be answered by Destonians who are walking their own process. Visit the Destonian Network where videos and blogs are streamed daily. Suggest to also check out the Desteni I Process and Relationship courses as well as the FREE DIP Lite course
Artwork by Louise Mcnaught ‘free your mind’