Friday, February 08, 2013

[Something] Radical Unschooler

There’s been a lot of discussion in my feed lately about foo radical unschooling. It’s making me a little twitchy, so I’m gonna write this commentary.

We’re Christian/Jewish/Muslim/LOA/whatever-belief-system Radical Unschoolers. Everything we do, every moment of our existence, is informed by our belief system.

We’re Vegan/vegetarian/paleo/raw/lactose/gluten/whatever-belief-system Radical Unschoolers. Everything we do, every moment of our existence, is informed by our belief system.

We’re Voluntaryist/libertarian/anarchocapitalist/conservative/liberal/whatever-belief-system Radical Unschoolers. Everything we do, every moment of our existence, is informed by our belief system.

We’re Offended by TV/movies/videogames/whatever-belief-system Radical Unschoolers. Everything we do, every moment of our existence, is informed by our belief system.


Well, this is my blog where I sometimes speak bluntly. Having read hundreds of comments recently, I’m gonna push back against your self-labelling and say that you are NOT really a radical unschooler. Sorry.

You are an LOA believer (or libertarian or vegan or videogame hater) who talks about unschooling and folds it into your LOA (or whatever) when it’s convenient and when it fits your weltanschauung; but radical unschooling is not a genuine part of your core weltanschauung. It’s an add-on. It’s one more app you’ve bought for the iPhone which your life and you don’t really understand it and you certainly don’t know how to use it except in the simplest of terms; but you bought it and feel that you own it and can use it however you like. You own "radical unschooling," by the gawds, and can do with it as you please.

You demur that you’re not some clueless newbie, you’ve read Holt, Sandra’s site, Joyce’s site, Pam’s writings, and an endless string of other long-time unschooling writers. You’ve read the discussion lists. You’re au courant.

Again, I push back against your assertion. If you think that telling your kids that refined white sugar is poison and preventing them from eating it makes you a nutritionist unschooler, I say you’re wrong. It makes you a “nutritionist” who makes claims to unschooling which you cannot support.

Years ago, Australian unschooler Arun had a lengthy “discussion” on his blog. He and his wife were/are organic farmers but they were radical unschoolers, so when their kids wanted to eat white sugar, they did. Arun’s friends, farming peers, and assorted “nutritionists” bombarded him with the warnings that he was poisoning his kids. He simply couldn’t do that, in good conscience. It was WRONG!

But Arun was a radical unschooler who was also an organic farmer. He was NOT an “Organic Farmer” radical unschooler. His weltanschauung was radical unschooling.

So, my opinion, which you are always free to disagree with, is that you should think long and hard before labelling yourself a [Something] Radical Unschooler. Seems to me that your “something” has a strong propensity for getting in the way of your relationship with your children.


  1. Yes! You've summed it up quite nicely. The app reference was very spot on.

  2. BINGO!
    Tease apart your belief systems a bit and recognize what your weltanschauung is!

  3. I'm not something, and not even sure I would call myself radical, but I applaud your assessment of the label-happy. A label is a security blanket. It says "I belong" somewhere, and that place is probably loftier and more impressive than yours. Throw away the labels and you'll finally start to figure out what you really believe.

  4. Well, well, well. There's that Weltanschauung again. ;)
    Love it! You've made a lot of good points here about what we're seeing from people in the community. I'm glad you wrote about it.

    The unschooling community in general has morphed through the years. And slapping that label on does give people a security blanket feeling, like Tracy says.

    But I like your point that you can't put a qualifier on your Weltanschuung. Because then, *that* becomes your true weltanschuung. Or certainly interferes (like you said) ;)

  5. I love what you wrote, but for the sake of accuracy: Arun was not (and probably still isn't) an organic farmer, he ran an organic home business (selling organic beauty and health products.) :-)


  6. Ah, ok, Bea, thanks for the correction. I was relying on my memory. Shoulda know that was a mistake. (wink)

  7. Thanks for this. Radical Unschooler means something very specific and it irritates me too when people use it however they would like to paying no attention to the actual meaning.

    Oh, and I think I read this when you wrote it, but I found it again on the Unschooling Blog Carnival.

  8. Thanks for commenting, Heather. I told Sue that I thought this post was maybe too harsh for the carnival but she thought not. I don't mean it to be an attack but an anodyne against the many newcomers who are diluting and twisting radical unschooling into things which is is not.

  9. I think it's something that needs to be said. As the number of unschoolers increases (a good thing), we have to continue to have some voices of clarity. The water can get muddy very quickly when all the other attachment words get added on.
    Thanks for writing it, Frank!