I’ve been asked why Unschooling as Decolonisation as a theme for the Learning Reimagined Conference? Maybe more of you are wondering, so here goes.
There aren’t any other unschooling conferences dealing with this topic. There’s a saying that if the kind book you’re wanting to read hasn’t been written, write it. I guess the same applies to a conference. It’s a conversation I want to have, listen in on, get onto the radar! Because it matters. It matters not just for unschooling families. It matters because our world is hurting. It matters because we’re all in this world together and our freedoms as unschoolers are tied up with the freedom of children and people everywhere. It matters, because unschooling isn’t just about us. That the speakers for this theme came together so easily and so enthusiastically, confirmed for me the relevance and importance of this discussion. And I get to connect with other folks who care about a decolonised, child accepting and oppression free world. For a whole weekend.
I know that there is a growing number of unschooling families for whom unschooling is way more than a nice experience for our children. It is a nice experience, yes. But it is much more than that.
For these unschoolers, It is about stepping out of an oppressive system and into a liberatory one. Not all of us have the language to describe this broader imperative, but we feel an inner calling and connection to this process and philosophy. And I suspect that a weekend dedicated to this might just be what we all will revel in.
We acknowledge that to create a world free of oppression requires us to be aware of all the different ways people are oppressed or discriminated against and to work to dismantle those oppressive structures and change our personal attitudes and behaviours that discriminate and oppress. It means difficult conversations and uncomfortable truths are an integral part of our unschooling process. Unschooling is intersectional.
The focus in unschooling is freedom to learn and living within a partner paradigm which is in direct opposition to the current coercive learning systems and the dominator paradigm. As such, unschooling is part of a broader movement towards social justice, one that includes children as partners; whether unschoolers intend it to be so or not and whether the broader social justice movement accepts our advocacy or not.
Unschoolers, whether they intend it to be so or not, are also part of a broader network of folks working towards
- reclaiming indigenous knowledge and other ways of knowing;
- rejuvenation of communities;
- building learning communities;
- democratising access to learning resources for all;
- recognising and normalising the idea that children are human too and that they have a say in matters that involve them and the
- community at large and
- dismantling of power hierarchies.
This conversation on Unschooling as Decolonisation contributes to this work.
Building an alternative learning model doesn’t imply indifference on our part to the challenges children face in mainstream schools. We support all the ways that schools reform themselves to make it a safer and freer space for children’s full expression of themselves. The support for these school reforms are support for the lives and freedoms of children, not support of an oppressive system. We support all those community spaces created for children and the community to access resources for free learning and personal growth.
Unschoolers certainly aren’t the only people working towards and practicing freedom in education and partnership living. There are school teachers, academics, education consultants, parents, NGOs and benefactors that are interested in or working towards innovation in education that brings about freedom for children. And Learning Reimagined is an open space to all for further sharing and learning about the various spaces and ways folks are working towards children’s liberation. After all, we want to go far, not fast, so we’d like to go together, not alone (To paraphrase an African proverb).
Almost 600 words later and you still don’t know why unschooling as decolonisation. It’s simple. Because schooling is colonising. Compulsory schools are designed in the image of colonialism. Colonialism’s modality was power and violence. Compulsory Schools’ modality is power and violence. Colonialism was/is oppressive. Compulsory schooling is oppressive. Colonialism took away people’s freedoms to define the trajectory of their cultures and nations for themselves. Compulsory schooling takes away from young people the freedom to define their own growths and potentials. Colonialism imposed on nations and peoples an economic system that is rigged in favour of a minority to the detriment of the majority. Its values are competition, winning, control, profit, individualism. Schooling imposes on young people an education system that is rigged in favour of a minority and to the detriment of the majority. The values of schooling are competition, winning, control, results and individualism. We’re all hurting in this system.
That the schooling system is fashioned in the image of colonialism is not its worst attribute. It’s real danger is that compulsory schooling upholds and maintains colonialism by upholding colonial values that the colonising countries or settlers still benefit from. It is one of the master’s primary tools that keeps the master’s house intact. It is a system of separation of parents and siblings, separation of different groupings, of the creation of the ‘other’, of separating knowledge into subjects while devaluing some knowledge and privileging others, of the ‘class’room that maintains the class structure, of dominion of humans over nature, of endless wars, of poverty, of loneliness, of diminishing mental health, of……..
As unschoolers we can see that the master’s tool won’t dismantle the master’s house. But unschooling potentially can!
And that is why Unschooling as Decolonisation.
While I refer to other unschoolers, I certainly do not speak on behalf of them. This is my personal articulation of unschooling. And yet, I do know know that I am not alone. I know that some or all of what I have written resonates with other unschoolers as well, though not all unschoolers. If this resonates with you, if you want to connect with other unschoolers and other folks that are committed to a decolonised, child accepting and oppression free world, please do join us at Learning Reimagined 2018.
Mother | Wife | Unschooler | Education Freedom Advocate | Child Rights Advocate | Learning Reimagined Conference Convenor | She/Her
For the last 25 years, Zakiyya has been experimenting with living and learning in freedom, also known as unschooling. She is an advocate for freedom in education. Her three children have never been to school, living instead as if the idea of schooling doesn’t exist. She has been supporting and has been consistently sharing her reflections on the intersections of unschooling with decolonisation, social change and unschooling’s foundational role in social justice. She convened the Learning Reimagined Conferences of 2017 and 2018, both groundbreaking in their own rights with the 2018 conference being the first conference globally to focus on the socio-political dimensions of Unschooling, Decolonisation and Social Change.