schoolyard subversion

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by aaron, for change, with help
highlights
· welcome to unschooling
· apprentice education
· questioning school rules
· review of arsdigita university
· background
· other subversive sites

Welcome Fellow Subversives!

School harms kids. You may not believe it at first, but it's true. In America, we have a mandatory public school system that destroys children's minds and molds them into slaves of the establishment. Many "experts" agree. I finally realized this and decided to do something about it. Welcome to schoolyard subversion, the true story of my fight to change my school. Realize the truth, and do something to begin the change. How many more kids have to go through with this?

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Today's Entry: June 3, 2001 [< * >]

The Final Days

I stood up in front of the entire high school, swallowed hard, and read:

Everyday, millions of innocent children are unwillingly part of a terrible dictatorship. The government takes them away from their families and brings them to cramped, crowded buildings where they are treated as slaves in terrible conditions. For seven hours a day, they are indoctrinated to love their current conditions and support their government and society. As if this was not enough, they are often held for another two hours to exert themselves almost to the point of physical exhaustion, and sometimes injury. Then, when at home, during the short few hours which they are permitted to see their families they are forced to do additional mind-numbing work which they finish and return the following day.

This isn't some repressive government in some far-off country. It's happening right here: we call it school.

Silence. I was too worn to notice the expressions on the teacher's faces, but others later told be that they looked taken aback. As I sat down, my friend sitting next to me said, "Well, I gotta say, that took guts," as if he wasn't sure about its other merits. The principle tried hard to recover, saying "Well, I've talked with Aaron several times about his feelings about school...of course, that is the exact opposite of how we hope school to be...".

Later, I was teased, joked with, agreed with, quoted, parodied, etc. One kid said, "Sorry, I wasn't listening, I thought you were talking about India or something and stopped paying attention. What exactly did you say?"

* * *

"Hey, what's that book you've got?" one kid asked after I pulled Teenage Liberation Handbook out of my bag. A number of kids asked the question as the book moved its way around school. I let them take it home to get a taste of it, and encouraged them to buy a copy. "It's cool," one classmate said, "but my parents would never go for that. They say, 'You're going to school and that's just how it is!'".

I later heard stories about how parents grounded kids with bad grades, using severe punishments to encourage kids to "do well in school". I just sunk my head into my arms and wondered why. Perhaps they were right -- parents will never let this movement take off.

But I don't think it's true. I think we just need to wait until it's "cool enough" -- then perhaps parents will be begging to do it. Sure, it's difficult to change after years and years of "there's no other option but the system" but change happens.

* * *

It's always hard to answer the question, "So hey, what are you doing next year?" but I'm beginning to get used to it. If it's an adult, I tell them "I'm not really sure," because they seem to have a harder trouble getting used to the idea than other kids.

But with kids, it's different:

"I'm unschooling."
"What's that?" they ask. I try to explain.
"Oh, you mean home schooling?"
"Yeah, sort of, except it's not at home and it's not like school."
"Oh," they say. "Well, how will you have any friends?" they undoubtedly ask.
"I already have friends," I reply.
"But what if you'd never gone to school?"
"But I have! Anyway, when do you have time to meet with your friends? After school, of course. So go hang out at the park, or wait outside a school to meet up with them. I mean..." I try to explain.

Adults say things like:

"But you'll keep up with all your studies, right?"
I'll work on what I'm interested in, but I'm interested in a lot of things.
"Well, you're a smart kid, of course you can do that."
That's not true -- it's not that I'm smart, it's that school hasn't made me dumb. Everyone is born smart, it's just that school usually knocks it out of them.
"What will you do the whole time?"
Oh, there's a whole world of things to do! All the things I've always wanted to do, but haven't had time to: play at the park, learn the piano, read lots of books, go on trips around the world, and generally enjoy myself.
"How will you go to college?"
Lots of unschooled/homeschooled kids do. Most colleges don't care so much whether you went to high school as whether you're an interesting applicant -- in fact, learning everything on your own makes you even more interesting. Some colleges have even done studies showing that high school has no effect on your college performance.

Some kids say the same things, but others ask questions like: "How did you convince your parents?" "How will you learn anything?" "If I did that, I'd just play videogames all day."

But other kids have trouble with the idea. "I like school," they say. "I enjoy talking with the other kids." But dig a little deeper and it appears that the answer isn't that they like school, but they just don't like being home.

School has become an escape for them -- a way to escape the problems of home. Except when they get grounded of course. So now they're stuck on the treadmill: do bad in school, get kept at home; do well and school and you can get away from there and go to the mall, only to end up doing bad again.

* * *

It's the last day of finals...the last day of what I know as school. Kids pass me in the halls waving goodbye, saying "you'll never have to come back here again - aren't you lucky", and wonder if I'll never see them again (I promise to come back and visit). Some teachers try and give me their advice (most recommending that I stay in school) while others just wish me a happy summer.

It's certainly been an interesting and worthwhile year. And while I know my past, I have no idea what the future will bring. Here's to hoping that next year is even more exciting than this one.

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