Anarchy in Education?
Life Learners Creating Change By Wendy Priesnitz
Often, in the news, we hear the term “anarchy” incorrectly
used to describe incidents of vandalism, violence, or other mayhem said
to have been perpetrated by “anarchists.” In reality, anarchy can be defined
as a society without a popularly recognized government or a central governing
authority. And that, most people assume, will automatically lead to vandalism,
violence, and mayhem.
Why do they think that? Most people just can’t imagine
living without hierarchy, leaders, and authorities telling them what to
do and how to do it. In the same way, most adults cannot believe that children
are capable of managing their own lives and learning without adult direction
and intervention. Most people simply do not trust themselves and other people,
including their own children, to live peacefully and productively without
being directed by others who are thought to be more capable, better informed,
and/or more enlightened. They assume the alternative is chaos – which they
incorrectly call anarchy.
That’s because most of us have been brought up to
be followers who do what we’re told – in our families, churches, schools,
and other institutions. As I wrote in my book Challenging Assumptions in
Education, the school assembly line has conditioned us to think that anything
more difficult than which brands to buy should be left to the “experts”
(and even with shopping, we look for expert advice). So doctoring ourselves
seems irresponsible, constructing our own houses is not feasible, organizing
within our communities is subversive, and learning on our own just doesn’t
The world is currently experiencing mayhem – economically,
environmentally, politically, and socially. Will we ever find just the right
style of government, political party, or leader to fix things? Probably
not. In fact, we just might have to take matters into our own hands, as
people around the world have been doing. In our culture, we are not used
to active participation and problem-solving, so many people find that prospect
scary. However, we need to develop those tools and many more in order to
find a way out of the mayhem my generation has created.
Fortunately, kids who are growing up without school
– and with their active questioning abilities, self-esteem, self-reliance,
and other important qualities intact – can provide the solution.
As life learning parents, we are contributing to
the creation of change, in the world and with our children, by modeling
self-reliant thinking and trust in our decisions about how our families
live and learn…as well as about issues like politics and the environment.
We might not create anarchy (whichever definition you favor), but we can
create a better world than we have now.
Wendy Priesnitz is the founder and editor of Life Learning Magazine. She is the
mother of two adult daughters who learned without school, has been an advocate
of self-directed education for over 45 years, and is the author of 13 books.