What Should the RU General Public Narrative Include?

In Part One Come Out of the Shadows http://wp.me/p4xnz1-83 I asked for practitioner input on a proposal to the RU community that RU needs a narrative, a more cohesive identity not within the community but externally, targeting the general public. Greater understanding of RU would lead to greater acceptance and inclusion, unschoolers being able to practice openly without fear, recognition of the legitimacy of RU, and of the impact potential for significant contribution by unlearners to society and the workplace. Part Two is one neophyte’s observations on what it is about RU that would be most relevant for the general public to understand.

Narrative Themes

Out of the Shadows.

RU has earned the right to more than fringe cult status with practitioners in hiding. The likely culprit? Fear of the unknown, misunderstanding among the general public. Fear of being considered weird by other kids and adults. But RU actually centers on well-established, familiar principles. There’s nothing new here to be afraid of. More on “fear factor” later.

There is also the possibility of unwillingness or inability of an authoritarian establishment to let go of their power and control. Opinion: they’re a dangerous animal when cornered. Is it just paranoia? How to deal with it beyond grass roots pressure?

We’re Working Against Human Nature.

Traditional education as well as private sector management practices are predominantly command and control, compliance-mandating systems. This is counter-productive to human development all around, all ages. We’re stifling performance and causing incredible levels of killer stress because these systems are in direct conflict with basic human nature.

We’re All In This Together.

Principles and values-centered leadership, employee engagement, and emotional intelligence are somewhat established in the private sector. RU is absolutely aligned with the same core concepts. We can leverage the private sector’s familiarity with these by focusing on similarities and minimizing the perceptions of “radical”. Nothing new here!

The Private Sector, Traditional Education and Society All Need RU.

Creativity and creative thinking and highly principled, purposeful job candidates are the most valued new workplace capabilities.  RU delivers these attributes and skills. Traditional education does not. If we continue on this course, US competitiveness and quality of life will fall even further behind the rest of the developed world.

Traditional education is not just ineffective, it is destructive.

The worst-case scenario is a looming reality: youth suicides are on the rise and a key driver is academic pressure to perform and conform. There has been so much written about this that it is a travesty and a moral embarrassment to continue on this current course (personal note: young people committing suicide is the hottest of my hot buttons, followed by the dangers of self-inflicted stress on social, emotional, physical health).

RU Needs a Narrative.

What is it? Why is it important? What’s the WIIFM for the kids, the parents, employers, society? People cannot learn unless they are compelled to invest the time. People will not invest without a clear, compelling narrative.

Principles ->  Beliefs –> Values –> Norms –> Behaviors -> Society.

I jump around a lot, from what currently interests me to what my key drivers / intent is behind my “life’s work”. Things keep circling back to values. Values are human nature, part of our DNA. They determine who we are individually and what we can become. Values give us a shot at living a life with purpose. But for some reason we’re intent on pushing our selves further and further away from what is most natural to us, from the way we raise our children to the way we approach life as adults to the nature of “work”. Then we wonder why we’re so stressed out, miserable, killing our Selves.

The collective of values becomes norms–what we are societally. We as individuals, and society as a whole, are driven by individual values that become shared norms, our common attributes of human behavior and needs no matter age or application. Young, old, school, work, society, government. Not “just” values. And quite simply, living a life of purpose has huge universal appeal and interest is growing. This is something people can believe in.

And we’ve got to find our way back to the garden.

Leverage the Data!

Old-school establishment in education and the private sector thrives on validation with data. You want results? You need data to back up the claims? No problem. But just my opinion: numbers are an addictive drug that dull the pain of using human intuition. But if you must have your fix…numerous studies of years of experience with alternative ed and workplace motivation theories bear the hypothesis out: fuzzy stuff delivers much greater hard results and higher levels of personal satisfaction. Less stress, greater longevity to boot. Need more WIIFM?

Fear Factor?

This late entry is powerful. I need to learn more about the reasons RU practitioners apparently feel they must keep low profiles. One practitioner said … it is fear of being turned in to Child Protective Services for arbitrary reasons, kind of like medical kidnapping .…family and friends are a never ending battle over whether they should or shouldn’t be doing it….some simply find it easier to stay out of the spot light.”

“This can’t be happening” was my first thought. “Is this fear factor widespread?”

“Yes, because there are enough stories circling the homeschooling and unschooling communities of it actually happening. Someone thinks the kids are being neglected because they don’t have curriculum and the parents aren’t making them do structured work. The state takes the kids and asks questions later, then the parents spend months fighting the stupid arbitrary nature of the system that can’t overlook crossing a t even if harms the child more than what the state suspected in the first place. It is not widespread, but in most cases, there is no rhyme or reason as to why “that” family.

There are facebook pages set up to help expose stories to help families get their kids back.

And then there are homeschool legal aid outfits here and there that help families fight courts over their right to homeschool. I have encountered my own opposition from a school board member, that same school board member still questions what I do and even tries to quiz (my child). It is nuts because they think we are crazy when they are the ones who are brainwashed.”

It seems society needs some serious deschooling.

 My Role: Gather and Sow

Besides getting a good grasp of practitioners’ perspectives, there are several areas where more information is needed to build the case for RU. I’ve come across much of this information in the past but didn’t see much need in cataloging it until now:

  • Worker / private sector and learner performance / achievement data relative to engagement level. We’re all in this together: RU leans heavily on principles that are fairly well-established in the workplace. It’s really not all that radical after all!
  • Evidence of the damage traditional education is inflicting: data on youth suicides and rising incidences of mental health issues among youth;
  • Life After Unschooling. How do unschoolers do in the workplace / job market, and in higher ed? What has been their role in society?
  • Non-technical information on brain theory and learning, why RU works and why traditional education and command and control management are counter-productive, even destructive.
  • The subtle as well as clear physical and emotional impacts of stress induced by the toxic school and work environments we subject people to.

(RU Narrative Support, in process)

Now, About That Data….

RU is principles-intensive. Practitioners don’t worry much about validating what they do with data, because they know it’s the right thing to do, they see the results of their efforts. A practitioner observation: “…over the years I’ve seen plenty of articles with anecdotes from college admissions people and trends that homeschooled kids went quickly from “untouchables” to “sought after” as soon as they realized that homeschooled kids perform better than their schooled peers during freshmen year. (They need much less hand holding for one.)
Now we have decades of homeschooling and data points…there are also some test score comparisons out there and I’ve never seen one that didn’t show homeschoolers performing better. Don’t have links saved or anything, but I’m willing to bet a google search (or maybe duck duck go) will give you some good hits.”

Conclusion…For Now

RU needs a greater level of public awareness, understanding, acceptance. It needs to become more firmly established as a viable approach to human development.

For the general public to buy in, the RU community needs a stronger identity, a cohesive presence that is a whole lot more than random individuals doing whatever. The community needs a narrative, and the ideal would be for an outsider to be involved in building the compelling case and serving as one of the messengers.

I’ve more than dabbled within the establishment in both education and the private sector but have no expert credentials, no real feathers in my cap. Just a regular guy who has seen the light. That’s part of my personal narrative because I have to answer the question “why should what I think, what I’ve studied, and my conclusions matter to the rest of the general population?” As an education / private sector hybrid my views are big picture, inclusive. As a non-practitioner, my perspective will hopefully be seen as objective and impartial, rather than that of an insider making a sales pitch.

I’m also someone who believes, not because I have a vested interest but because it makes sense, we need it badly, and it’s the right thing to do. Stay tuned for Making the Case for Radical Unschooling: Factoids and Anecdotals



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