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Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Business Book for Unschoolers?


There are several books I know of that describe the essence of unschooling without using the word.  Maybe the authors didn't want to use the word.  Maybe they didn't know the word.  Maybe they didn't know that when they were writing about what they were writing about, they were also writing about unschooling.

I've listed a few of these books in the resource section of 101 Reasons Why I'm An Unschooler.  Frank Smith's Book of Learning and Forgetting.  John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down.  Daniel Quinn's My Ishmael.

Today I'm going to add another title to the list: Seth Godin's Linchpin: Are You Indespensable?

Seth Godin is the author of a whole bunch of not-your-everyday-kind-of business books, and he writes a hugely popular blog. It was through his blog that I ended up getting an early copy of Linchpin to read and write about.

Reader, it's a business book for unschoolers.

Consider this excerpt from an early chapter on the New World of Work:

We've been culturally brainwashed to believe that accepting the hierarchy and lack of responsibility that come with a factory job is the one way, the only way, and the best way.

And this:

I'm sitting next to Zeke on the plane.
Well, I'm sitting but Zeke isn't.  Zeke is two.  He spends the entire flight standing, walking around, poking, smiling, asking, touching, responding, reacting, testing and exploring.
Is it possible that you were like Zeke?
What happened?
Somewhere along the way, we baked it out of you.  And that's a shame, because what Zeke has (and what so many have lost) is exactly what we need.

And this, from a later chapter:

Great schools might work; lousy schools definitely stack the deck against you.  Why is society working so hard to kill our natural-born artists?  When we try to drill and practice someone into subservient obedience we're stamping out the great artist that lives within.

And finally,

"Wait!  Are you saying that I have to stop following instructions and start being an artist?  Someone who dreams up new ideas and makes them real?  Someone who finds new ways to interact, new pathways to deliver emotion, new ways to connect?  Someone who acts like a human, not a cog?  Me?"

Yes.

As I said, Linchpin is a business book.  It's about the world of work, and how that world is changing, and how certain forces within our current economic system are struggling to hold on to the old model -- a factory model -- that was never natural and was never designed to serve its human component.

Similarly, as I and many others have pointed out, conventional, compulsory K-12 schools -- which were established to support this factory system, and became factory systems themselves -- were never natural, and were never designed to serve their human components. Yet certain forces within our current system are struggling to reinforce the compulsory school paradigm even as all rationale for it falls away.  Promoting earlier entry into pre-schools.  Raising the legal age for leaving.  Trying to keep the system relevant by force of law, when it is clearly not relevant by force of nature.

Or business.

I'm beginning to think -- after reading books like Linchpin, as well as books by Daniel Quinn, mentioned above, who also writes about the significance of how we make our living -- that, at least in American culture, where work has always been the main driver for cultural change, the radical altering in how we work -- and how we think about work -- will be the driving force in changing the way we think about education -- and, ultimately, in changing the way we choose to live and learn.

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