Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see – Neil Postman

Is -school the right suffix?

I am really interested in discourses. I think Foucault (1969) was right, discourses do form the objects of which they speak. That’s why it’s imperitive that people who homeschool and unschool understand the discourse they are positioning themselves within when they use the word school.

  1. School is a preferred or hegemonic discourse. Like other hegemonic discourses, schooling constructs “versions of the world are presented as the natural, common sense representation of the way things are” (Thomas, 2005, p. 64). In terms of schooling, it’s hegemonic in the sense that mostly, people send their children to school so it’s accepted that school is the normal path that children will take. People who choose to send their children to school are positioned differently from those who chose not to.
  2. Thus, not schooling is an alternative discourse. Alternative discourses can be found “in the ambiguities that [characterise] … the preferred discourse” (Thomas, 2004, p. 242). Such alternative discourses define the situation differently and contest preferred discourses (cf. Thomas, 2003; 2004). Choosing home/unschool is an alternative discourse because it contests both the preferred discourse of schooling as well as the importance of schools and their place in our culture.

As a result, I think we need to contest the use of the suffix -school. It reinforces the hegemony of schooling and suggests that school is the “natural” and “common sense” representation of the world in which every kid just goes to school when they’re five (or to pre-school when they’re four or kindergarten when they’re three). It reinforces the paradigm that children need to be forced to learn, rather than the paradigm that children will learn on their own, as most home/unschoolers believe. Holt (1980) argues that children don’t need school to learn what they want to learn, and are able to learn without being taught.

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