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Everything is political

April 18, 2006

Everything is political

We’ve finally got a copy of Teach Your Own here and somewhere near the start John Holt recounts how the parents of a student in his class (when he was teaching in schools) were worried that he was enjoying school too much and that this wouldn’t help him as an adult because he would have to do things then that he didn’t enjoy.

I wonder if this is really an act of compassion by parents, or something else in disguise. There are plenty of parents who use this argument to justify directing spiteful behaviour toward their kids but there’s also a terrible sense of hopelessness about it too. The parents have lost so much hope that they can’t imagine that anything else is possible. Mind you, I also think it would be too much for them to bear if their own children proved them wrong by going on to have enjoyable lives and maybe there is a subconcious desire to prevent this from happening. Either way there is a hint of the inter-generational pattern of abuse in the whole thing.

More simply, the parents have learnt that the role of all participants in a hierarchical system is to reinforce the hierarchy. Despite society’s best efforts though, some people get through without properly internalising all the rules. For them school and childhood is just something to be endured and then they can get on with living a genuinely creative life.

My friend Alastair is like this. He came from a relatively normal family in England (and his brother has gone on to follow the usual sensible options) but for some reason Alastair has gone on to create a ‘career’ for himself that revolves around his interest in rock climbing. It’s basically just an excuse to spend as much time as possible on rocks, up mountains and generally mucking around as he sees fit. Of course the whole family/mortgage thing has reigned him in a little bit, but it’s not noticeable when compared to most other normal people.

What is interesting about Alastair is that he is very open minded, you can talk to him about a wide range of potentially controversial topics without ending up in a major disagreement. I think because he’s never had to kill off many of his aspirations or make any ethical compromises there aren’t many topics that bug his sub concious or remind him of the ideals that his younger self once had.

You can see at this site what he does for a ‘career’. The word career is totally innapropriate but I’m not sure if there actually is a word for this type of lifestyle. It’s just as hard to describe what Ran Prieur does. People sometimes use the word vocation but that just describes someone lucky enough to have a career with some elements that are genuinely satisfying. They’re still at the beck and call of the system.

You’ll notice that Alastair’s website is completely non political (it’s a commercial site in fact).

Or is it? There’s an argument that says that in a political world every act is political whether we like it or not. That every time we choose not to confont something or even if we merely follow mainstream modes of behaviour we’re making a vote for the current system. Ran Prieur is overtly political about his lifestyle choice where as Alastair is not. One thing is for sure though, if too many people started living their lives like either of them the elites in our society would start to get very concerned. Both have a healthy disrespect for the norms of our hierarachical culture although it would be fair to comment that Alastair is more likely to get drawn into that culture because he is partialy involved in the economic system.

Surely though, if we want to mess with the system giving our kids hope for their future is really good way to do it.

Incidently Alastair’s website appears on my ‘Not Very Related Sites’ list. It’s also where you can see a video of me mowing chest high noxious weeds, should you so desire.

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One comment

  1. “We’ve finally got a copy of Teach Your Own here and somewhere near the start John Holt recounts how the parents of a student in his class (when he was teaching in schools) were worried that he was enjoying school too much and that this wouldn’t help him as an adult because he would have to do things then that he didn’t enjoy.”

    I agree with this insanity. Yes, adults have to do things that they “don’t enjoy,” but they still have much more choice in the matter. And those things are so much different than what you have to do in school–so why don’t we teach children those things rather than make them do things that symbolize the “perils” of adult life?

    Posted by: Jim | 04/18/2006



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