The subject of homeschooling (some call worldschooling) came up as I had occasion to discuss homeschooling with a fellow home/world/un/schooler. It occurred to me that many of the issues I face in life come not from a youth spent homeschooling, but from the blinding poverty that chased me throughout my youth and continues to nip at my heals. Some of my siblings attest to the evils of being home educated. Certainly many significant others – either mine or my siblings – have made issue of our family background of being home educated. This education was unfortunately mixed up with being piss poor to the point that it is hard to distinguish what experience tempered and which sapped strength. I remember welfare checks and the “end of the month.” The “end of the month” meant spaghetti with salt and pepper, rice with salt and pepper, or going through the spice rack to see if we could make water into soup. Such as, salt and pepper soup. You can make water into soup with the right spices, but I was often at the edge of malnutrition or rickets or some wasting disease that has yet to allow me to gain a natural weight. Nevertheless, I learned how to read, did not learn to write too well, did not learn much math other than survival math (measuring boards, counting money, trying to see how banks are fucking me over), know science only from reading about it or assisting in the surgery on pets, burying half-rotted animals hit by cars, or Nova – the teevee program on the old PBS before the bells and whistles too over and Cookie Monster had to tell kids not to actually stuff cookies into their fat and sassy little faces least the Henson Estate get sued.
Education and learning were not prevented by this poverty while opportunities to travel, the ability to associate with like-minded individuals, and a host of other creature comforts given to many children with two income generating parents – or at least one stable parent – were out of reach until I could provide them for myself. Knowing how to read and the ability to reason were stronger pillars of faith than any church could offer. However, in the depth of poverty – of weeding a neighbor’s garden for enough money to buy a ham sandwich with my brother – there was also the fall out from reason, which is a fatalism about the evils of the world and the lack of a place in that world that is hard to shake in childhood and only intensified as a teen and culminated into existential Nihilism as a young adult – especially since as a homeschooler I came into contact and conversation with people near the end of their lives as I was in contact with those in their youthful vigor. Homeschooling, then, may lead to too much knowledge – which unlike what schooled people say, knowledge is not always power. Knowing that the world is bullshit at too early an age makes for an attitude that does not foster assertive action and a desire to jump headlong into that bullshit.
Nevertheless, I did manage to travel, sent myself to college and university, and bought properties in and around New York City without financial contributions from one or more of my parents, relatives, or kind strangers with candy. This is not to suggest that I am self-made (here are always some systems in place that lend helping hands, even if they are of small assistance), nor to play the pity card since a great deal many other people had it far worse, but to give a personal context to the ideas I express or the questions that I consider.
The issue that I see, is that I cannot support – I guess I will call it worldschooling – if that is the abstract cause of the very daily troubles that I experienced in the past and continue to grapple with today. Were it worldschooling that had me work in an industrial kitchen for five years when most teens are out playing, fucking, and enjoying life, then I may have to pee on John Holt’s grave. If it is poverty, and an atomization of our nation’s society, then it is a larger issue not tied to one craxy parent’s mission.
While only the Neo Cons can assert as to the things that did not happen because they made them not happen, I am not sure I would be where I am today had I been part of the school system, considering the districts I lived in and the abysmal graduation rate of my age cohort from that institution and that the vast majority of children in poverty do not finish school nor have glowing prospects out in the world (one study claims that they can predict life expectancy just by looking at the last grade of school finished and that joblessness among youth has never been greater). Poverty and growing up in a dis-articulated suburb are perhaps more of the problem here in my life, as I seem to feel they are in the lives of many schooled people too – even if they cannot see how the system is/has/will crush them.
Having been outside of society, I feel that I know first hand how our nation has become lonely due to fracturing socially, economically, according to what band you listen to, whether you are goth or rock-a-billy/trash, went to such-and-such store/mall, have a meta/hyper/hyphenated/fucked up identity, or sundry other ways we have divided society into gated communities of special interest and high consumption. The primary cause of this atomization for many social critics being the car, sprawl, division of ages and stages (think college a gulag for youth, Florida one for the elderly) and the vast barriers to movement for young people (about which I will post in the future) as well as the over-working of our adult population either for survival (two jobs, four incomes don’t even cut it for a family) or status (a teevee in your pants so your junk can watch the weather channel while you’re watching Dallas. I wonder if I would not have been better worldschooling in the age of the internet, but that again is speculation. For the age I grew up in – phones you had to answer, crack ripping apart the city, AIDS just coming out in time to repeal the sexual revolution when I hit puberty, there were fewer options to gather hands with others who were home/self educated or home/world/un schooled. I do see from growing up at a time when the old industrial society was rotting and agriculture was molding away, and my brother and I would find abandoned places and explore them, why I have an affinity for the collapseniks and various “end of” crowd (see links side bar) who react so strongly to the sprawl and hobo-globo economy that has taken place. But, is it my worldschooling background that allows me to understand the world in a different way? Is this a strain of worldschool nihilism, or an understanding that our poverty is indeed that of the spirit and community as much as it is a growing threat of hunger and financial ruin as we run out of energy in not the digital age but the tail end of the industrial age, our most advanced equipment either running on electric from coal or nuclear fuel, both of which power what is by all intents and purposes a very, very large steem kettle.
I wonder if worldschoolers are actually the ones who are ready for the collapse or at least can offer solutions for a down-sizing world (collapse not a substitution for end of the world visions minus that whole god-thingy). My up-bringing is far stranger than most, but having worked in social services and seeing first hand what people do to children, not as bad as a large percentage of children in poverty in this country. It was kind of cool strange. The hardships making me, for good or bad, the character I am today – whether cartoon or out of a Dostoyevsky novel.
I believe that this coming year will give us insight to the coming years and the challenges we will be facing. Whether indeed the doom-n-gloomers are just negitivniks (there I go again with the “nik”) or some signs of The Change. Remember, “sea change” actually does not mean all at once as the stupid yeast people think. Apparently they are alienated from the natural world. Living on the Hudson River, I know “sea change.” It is the tide, and it is gradual. Yet, just when you are not paying attention, the water is up to your neck. Who will “innovate” us out of this problem. Is it the people who rage on bathroom walls and slink about? Or the last of the young urban professionals? I wonder, will the network of worldschoolers produce some solutions that are just now on the fringes of schooled thought?