Seems the news media lately is taking a biased approach to unschooling and radical unschooling to rouse the public into a media frenzy for show ratings. Their angle seems to be coming from the desire to cause a sensation, get the public riled. They want a flood of responses, they need an angle to arouse and wow and this seems to be the place they are coming from in their interviews.
In a fairly recent ABC Good Morning America interview, a reporter admitted his biased opinion before they even showed the interview. The reporter, Ju Ju Chang ( who did this Good Morning America one as well as the Nightline one with Dayna Martin) seemed to ask biased questions of concern to focus on what others would deem the negative aspects of unschooling. The questions they asked seemed to be geared as a shock factor such as food choices that would be perfectly acceptable for a public school child but if an unschooler or homeschooler makes the same choice it is not okay. As if a public school child never runs off to school with a doughnut or pop tart in their hand?
Even more recent June 1, 2010 at 11:35pm Nightline aired an interview with Radical Unschooling advocate, Dayna Martin. Again it seemed to come from a biased approach and make it appear to the public how wrong this path is. They focused on a child staying up late and rising late, yet what does it matter when the child sleeps if they have no reason to have to get up early for public school? Every person has a natural clock of when they are tired and when they wake up. Some are naturally night owls; some are naturally early risers, why should this be any different among unschooling children? Bedtime and when to wake are not forced upon the unschooled family; the family follows their own individual body’s time clock.
Ju Ju Chang could really have been coached in tips on what questions to ask for a successful interview. She was asking questions based on what schooling should look like from a public school classroom point of view. She even went as far as to disrespectfully quiz Devon on multiplication and insinuate his intelligence based off a simple multiplication question. Where were the questions asking the children about things they were interested in? I never once heard what Devon was really interested in and questions related to that. Besides, he has his whole life to learn math and does not “have”to learn it right now just because public school kids may know it at his age. How would Ju Ju Chang feel if we quizzed her about a field she has no or little knowledge in at some big publicity party?
Now granted Nightlines interview was not all that bad, they certainly did it in a much less biased angle then Good Morning America portrayed. However it was not nearly an in depth look into the world of unschoolers which in doing so left way too many gaps and questions in place. The items they did seem to focus on was fairly irrelevant as well, I mean come on knowing George Washington was the first president has in no way ever got me a job, it did get me to pass a test in school perhaps, but never aided in job hunting. George Washington is just a part of history, there is so much history in the world why is it so important to learn just certain facts? There is history of the public schools, my automobile has a history, every company has it’s history, there is a whole lot of history never taught in public school.
The funny thing is, the things she brought up about knowing George Washington, basic multiplication and Shakespeare, my unschooled kids DO know these things. My 9 year old loves Romeo and Juliet and understood it, more than I can say for most highschoolers. I was the only one in my English class that understood and loved Shakespeare. She may not know multiplication yet but I trust she will, after all her 12 year old brother understands and knows basic multiplication. In any case I think the questions asked of the kids should have been more to find out the kinds of things the kids were passionate about, not if they knew a rote memorization of math facts.
When children are not learning classroom style, government mandated one size fits all curriculums, you can not therefore ask questions from that angle. You need to think out of the box for an out of box learner coming at it with a whole new angle. That is to bring it out into a more positive understanding to the public viewers. You must do your research ahead of time on the subject you plan on interviewing! Instead they came into the interview with a preconceived notion that unschooling is a bad thing.
They mentioned of course that the children live with no rules and no restrictions, yet they fail to shed light on how our children live with no rules or restrictions. Never once did they mention a modeling of principles or the discussions we hole talking to our children about hygiene, kindness or whatever. Dayna Martin got to mention briefly about when you give a child restrictions, it become a block that the children will simply sneak around. Nightline left the door open for those who do not know what unschooling is about to think it is being a neglectful parent. It also insinuates that unschooled children will grow up not knowing how to handle rules, be productive members of society or even be able to get a job.
This all could not be further from the truth, many unschoolers grow up to get careers, enter college or entrepreneurs and many are wonderful contributors to their communities. I think for once, I would love the media to stop thinking from a sensational angle to arouse a crowd but decide to come from the “truth” angle. Give an really in depth interview by several radical unschoolers of all ages and really try to grasp how and why it works. Ask real questions that really matter and try to do the interview to give understanding to the public. Unschooling has been around in various forms for a long time thanks to John Holt in the 70’s and will continue to grow in popularity. It is not going anywhere so try to do an interview from a more positive side of it. Unschoolers have enough negative criticism to deal with from friends and family who do not understand. They do not need it in the media as well.