Education and Schooling #7: Malala’s Perspective

I’ve been reminded this week why the ‘un’ in unschooling is not the same as ‘anti.’

First this challenge from Buffalo Mama, who is unschooling/homeschooling her son after traumatic school experiences:

“Unschooling,” maybe, can be seen as an attempt to open up the pressure valve and let some of that build up out of everything associated with education. I’m not comfortable with the term for reasons that I think led me (and lead a lot of other people) to misunderstand it as *anti*-schooling (and indeed, there is some anti-schooling prejudice in both un- and homeschool circles, as well as among people who send their kids to private school; and I think that all of that has roots in historic racism, but that’s a different topic). When people start making blanket statements about schools as “factories” or how they “oppress children,” it gets my back up. And I continue to not understand how people who care about education enough to actually decide not to just follow the beaten path with regard to their own children’s education can be hostile to free, public schools as a fundamental institution in a modern society.

[My emphasis. Read more at Buffalo Mama]


Then I saw Malala Yousafzai talking about her first day at her new school. Malala is the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen last year for advocating for education for girls. She says in the video that going back to school is the most important day of her life, because she’s going to be learning.

“I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school. I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity,” she said in a statement.

She even says she’s glad to be wearing a uniform, because it makes it official that she gets to go to school. I feel slightly ashamed at having complained about my Girls’ High kilt and woollen stockings (though the tights were itchy, and thirty girls in a classroom in winter, dressed from neck to toe in damp wool was not a great aroma).

Good points all round, and I want to say again that despite how much I’m enjoying my current unschooling research obsession, it’s not the case that I want to abolish schools or think that they’re a bad idea. Universal free education is an absolute necessity, and it’s only because I was a recipient of it that I’m in the lucky, well-educated position of critiquing it now.

Universal primary education is one of the United Nations Millenium Development Goals and one which has prompted considerable progress, even in the poorest nations. There’s no doubt that giving kids access to schooling is one of the surest ways to lift them out of poverty, wherever they are. Having seen this first-hand, it’s why we pay for a young man to go to school in Bangladesh (and you could too, if you want).

So big ups, again, to all you who are involved in providing education to children and young people (particularly if your pay is still being stuffed up by Novopay). You’re changing the world for the better, one kid at a time, and I’m grateful.

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1 comment on “Education and Schooling #7: Malala’s Perspective”

  1. Tracey Reply

    Remember at PNGHS they said we weren’t allowed to wear socks over our stockings, only under, so if you wanted to beat the cold, you looked like you had fat ankles?! And those useless “regulation” jackets, didn’t keep rain or wind out one iota. So much fun to wear standing at a wind and rainswept bus stop, or riding a bike to school…

    Our short experience with NZ public schooling was excellent, Heidi’s teacher went above and beyond to help her catch up with her classmates. She was 5 and an half, but had not attended primary school, because in the States, kids start school according to when the school year starts, not their birthdays. She was reading fluently when we got back the USA, and writing very well, and pretty much cruised for the rest of the year in her kindergarten class (kindy in the USA is preschool, new entrants is kindergarten) when we came back here. Her teacher in NZ was awesome, very dedicated, a great educator, and fun. We were very impressed with the kindergarten Kerstin went to also, and she loved it, I felt sorry for her going back to preschool here, because it was so inherently different. We have the girls in a private school here, because we feel they are getting a better education there than they would in USA public schools, and also because it’s a Christian school, we are Christians, and we want them to have a Christian based education. I have friends here who teach in public schools, and while I know how dedicated they are, their efforts are somewhat hampered by various State and Federal mandates. We wanted out of that, if we didn’t have a private school to send them to, I would homeschool them. I feel that the NZ education system is better than what we have in the USA.

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