While I may have coined this phrase to specifically apply to the manner in which Radical Unschooling can best enable #neurodivergent little humans to reach their full potential, it is NOT as new an ideal as it would seem.
In fact, my theories go back over 350 years to the legendary work of philosopher, writer, and composer Jean Jacques Rousseau whose works influenced the French revolution and much of social and political reform since the time. His Emile, or Treatise on Education is a classical exploration of the nature of education and learning. It was and in some ways still is a forward thinking exploration of childhood and the very nature of man.
It is also an exceedingly challenging read. I continue to wade through its depths…trudging through layers upon layers of deep thought and remarkable insight. The first challenge that I face is the language. First of all, the original work was not written in English but in French. Even the translations of it were written in the language and style of the 18th century.
Equally with Rousseau as with all historical works is the challenge of placing them within the context of their times. In particular with Rousseau is his sexist, racial, and classist commentaries. He speaks both longingly and disparagingly of the working classes. His description of wet nurses is painful to say the least. Likewise he speaks ill of people of color.
Feminists in particular are likely to dismiss out of hand all of Rousseau’s writings. The final section of Emile is concerned specifically with how women of the time ought to be educated and behave. It is rife with references to the ‘weaker’ nature of the female. Their low morals and less developed minds.
It is all too easy to get caught up in these things. To dismiss the arguments that core to the issue of education simply because we live in a more ‘enlightened’ time. Though to be fair, who knows how history will view our own ‘peccadillos’. Especially this dawning of the 21st century. It could even be argued that the ‘sins’ of our times are more egregious than our forefathers. After all, we have at our disposal much more of the science of human nature.
Having studied philosophers going back to Plato and Socrates, it still troubles me how very much even the most forward thinkers of their times remain firmly entrenched in societal norms such as slavery, prejudice, and misogyny. How can these men who can call into question so many ills of their times only do so for white males of a certain class?
Reading the historical works of such men, it is necessary to at some level ‘forgive’ them their ignorance. To accept that they too are the products of their times and culture. To overlook the most obvious of their failings and delve deeper for the pearls of wisdom hidden among the gunk of that oyster. At times that is not as easy as it seems.
Nonetheless, I have found grains of great wisdom and thought among the detritus of classist, racist, and misogynistic works such as Emile. I go back to an old saying with which I grew up…
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!
So among all that other, I seek things like…
All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education.
This education comes to us from nature, from men, or from things. The inner growth of our organs and faculties is the education of nature, the use we learn to make of this growth is the education of men, what we gain by our experience of our surroundings is the education of things.
Thus we are each taught by three masters. If their teachings conflicts, the scholar is ill-educated and will never be at peace with himself; if their teaching agrees, he goes straight to his goal, he lives at peace with himself, he is well-educated.
Now, put that into context of a #HappilyAutistic little human on his first day of school. The natural growth of her mind in conflict with this education of man. His senses overwhelmed with new surroundings. How is it even possible to live at peace, go to straight to his goals, or be well-educated?
Rousseau’s insight into the human mind…into the #autistic mind…is centuries beyond his time, perhaps even beyond our own…
We are born sensitive and from our birth onwards we are affected in various ways by our environment. As soon as we become conscious of our sensations we tend to seek or shun the things that cause them, at first because they are pleasant or unpleasant, then because they suit us or not, and at last because of judgments formed by means of the idea of happiness and goodness which reason gives us. These tendencies gain strength and permanence with the growth of reason, but hindered by our habits they are more or less warped by our prejudices. Before this change they are what I call Nature within us.
Everything should therefore be brought into harmony with these natural tendencies, and that might well be if our three modes of education merely differed from one another; but what can be done when they conflict, when instead of training man for himself you try to train him for others? Harmony becomes impossible. Forced to combat either nature or society , you must make your choice between the man or the citizen, you cannot train both.
Three centuries before its birth, I have never seen a more eloquent refutal of ABA or cognitive behavioral therapies.
This is the very core, basis, and foundation of this thing which I call RadiCool Unschooling…
He who would preserve the supremacy of natural feelings in social life knows not what he asks. Ever at war with himself, hesitating between his wishes and his duties, he will be neither a man nor a citizen. he will be of no use to himself nor to others. he will be a man of our day, a Frenchman, an Englishman, one of the great middle class.
To be something, to be himself, and always at one with himself, a man must act as he speaks, must know what course he ought to take, and must follow that course with vigor and persistence. When I meet this miracle it will be time enough to decide whether he is a man or a citizen, or how he contrives to be both.
Two conflicting types of educational systems spring from these conflicting aims. One is public and common to many, the other private and domestic.
Thus three and a half centuries ago, Jean Jacques Rousseau more accurately described the ideals of RadiCool Unschooling Your Neurodivergent Little Human than I ever will.