Chapter 14: Practical Application
from the book "RootEd: How Trauma Impacts Learning and Society" by S.R. Zelenz
After thorough examination of the history of education in the United States, the psychological conditioning tactics utilized and the source of these strategies, it is crucial to consider the impact that these efforts have had on our society. We have had well over a century of compulsory education with these particular strategies in place, so it is now that we can state there is sufficient evidence to the outcomes provided by these efforts. The rise in behaviors issues, violence, and decline in academic achievement should be the most obvious visual demonstrations of how we have failed our society and our youth. Now that there is increasing research in epigenetics and neuroscience, there is further evidence that the efforts made have had long-term and generational impact on collective groups of society. The inclusion of psychiatric medication started in the 1990’s and has continued to increase and be utilized with younger and younger children before their brains have developed. Most evident is the lack of adult self-reflection to question their own contribution to the problem. The blame was always placed on the children.
Historic Success Despite Education
There have been numerous examples of adults who succeeded in exemplary fashion despite their educational outcomes and lack of degree completion. This is also often overlooked, and students are never encouraged to explore their world through their own motivations, but rather the prescribed plan provided by the adults in their lives. Students who demonstrate independent interests and what is deemed “defiant” behavior toward forced conforming to classroom norms are often very intelligent. They are frequently denied an appropriate platform from which they can develop their own skills. Others have achieved the highest offices in the nation despite their inferior educational scores. It is clear that education and its testing mechanisms demonstrate little example of a student’s capacity for success in life. Some of this is privilege due to race, sex, or class. Others are more independently focused despite their education and refuse to be deterred from their personal goals. These are often students who weren’t encouraged in any particular area but were often constantly redirected to other things that parents and teachers felt the child should focus on. Many adults have a habit of ignoring their children’s natural instincts and talents and frequently fear that their child will not succeed if they aren’t doing what the other children are doing. Some feel pressure for their children to succeed so that they can be approved of by their community and peers. Again, this is about the adults, not the children.
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Purpose of Education for Life
The most important aspect of what education really means for life is not for the benefit of the children. Education is the primary source of childcare for millions of Americans who need to work outside of the home. Since schools are covered by taxation, families feel that they can benefit from the seemingly free childcare and their children will simultaneously learn something to make them more successful in their future adult lives. This is the extent of the interest that parents have in schools. Some may be into the competitions and eager to prove that their child is the best. This is again about the adult, not about the child. Children are being used for adult needs.
Even further, the education industry in America is the largest employer. There are many different sub-employers varying from school district staff to curriculum publishers, desk creators, school cafeteria supplies, and the agriculture department. In recent decades, this has also begun to include the medical industry, the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries, the prison industry, and the police industry. Manufacture of technology and materials for students to use is an even broader brush of how much the education machine supports the American economy. The children are being used for adult needs.
Danger in Education
The dangers involved in the education system have been increasing at greater and greater rates in recent decades. The increase of police on campus, guns on campus, school shootings, campuses being locked down during school hours, and the increased surveillance on students in their school as well as through technology used for school at home is preparing these children for a life of living in a police state. They will not question its presence since it was normalized to them during their most formative years.
The increased drugging of children is also feeding the increased use of recreational drug use by youth, which not only contributes to damage in their developing brains, but it increases their potential for finding themselves inside of the criminal justice system at some point. Some find themselves targeted for behavior more vehemently than other students due to race or class. The education system has consistently reinforced discrimination despite policies that state otherwise for employees.
What many teachers of the arts and similar subjects that are frequently left out of the standardized testing machine feel is that they are treated as if what they do is entertain the children. Many teachers look at the arts and physical education teachers as welcome distractions to their busy day teaching academics. Some students need physical education and arts education to cope with their individual trauma experiences. Some are gifted and talented in these areas. What numerous research studies have pointed out over the last 30 years is how critical these subjects are to brain development, physical development, motor skills, and brain body connectivity. The arts are especially critical to creating more interconnectivity between brain hemispheres, thus making intellectual capacity more advanced and efficient. Yet these subjects are treated by school districts as disposable fluff topics. School administrators and board members rarely read research studies on these subjects and how they impact brain development and overall physical health development for minds and bodies that are literally developing during their watch every single day. This is negligence.
“That’s real power. When you can eliminate or paralyze identity, make your enemies’ cultures either nonexistent or criminal then you’ve done one better than genocide—you’ve made it so that not only is your enemy gone, she never even existed.” (Mosley, 2018).
One area that numerous researchers have been trying to address is the dismissal of cultural identity in the classroom. Many schools have been tasked with stripping individual cultures of their cultural traditions and identity in order to generate a uniform “American” identity and culture. Although this may have possibly had a theoretical good intention at the inception of this process over one hundred years ago, the results that we see today tell another story. Cultures who are more solidified in holding on to their identity find themselves facing discrimination and racism in America every single day. Even the cultures who have tried to assimilate still find this true. It is clear that the stripping of culture does not remove the deeper need that people have for their own cultural identity. This is a wound that has been pushed for too long and needs full rectification. This includes individual tribal culture identities for all American citizens from every single continent. Of course, there really isn’t “time” for this in the daily curriculum in order to accomplish the limited testing sanctions. The current focus is clearly doing more harm than it is good.
Democracy requires participation from the whole society, not just certain groups. Democracy also requires equal representation of all viewpoints before the whole group votes on the rule of order that should govern the society. This includes consequences being discussed and voted on by all citizens.
This is how democratic schools operate. They are actual democracies. If adults were put above children, then it is not a democracy, it is an authoritarian hierarchy. America is also an authoritarian hierarchy. Manipulation is done to appease people just enough to make them feel like they were heard, but their voices were never included in the decision, nor did they truly have access to the bills in order to vote on them. The bills are also written in such convoluted ways, and they may talk of one major topic, but there are other topics sandwiched in to inadvertently pass additional laws without citizens being aware. They make it appear to be too difficult for regular citizens to participate in and teach the citizens to elect someone they think is smarter who represents their feelings. They are later disappointed when that smarter person listens, but still votes the way they see fit.
It is problematic having votes from those who are ignorant of the whole picture. If we were actually educated, this would never be an issue, but we are not educating our society. The "education" is primarily focused on behavioral conditioning and exposure to things, but no real meaningful purpose is met by the end of the many years spent in school. Job skills are not obtained. The only reason there would need to be a behavioral conditioning program is to teach people how to follow authority. They are not learning democracy.
Another common aspect found in the various types of democratic schools in operation around the world is that they allow the students to choose their interests. There are teachers, schools, and facilities. There is food service and need for transportation. What is not needed is rigid curriculum and testing protocols. Can they do testing? Sure. The students and teachers discuss what they want to learn and teachers with those areas of expertise form classes for them to teach the students this subject or focus area. Whatever the students sign up for, they are required to complete. So, students have full control over their experience, and they also own full responsibility for their learning. If they choose to not take any class, that is allowed as well. They can study independently in the school whatever topic that interests them. They can do this through various methods and for as long as they wish.
Students who first attend democratic schools, after having been in a traditionally structured school environment, do often go through a deschooling phase. They don’t believe that the adults are serious about allowing them to choose their schedule and learning experience. This is similar to the behavior discussed in the communication chapter. Deschooling is really untraumatizing. They are recovering from programmed behavior designed to make them respond in one of the four trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn). Sometimes this can take a little while. The students can spend their time on campus however they wish, but they are not allowed to disturb the learning process of the other students.
The governance of the school includes all students and teachers, so the behavior that falls outside of the voted-on rules will be addressed by the school governance at the next meeting. When a new student experiences this and feels that they have ownership over their entire experience, including their own violation of school rules, they tend to start taking the process more seriously as they have witnessed how it works. I would say that those with deeper trauma history may take longer to adjust.
What these schools foster is social justice. They foster responsibility. They foster accountability. They foster equality and respect for others. There is no hierarchy or competition designed to harm others and put anyone in a position of dominance over another. If we wish to fix our nation so that the entire population knows how to behave in an ethical, socially just, and respectful manner, we have to abolish the current focus of our educational system toward one that actually empowers learning and teaches students how these pieces work together toward a more constructive outcome that all benefit from.
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling that follows a similar path as the democratic school process. Unschooling can vary dramatically from family to family. In this instance, the entire family has to go through the deschooling process and un-traumatize themselves from the norms that they had been conditioned to previously. It also teaches them how to have healthier family relationships that empower the entire family to work in conjunction with each other’s goals and no one person takes full responsibility for everyone else’s needs. Democratic schools have mixed ages, so there are older students helping younger students throughout the day. The same is true in an unschooling family. There is no division of grade in either scenario, so children are able to learn from anyone in the home and anyone in their community as they go about their day. Parents are only tasked to be the guide by the side and to pay attention to the interests of their children so that they can foster the learning process that is occurring. This doesn't mean never-ending field trips or numerous planned activities. Additionally, children can play a significant contributing role in planning activities and any outings taken by the family so that they are also learning planning, navigation, logistics, and considering the needs of the group. Taking ownership of the experience teaches them far more than students who are taken on a forced trip that was pre-determined for them and they are only required to attend, behave, and participate as required.
Unschooling doesn't mean a "power shift" from parents to kids, regarding their learning. The power to learn or not learn is always ultimately in the hands of the learner, no matter what kind of schooling is done. This is such a major mind-shift for those who have no concept of unschooling. Literally every adult I have spoken to outside of the unschoolers I know, immediately assume that it is Lord of the Flies. The concept that there always needs to be one in domination and one in submission. Democracy does not flourish in this power dynamic. Abuse does. This also truncates psychological and professional development. It truncates relationships in marriage. It sets everyone up for failure. Expectations can never be met when placed on both domination and submission. It is unnatural and rife with psychological trauma.
Don't suck the life out of learning.
Life is learning.
Learning is life.
The two are inseparable.
School is not life.
Life is not school.
Unschool and get back to life.
Unschooling means the adult follows the child's lead. If they want to go to Montessori school, they are still unschooling. If they want to go to public school, they are still unschooling. The difference lies in the intention to honor the child’s choice. Now, the child has to participate as they have chosen, so this reinforces making decisions for themselves. Unschooling isn't a free-for-all of irresponsibility. It is honoring the child, providing what they need when they want to focus on something, and ensuring that they understand fully what they pursue.
The only time parents are not "unschooling" is when they are making decisions for the child or allowing others or institutions to make decisions for the child. Truly, the term unschooling is insufficient. It is used as a demonstration of the opposite of school in that it does not use coercive control to induce learning.
Unschooling is so much bigger than choosing to not put children in school and letting them make decisions regarding what they are interested in learning. Unschooling means adults have to change their entire perception of the world. It means they have to change their entire perception of how to behave in relationships. It means they have to change their entire perception of how they perceive work and earning money. It means they have to change their entire perception of nation and place. That may sound extreme, but freedom requires taking ownership of your life. Ownership means responsibility. Undoing the damage of authoritarianism is very hard. It requires significant stamina and unwavering strength to get through it. A peaceful and functioning society is worth it in the end. Contempt is developed and it is in direct correlation to being controlled by outside forces.
Unschooling, as the parent, means healing from childhood wounds. It means discovering identity. It means finding out that normal was actually abuse. It means finding out that everyone deserves freedom, and it empowers people to live in a manner that respects them and others. There is no need to be desperate and there is no need to be tough to survive the abuse of others because boundaries are healthy and strong. There is no constant issue in relationships, success, and survival. It is probably the most empowering thing that a person can choose. Moving in the world is not a struggle, but an exploration.
In order to truly unschool, parents have to learn what actual respect means. They have to learn what not violating others to take care of their own life means. They have to learn that letting others live as they wish without violating themselves is respect. They can do whatever they want as long as they are not violating someone else, including themselves. That is not our current society and all it teaches. Our current society is in a control dynamic.
There are some families who take this learning concept of unschooling, and they apply it to global learning. This involves global travel and exposure to the world rather than only reading about it. Some travel faster than others. Some spend years in one country or place. Worldschooling offers a level of learning that is elusive in any educational setting. Immersion is the best teaching method. This involves higher order thinking that school cannot replicate. It also teaches the family how different cultures view the world and how customs impact the worldview. There will also be common themes found regardless of destination. These are the truths that will remain consistent for students throughout and as such they will be reinforced and remembered. There is no need for testing when the world is your classroom and life is a nonstop new experience.
As far as the need for familiarity or routine, these are things developed within the family that remain the same no matter the location in which they currently reside. This can include family meals, sleeping routines, and time to work and play. Schedules can be maintained no matter where on the globe a family can find themselves. Consistency is found within the family unit and the normal they have created for themselves. Since children are also involved in the planning, they have a voice and a role in the decision making. This includes planning trips and outings taken by the family. No one is taken anywhere against their will. Respect of each individual remains, and family bonding becomes more important.
Alternative to Traditional Schools
If attending a democratic school or utilizing the above-mentioned family derived educational options are not realistic for a family or the community, it is possible for traditional schools to evolve. The communications chapter discussed how to convert a public school into a democratic school through the governance. As far as the learning platform, schools can discuss their options and find solutions that work for everyone. One thing to remember is that to ensure a healthy society results from these efforts, respecting the wishes of children cannot be secondary. In order to teach children their responsibility to their community and to their own autonomous development, they have to be involved.
Success is a result of confidence and healthy boundaries. Most of what inhibits our society has much to do with narcissistic abuse strategies that are normalized in our systems and society at large. The further support provided by neuroscience, epigenetics, and psychology reinforce the need to change our current educational trajectory. The society we currently find ourselves in is a direct result of our educational system. Literally every single person, with rare exception, was formed in that system. How is it manifesting? Is it healthy? Is social justice and equality present? Is discrimination and abuse chronic? Are the needs of an economic machine more important than the safety and survival of our children and future society? What kind of future do we want for our society?
Our current systems have trained everyone to participate in a narcissistic abuse system. Reward and punishment, carrot dangling promises, and harsh sanctions for noncompliance are so common that the motivation most people have is for short-term gains and nothing that ensures they consider the larger picture of what they are participating in or subjecting their families to. Obedience over self-respect is very common. Legal persecution and threat is utilized to reinforce the current strategies within the schools so that teachers do not stray from the behavioral conditioning process. Economic stability and job security take precedence over consideration of what they are actually doing to the children in their care. Their intentions may be pure, but even teachers feel disrespected and abused. Allegiance to the abusive system trumps self-respect and respecting children. The message received by these developing minds is one of subjugation or dominance. There is no capacity to teach equality and social justice in such a structure. It is counter-intuitive, a complete contradiction.
The separation of school from life sets people up to separate navigating the world and communicating with others in a constructive manner. It turns into a free-for-all dominance competition. Rather than serving as each other's teachers and students, we turn into people who feel we have to prove we're right over literally anyone else and then people feel attacked if they are corrected. The way one is corrected is part of the issue. Most people assert their "knowledge" in a form of dominance over the other, thus the crumbling of any constructive debate or mutual navigation of the topic. The largest factor to really pay attention to is that the dominating behavior is reactionary. It is not responsive.
Reaction is a means for manipulation and directing others to lose their self-control. This makes people easier to control. When they are out of control, they are convinced to buy anything. They react the way the manipulator wants them to. They are emotionally volatile. They often lack self-control. This is done intentionally.
In order to have a healthy country, we have to start by communicating like the perfect classroom environment where the teacher speaks from a position of understanding and not speaking condescendingly. The teacher may offer another way to see the situation and offer alternatives for consideration. The challenge with this is that it requires people to be patient with one another. It requires time. When I tried to introduce this to public school teachers through means of introducing democracy for classroom management, their #1 response was, "we don't have time for that." This means they prefer a school year of power battles over a one-time effort to establish healthy boundaries and communication.
We live in a time of unprecedented access to information. There is no reason to continue education as it has been. The only threat to this is if governments should start limiting access to information and controlling what people know. This was previously done through curriculum design and there is no reason why they won’t implement such strategies on our technology and Internet information access. What this really suggests is that we need to learn how to have an actual democracy. This means that we cannot have a hierarchical dominance structure that tells others what they can and cannot have access to. Individual schools and families should be able to make decisions for themselves on what they want access to.
Are there ill-minded individuals who will attempt to prey upon citizens? Currently, yes. This is what we have created. It will take time to eradicate what we have created. We have to start with the children. This requires stamina, determination, and self-control. It also requires self-liberation and deschooling of our adult population so that they can heal their traumas and not perpetuate it on future generations. In order to bring our human species to a more natural state that functions in ecological respect with its natural surroundings while maintaining the progress we have made, we need to stop the trauma.
What we currently have is a society that does not see anyone else. People only see themselves when they communicate with others. What they see is what aligns with who they are. Anything that doesn’t match that is categorized as a potential threat. This is basic narcissistic categorization, and it does not offer higher order thinking capacity. This is a very dangerous society in which to live. Hypervigilance is no longer for rare threats of survival; it is a chronic daily state of being. The cost to the psychological development and impact on the health of the human body has been demonstrated in numerous research studies. We literally destroy our own physical beings in this dynamic.
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