So a lot of parents, educator friends, and colleagues of mine are concerned about the educational learning divide that will occur as a result of COVID–particularly among BIPOC, differently abled, LGBTQ, and socio-economically disenfranchised youth. I agree already existing inequities amongst these and other marginalized groups are only going to get worse. But I don’t believe they are going to get worse because of what most see are the risk factors that exist for these groups. They are going to get worse because of the oppressive factors that have always existed and have engineered mispercieved risk factors that really aren’t risks but are outcomes resulting from oppression.
The problem is that we all have been conditioned to believe learning is not intuitive, that it must only take place in a phsyical building with “certified” adults, that kids require these “certified” adults to pre-determine the things they must learn and the standards they must meet by a set time, and that kids cannot be trusted to lead their own learning with us serving as facilitators of that learning rather than teachers dictating their learning. We cannot imagine kids learning in its most natural and organic form because most of us were robbed of that experience ourselves. Many of us were punished, dismissed, ridiculed, or made to feel small when our intuitions to lead our learning took over. We all had those moments. It’s why I easily gave up on a career in photography or the arts. But that shouldn’t be the reason we hold back. That shouldn’t be the reason why so many schools refuse to let go of an old, antiquated, and oppressive system of education that never worked for anyone. THIS is the easiest time to say fuck it all. Let’s burn this shit to the ground and revolutionize education by simply going back to its core roots (Which really isn’t revolutionary. Just ask our ancestors.).
Learning in its most natural form is simple. I don’t mean that it’s not cognitively or even physically challenging. I mean that it doesn’t require more than half the work we put into creating so called “learning experiences” in places reserved for children to experience them in isolation from the real world–in isolation from the things in their life that are most meaningful to them and their extended community. Learning is natural, messy, instinctual, communal, and necessary for human survival. Our human bodies were designed to do this without Ph.Ds or whatever letters the insitutions made up that say you’re suppose to have behind your name to prove you’re “intelligent”. All of this anxiety and desire to uphold the institution of the experiment we call school will only continue to exacerbate already existing oppressive factors. Kids will absolutely continue to “fall behind” because we refuse to burn down imaginary standards that situate them as “behind”. Kids will absolutely not “learn” so long as we continue to define what that learning should be and how it should look. Parents and extended family members will absolutely not be able to support learning at home so long as we believe they aren’t “qualified” or trustworthy and that learning can only happen on certain days and times of the week.
The time is now for educators and parents to say we don’t know exactly what to do, but what we do know is we aren’t going back to normal. I want to see adults take a shot in the dark and do exactly what we should’ve been nurturing within our kids all along. Find and listen to our intuition. Follow it. Build community with each other (educators, parents, kids) to co-create something new and beautiful. Be messy with it. But as you do, be present in the powerful feeling of what it feels like to follow your body. When you can feel that, it is the most liberating experience. And when we all feel true freedom, we can’t ever go back to normal. I know I can’t.
(Psst…check out our new co-learning village in the sky where caregivers and educators receive support and resources related to liberated education and parenting.)
Chemay is a social liberation & equity coach who founded My Reflection Matters, LLC in 2016. She is an unschooling mom of two brilliant, TriniRican boys. She loves traveling, going on adventures and exploring new things with her sons, reading, decorating, yoga, photography, and collecting funky art. (Read more on MRM’s About Page.)