Let me start this off with the disclaimer that we’re not unschoolers. For me, home education is about walking a very fine line between structure and lack of structure, both of which are necessary and have their merits. I think it’s important to impart things to kids that they wouldn’t find on their own as well as being alert to their interests and to the teachable moments that present themselves throughout the day. Both curriculum and chaos in moderation.
But to the parents who guide their kids through life without curricula or much structure, I basically have nothing but respect. I respect the leap of faith it takes to believe your kids will be okay without textbooks or classes. More importantly, I respect their right as parents to decide how to educate their kids. And despite what some people say, I find it impossible to believe that kids in loving homes where they’re allowed friendships and access to media and the world around them aren’t learning. You may not think they’re learning the “right” things, but who are you to say?
And that’s why I’m sick of Juju Chang. And if you homeschool, regardless of what you think of unschooling, I think you should be too. A couple months ago, the ABC reporter gave us this report about unschooling for Good Morning America. Now she’s back with this one for Nightline. It’s not quite the hack job that the first report was, but it’s close enough. In the GMA report, she repeatedly used the word “crazy” to describe unschooling. The editing for the report also cut the kids off literally mid-sentence as they talked about a project with plants to show them whacking each other with foam bats. When interviewing the parents, Chang herself put words in their mouths more than once, rephrasing their words to fit her own agenda.
In the new piece she tries to be slightly more subtle as she interviews well-known radical unschooling advocate Dayna Martin and profiles her family. Presumably the producers of Nightline don’t allow the word “crazy” to be bandied around like the producers of GMA since they have a better educated audience. However, Juju Chang can still edit to show only the moments she deems most negative. Like the earlier report, she points out in an incredulous voice that unschooling is legal. In fact, she adopts an incredulous voice about a lot of things, some of them pretty normal, such as the son sleeping until ten in the morning. When Juju Chang sounds appalled, we’re clearly meant to be as well. Never mind that medical doctors often lament that school schedules aren’t in line with children’s natural sleep patterns. Then there’s the off camera moment when the son apparently paused before getting a multiplication question correct. Yup, he got it right. But when Juju Chang tells us that he “stumbled,” she makes it sound dire instead of pretty standard. I can tell you from having taught schooled 6th graders math that a lot of them take a few seconds to retrieve that information or even (gasp) still count on their fingers.
I think the agenda she’s pushing is pretty clear. This is poorly done advocacy journalism. Juju Chang thinks that how we educate our kids is somehow her business. If she’d like to do some serious, impartial journalism about homeschooling, I invite her to try. I doubt she’s interested. I don’t think she’ll have much success, but she just wants to rile people up to make stronger laws, and that effects all homeschoolers.