This evening I read the first sentences of an online article speaking of teachers in almost fantastical, iconic-like terms, painting a picture of nurturing, loving caretakers wiping away children’s tears, inspiring the passion of youth and shaping the future. I felt the indignation and frustration of years of working with children ages 3 to 18, whose spirits, bodies and psyches have been mangled by traditional schooling, often at the hands of teachers.
Contrary to the sentimental, somewhat maudlin cultural imagery of school teachers pouring out selfless nurturance, tending to the needs of youth or lighting the passionate fires of inspiration in grinning, alert children, the youth I have worked with and met over the years have painted me a very different picture. And it ain’t no Mary Cassatt. For six plus hours every day traditional teachers indoctrinate, control, coerce, punish and regiment. They deny children their basic physical and emotional needs, hold children hostage against their will, stifle creativity and freedom of movement and force-feed them irrelevant, dull, boring theories and biased “facts” prefabbed by the government. They ooze ubiquitously into children’s home and free time with homework expectations that strangle play, exploration and family time. When children cannot tolerate the terrible, developmentally inappropriate environment of schooling, teachers are often the arm of the school system that coerces parents into believing their children are “disabled” and are thus in need of chemical restraint (aka: “medication”).
To give the obligatory “so-as-not-to-offend” disclaimer, yes, there are gem teachers; those rare one or two per school who help youth survive the institution. I had a few myself and they have the honor of still being discussed with fondness by me to this day. They were gems because they were not like school teachers, they were rebels. It was precisely because they were unschoolish that they were gems. They encouraged laughter, playfulness, fun, unconventional thinking and a little subversion of the system. And they always allowed youth to use the toilet and the water fountain. Aside from these rare gems, however, far too many traditional school teachers perpetrate boredom, regimentation, rigid arbitrary rules, subordination and bodily pain (denial of toilet breaks, food, hydration and movement… and in 20 states, infliction of corporal punishment) on children day in and day out.
Attachment Parents are the learning facilitators and mentors to emulate. They “get” Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs” instinctively. Maslow illustrated with a pyramid the priority of people’s holistic needs. He proclaimed what nature already knew, that human’s basic physical, emotional and safety needs must be met before any higher level functions, such as meaningful learning, can evolve and metabolize. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs” is a basic concept every public school teacher was required to learn in college child development 101, but apparently forgot once they were faced with a roomful of squirmy or apathetic youth to control and “teach”.
Attachment-focused parents are, by nature’s bidding, the people on the planet best equipped for the job of guiding, protecting, inspiring and guiding children for the first 18 years of their lives. The primary priority of attachment-focused parents is their children’s happiness. This is contrary to the primary focus of school teachers, which is to control a large group of youth and force them all to conform to the school’s rules, grades, whims, curriculum and factory value system. Attachment-focused parents who unschool focus on love, connection and their children’s physical, emotional, social and creative needs. They prioritize play and fun and allow their children’s interests to guide the learning and living process. Learning is not separated from living in attachment-focused unschooling families because they understand that learning is about play and passion, not pain and tedium. However, teachers believe children’s basic needs are “privileges” that can be withheld, manipulated, regimented and denied. They view play as a waste of “educational” time and seem indifferent about tethering youth to “homework” after an exhausting six hour school day. What loving attachment parent would deny children use of the toilet, food and water? What loving attachment parent would want their children to be miserable, exhausted, bored and held hostage for the best hours of the day?
Nature’s intent is for children’s true teachers to be their families, friends and communities, the way unschooling, attachment-focused families live daily. The parent-child attachment and bond should be celebrated and held sacred, as it was for millennia, in the way our culture now sanctifies schooling and school teachers. It is only when children are free, when they share a deep connection with their families, when their holistic needs are met, when they follow their own innate passions and interests that there is true joy, inspiration, learning and innovation. Children learn, develop and grow best when they are embraced by the loving nurturing of their families, the playful fun of friends and the enriching opportunities of their communities. The future of the world is deeply shaped in a compassionate, peaceful and profoundly creative manner at the hands of youth raised in this freeing, joyful embrace.