Listening to Both Yins and Yangs

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I download a lot of podcasts. Too much. It’s impossible for me to get through them all, but the hoarder in me can’t simply pass by something I have even a glancing interest in.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of podcasts that I listen to almost without fail, week after week, and I’d like to shout out two in particular that I like to listen to back-to-back.

The first is the Exploring Unschooling podcast (http://livingjoyfully.ca/podcast-2/) hosted by Pam Laricchia, a Canadian homeschooling mom. She’s a proponent of “radical unschooling,” which is an approach to parenting and education that emphasizes building trust between parent and child, honoring the instincts and interests of students, and unshackling from the constraints of arbitrary conventions and institutions, including curriculum, schedules, and schools.

There’s a part of me that’s very drawn to this very squishy approach. I like the freedom and flexibility it has, and I also like how it unburdens families from the legalism that frequently oppresses both parenting and childhood these days. It’s both jolting and refreshing to be told to trust your child, stay in the moment, and pursue joy mindfully. It’s resonant with the Reggio Emilia approach where the child is not merely a learner but the subject of intense study and reflection.

You might want to take a listen to her conversation with Meredith Novak, where they tease out what they see as the benefits and distinctions of unschooling learning:

http://livingjoyfully.ca/blog/2016/07/eu029-what-learning-looks-like-with-meredith-novak/

On the other hand, I also like to listen to the Jocko podcast (http://jockopodcast2.com/) hosted by Jocko Willink (with Echo, his producer and sounding board). Jocko is a legend in the military, an ex-Navy SEAL who led a unit in Ramadi in the Iraq War and subsequently shaped the training for West Coast SEAL teams. After his retirement from service he became a business consultant and wrote a book about principles of leadership based on his military experience in Iraq entitled Extreme Ownership.

Jocko is not a squishy guy. His podcast episodes frequently begin with him reading highlighted passages from books on military history and end with him answering questions from his listeners. He frequently emphasizes his philosophy of “extreme ownership” — looking hard at one’s own personal role in the world so that you can narrow your focus to what you can personally change, control, and apply discipline to. It is a philosophy that stresses humility, action, and habit-formation and disdains victimization and coddling.

I find it to be a good physic to the potential antinomianism of unschooling. He reminds me that a quality education requires not only play but effort, learning not only what draws you, compels you, and gives you joy, but also how to get through things that are onerous. It’s good to be reminded that while discipline, organization, and compliance can, yes, be arbitrary, abusive, and oppressive, they can also invaluable as tools for the pursuit of one’s goals.

I recommend listening to his highlights and commentary on The Maneuver Warfare Handbook by William Lind:

35: Maneuver Warfare, Being a Rebel, Disarming w/ Words, Sliding into Old Habits

You can see from this episode that Jocko, too, likes an approach that is flexible, agile, and informed by ever-changing conditions on the ground. It’s an approach that is also based on building trust and questioning assumptions. It may be on the flip side to Pam’s approach, but it’s on the same coin.

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