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Unschooling, Minimalism and Buddhist Youth

The author attempts to bring forth some of the lesser known concepts followed across the world which depict a way of life different from the usual… This is a work of research

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If you haven’t heard of any or one or more of the terms in the title, it is a testimony that your life practices are predictable, time tested and invariably conform to societal norms. You are ambitious, well schooled, used to treading a defined path…..You draw similarity to people around you because you are easily one among them… But these esoteric terms represent a way of life which is not mundane, conventional, predictable or hackneyed -albeit the road less traveled. Followers of these practices represent a minuscule % of the world we live in.

Let’s read about them one by one

Unschooling

Unschooling refers to not following the process of studying in a school voluntarily instead propagates self paced learning for kids….It shouldn’t be confused with Home Schooling – relatively more familiar term..Home schooling entails a child attaining education at home with a defined curriculum, parents as teachers, examinations and evaluations with an open school board…. The only hiatus is the presence of a formal school in this process… While Unschooling is a conscious attempt to circumvent the schooling process for learning but let the child choose what he/she wants to do, how he/she wants to spend time, what and when they want to learn – no schedule, no text books, no teachers, no exams, no pressure….Interestingly, people following this may not essentially be living in penury or addressing the needs of a child with special abilities but chose an uncharted path for their kids sans any tangible objectives. Proponents of unschooling advocate learning through free and unrestricted playing, interacting with environment, introduction to aspects of life, traveling, personal experiences while the non followers believe unschooled kids lack social behavior and acceptance among peers in the absence of formal education. While this term was coined in 1970 by John Holt, an educationist but has since found marginal media coverage as compared to its variant Homeschooling. Lately, India is witnessing takers of this concept in cities like Ahmedabad, Pune, Udaipur, etc…to the extent one of the unschooled kid found his way to MIT ( after he chose to write exams at an open school board to study further). The community of homeschooling and unschooling parents in India is reported to be 10,000 families strong which may be an iota of Indian populace but undoubtedly represents an unconventional thinking and approach…..Proponents and opponents of the practice have been debating the pros and cons and shall continue to do so till cows come home….. I will leave you with few questions –

Are home-schooled or unschooled kids better at life skills ? 

Can this movement prompt our education system to alter its curriculum to prepare better human beings?

Does it have the potential to appeal to larger population in times to come ? 

Is this an escape from the rate race of perfectionism defined by maniacal quest to obtain a perfect score in every exam ? 

Does it have the ability to alter the workforce of the future ?

Minimalism

Following minimalism refers to deliberate stripping down anything to a bare minimum. Removing excess… What started as a movement in art, visual art post WW II characterized by a either Monotone Symphony ( a 20 minutes sustained chord symphony) or an artist painting monochrome basic geometric abstraction, bereft of an array of colors signified keeping things simple. Soon this movement found its way into literature, architecture and design, film making and slowly into human’s lives. An extrapolation of “deliberate stripping down anything to bare minimum” in our lives means renunciation of material objects which don’t provide any value to us. Owning material possessions more than what we need is opposite of minimalism while DE-cluttering life, workspace or even digital space is a step towards it. In simple words, it means possessing lesser material objects than what you need… Removing duplicity from one’s life… Intentional attempt to live with things one really needs….

What does it help achieve ?

  1. Focus on what is more important
  2. Helps improve relations
  3. Allows more time for self/family
  4. Improves Health
  5. Freedom from wild chase to upgrade
  6. Freedom from guilt
  7. Freedom from anxiety/stress
  8. Live life naturally
  9. Contribute to society

Minimalism is not

  1. Living a monk’s life
  2. Living in abject poverty
  3. Living a boring life
  4. Gender specific
  5. Only for the married
  6. Giving away excess of any object and replacing it with 3 different versions 😊

Following minimalism is a conscious, effort intensive journey which may be starting from extreme materialism on one end of the spectrum…. (see picture below)…. It doesn’t come easily with a constant yearning to acquire the next big car or the new gadget or a pair of designer shoes when one may not necessarily need it…Most of us fall somewhere in between materialist and moderate on the measurement bar….

Where on the Spectrum would you place yourself?

Buddhist Youth

A cult of millennials in China call themselves “Buddhist Youth” – not essentially followers of Buddhism but believe in going with the flow of life…. Not participating in the quintessential rat race for a “big life”, prefer to eat same food every day, not having very strong feelings about everything, generally content with life are the defining traits of this segment of this generation… It is diametrically opposite of what we typically teach our children – go for perfection, aim high, pursue excellence, dream big…..They don’t conform to archetypal fast pace of life albeit find solace in being non competitive.

Primarily active in parts of China, followers of this cult

  • draw satisfaction in just reaching place of work safely and leave it quietly
  • would rather walk down to the waiting cab than explain the directions to the driver
  • would purchase things they like but wouldn’t return things they don’t like

China’s policy of single child has the youth reeling under unrealistic pressure of expectations from parents to pursue excellence and be perfect.

It is believed that they draw comparison with an earlier generation (read their parent’s) who they have witnessed getting consumed in the never-ending whirlpool of being flawless, perfect and chasing worldly dreams. This results in ephemeral joy not allowing the achiever to relish it but begins the chase of the next dream…..

This cult believes in chasing passion rather than targets, enjoys self awareness, is not running fast but cruising at its own pace, living life of their choice and not driven by society around.

What do these 3 phenomena signify?

Is the mankind feeling the fatigue of obsessive pursuit of excellence ?

Are we somewhere getting tired of chasing worldly pleasures ?

To conclude – most of us may not dare tread these paths for the fear of social ridicule or being led astray but undoubtedly make case for some serious pondering 🤔

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