From when we are born and as we grow we make sense of ourselves and the world around us through what we observe and what we experience in relationship to it. We build an understanding, a way to make sense of and navigate the world, and we use that understanding to discern and make judgements about what is safe and what is unsafe to do or be, to make judgements about what we see and things that happen around and to us, and to help us make decisions about how to go about living our lives and meeting our needs.

Essentially, as we grow we construct a lens through which we see the world. However, unless disrupted by events, people or experiences that challenge this world view, we experience our outlook not as a particular lens and interpretation, but as the truth: the truth of who and what we are, the truth of what and who other people are, and the truth of what and how the world is. Furthermore, part of our survival needs and instincts (e.g. to feel safe, to feel that we belong, to maintain our own sense of esteem) make us reluctant to be open to or to process challenges to our view, and can prevent us from moving through the change/grief curve to update our perspective to include new or multiple ‘truths’ and complexities, or even reject the ‘truths’ that we originally held in order to make space for new information and understandings.

Growing up in England (and many other places if not the majority of places thanks to colonialism) at this time, and in history up until now, the way that we have been in relationship with, and exposed to the world around us, has resulted in the acceptance, normalisation and internalisation of a patriarchal lens on how to see and be in the world. Even for those who hold beliefs that are in challenge to patriarchal norms and values, it requires conscious intention to address the patriarchal biases we have internalised, which can without us even realising guide our sense of ourselves, others and our reflex behaviour.

We have learnt this lens in the hidden and explicit curriculum of family life, we have learnt it in church, we have learnt it in schools, we have learnt through the relationships we have been in and continue to be in. We have learnt it through stories, and through the normalised actions of others that we go on to imitate.

This lens, left unchecked, is used to solve problems, to make decisions, and to design the world we live in. The patriarchal lens that we have inherited and internalised has consequences for us all, and the ecosystem that we live within, that persist even as we seek to address them. We can be the barrier to solving, and the perpetuator of the problems we care about, when we are not aware of the lens through which we are living and attempting to change things, and are not actively and consciously seeking to switch out our lens and increase our self-awareness.

We can ‘deschool’ ourselves, and we can meet ourselves, each other and our environment on different terms. We can address each bias as we notice it, and do the work to interrogate it and practice a replacement that is more in alignment with our heart-felt beliefs and values and the sustainable and just world that we want to create.

To do that we must accept the discomfort of change. The discomfort of feeling unsafe at times as our foundations shift. We must accept the need to practice relationship with ourselves and others differently. We must be open to the feelings of grief that come with recognising our inherited lens for what it is and facing letting it go, and being open to the unknown as we open welcome new lenses into our lives. We must be rigorous and we must find strength.

Without new lenses, we are destined to continue in the violent, unsustainable, dishonest and oppressive behaviours, interpretations and ways of being that we have been given by history. We need new lenses to solve our problems, mitigate for unintended consequences, and create the designs necessary for human and environmental rights and justice to be realised, and these lenses come from understanding what patriarchy is, how to deconstruct it, and what remedial dynamic needs to come in it’s place.




Children’s rights: hard to hear.


It’s not often that I talk about my work from a cold start. From that, what I mean, is with someone or in an environment where there is little or no understanding or awareness of the issues.

I made a conscious choice a couple of years ago, for self-care and affective activism, to direct my energy to connecting, building and collaborating with other innovator/early adopter folk, folk who already ‘get it’ and are working on the same problems, with a view to it being the best use of energy to result in actual tangible change. This group still has loads of problems to tackle, overcome, and strength to build, before things can change on a wider scale, and I still ascribe this strategy and encourage other activists in the area of children’s rights in the home and education to do the same.

However, this week I happened in to a cold start conversation, when I was at a soft play with my son and his friend. Someone that works there, a place we’ve visited on and off for about 7 years, asked me “what it is that I do” over a coffee order. And it was a really interesting experience to follow that conversation out.

It is, almost impossible, to broach the subject of children’s rights and schooling/family life, without in someway triggering the person that you are talking with. Some people respond differently depending on their current life circumstances and personal history, and the person I was speaking to this time was a parent to three children, all of whom were either currently in school or at university.

Sharing that I work on the issue of children’s rights in school, prompted the question: “is the idea then that children’s rights aren’t respected in school”. My work is problematic for a person who is sending, or has sent, their child into a school environment every day. Talking about children’s rights in the home, with the same implication that there is a problem there too, isn’t a lens that is comfortable for most parents, or anyone really seeing as we all have our own experience of the parent child relationship. The conversation soon shifts from one that was curious about the ‘work’, to something that is felt on a personal.

While I am very happy to talk about what I do, discuss it conceptually, theoretically and in practice, this becomes almost impossible when the person you are talking to has been triggered, and has hit the start of the grief curve (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). We went from talking about what it is that I do, to a space of denial, justification of school as ‘surely not that bad’, a need for validation. The shift from curiosity to self-protection was tangible, even though it took me a few moments for me to remember and realise what was happening, and adjust myself to the new nature of the conversation and the needs of the person I was talking to.

The conversation a book, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to While People about Race”, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which I had heard about but not read yet. I’ve just started listening to it and highly recommend. From the book:

“The journey towards understanding structural racism still requires people of colour to prioritise white feelings. Even if they can hear you, they’re not really listening. It’s like something happens to the words as they leave our mouths and reach their ears. The words hit a barrier of denial and they don’t get any further.”
― Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

The underlying and constant concern and motivation of my work is addressing the systematic and interpersonal violation and disregard of children’s personhood and rights – a critical element of intersectional feminism, and essential for deconstructing patriarchy and enacting social and environmental change. For many reasons, it isn’t always easy to hear.

Don’t hide from, deny or fear your ignorance, it’s your greatest invitation for accelerating growth and smartness.

psychology-2422442_960_720[1]It’s been a while since I’ve written here,  I’ve been directing my energy to the Cabin (a new paradigm model for education based on principles of self-direction, consent, children’s rights and ed positivity), as well as the role of being a Trustee for a progressive education charity.

But here I am, back putting words to the page to share.

The last two years have seen a continuation with my self-experimentation around the principles that I believe are crucial to moving us out of the old, patriarchal, colonial, paradigm and into the new way. It’s a practice that I engage with every day, integrating this new way of being into my life across all areas. It has and continues to be a transformative process with results that deepen and strengthen my commitment to this work. The principles that I work with are keys to a transformation in body, mind, heart and spirit –  a speeded up process to manifest the world that we want and need, first within ourselves to then be able to share and build around us and in relationship with others that ‘get it’ and see the problem.

An absolutely critical part of this process of integration is engaging with our own ignorance. Patriarchy/schooling teaches us that admitting ignorance is unsafe, shameful, something to be denied and hidden. It teaches us that ignorance renders us as nothing. This lesson is essential to the internalisation and acceptance of patriarchy. Centering a persons power, worth and authority on a perception of them – and a perpetuating by them – as all knowing, is literally what justifies and underpins concepts of the legitimacy of the patriarch – the God, King, Father – the absolute and all knowing beings, entitled to rule over others, regardless of what they actually do or don’t know and understand. It is the illusion, the image of being all knowing, and the rejection/denial of ignorance, that is the problem.

Lets just consider for a second here how this issue has been weaponised in history and today. Justification for the oppression, subordination and undermining of women has often been based on an accusation of their ignorance, lack of ‘education’, and even ‘smaller sized brains’. Children are also diminished and undermined because of their perceived ignorance/lack of knowledge. Black people have been represented as stupid and intellectually inferior to justify racism under patriarchy. It’s no wonder that there is fear attached to playing with, accepting, admitting and engaging with our own ignorance when it arises.

The infuriating, yet, I have come to accept, typical thing when we look at what is unsafe in patriarchal paradigm, is that demonising admissions of ignorance is precisely what perpetuates and upholds patriarchy. It leaves us in a state of unknowns, because we can’t admit that we need to ask, and it maintains situations where people are in positions of power with their ignorance rather than learning and growing out of ignorance.

The methods of personal transformation and experimenting with self-directed education, have turned the patriarchal norms, values and culture on it’s head in regards to this. In this new way of being, problems – which can include ignorance/not knowing enough about something  – are the gold dust and golden opportunities that you want. They most certainly are not something to be hidden or denied – that would be self-defeating, self-sabotaging, undermining to our own authenticity and integrity, and a misrepresentation and betrayal of self. Noticing and having self-awareness of our own ignorance and gaps of knowledge/information is a gift.

Every single time an ignorance is felt, it is an invitation to get smarter. It is a problem on the table to work with, in order to take forward steps, to grow, understand better, increase our integrity and competency in relation to our work, and to increase our capacity to be useful, creative and constructive in our calling.

Growing in and being socialised in a patriarchal society, as we all have, means we all have many ignorances, blind spots and gaps to dance with. We have beliefs that are limiting and poorly informed. It’s not possible to have avoided, that living in the world and dominant culture that we do. Part of integrating a critical approach asks us to question even the things that we feel we ‘do know’ and to test out the validity of those beliefs, to scan for where their might in fact be ignorance underneath. We can do this by being lovingly rigorous with ourselves. Asking, is this true? How do I know? Do I need to check this out more? Am I sure that I have all the information that I need on this? Endeavouring to go two steps further in examining our beliefs and assumptions, asking for our blind spots so we can explore them.

Rather than being triggered and fearful when it seems like we might not know what we need to know, practice every time to be grateful for this awareness, accept and acknowledge it, and take action to address it. This is self-loving, responsible, and demonstrates integrity and will lead to legitimate authority on an issue or area, increasing the value of our contributions to manifesting the world that we want and need. We need to be engaging in our education and knowledge base this way in order to be informed, strong and  compelling enough to overcome the challenges that we face.

p.s. Self-Direction: it is our own responsibility to engage in, own and take responsibility for this process, there are many ways we can self-educate and work our way through ignorance and blind spots thanks to the time and energy others who know things that we don’t know yet are giving and have given to sharing content on the internet, publications and other places. This can also happen through asking for help in consent-based relationship with others. This is self-direction, the onus is on you to take responsibility and to deal with it, and ask.