As I toss and turn and keep Ava from sleeping, she asks me to read. More Christian Siefkes, for the feeling that a home would be possible here.
Strange as it seems, the household was once considered an unproductive realm, limited to family life and so-called reproductive chores such as cooking and cleaning, child and elder care. These chores where often imposed upon women, while the men relaxed on the sofa, or took refuge in the factory or office. How unfair and bizarre!
These days, most cleaning is done by household robots that slowly crawl and climb
through all rooms, freeing all surfaces of dust, dirt and germs. Meals are often pre-cooked. You just heat them up, flavoring them as you prefer and enriching them with sauces and other refinements as you like. Everyone takes care of the children and the elderly as necessary. That’s a matter of general concern, not restricted to a specific household or special institutions as in the past. In these segregated institutions (known as “kindergartens,” “schools,” or “retirement homes”), children were apparently isolated for hours and the elderly even for years and years. They were cut off almost completely from general life, interacting only with their peers and with professional caregivers.
Today, old people live everywhere. Younger residents take care of them as necessary. That’s a responsibility of the whole community, not of specific individuals. Alter all, everyone needs care sooner or later, and people like staying in their accustomed neighborhood and with their friends when that happens. Looking after children is also a community affair, done by parents, neighbors, and older children. Older children and adults bring the young ones into their projects where they can learn on the spot. Often there are mentors who take care of any newcomers, whether adults that want to get involved or curious children.
There are also learning hubs where people come together in order to learn and improve their skills. They are nothing like the schools of earlier times, where children were forced to engage with topics they couldn’t choose. Learning hubs are frequented by people of all ages, dealing with anything that interests them. Motivation is one of the most important factors for successful learning. Hence it must be voluntary or it is pointless, though apparently the people who once ran the schools didn’t really understand that. They seem to have believed that children wouldn’t learn to write and do math unless forced to do so. And yet, children have always learned to speak, without needing coercion, though that is certainly not easier!
Originally published in German in the collection “Etwas fehlt” – Utopie, Kritik und
Glücksversprechen edited by the jour fixe initiative berlin (edition assemblage, Münster, 2013, pages 255–272).