By JESSE SCACCIA
I’ll say this for homeschooling parents: I’d want them on my side in a fight.
Or if I’m trying to filibuster a bill in the Senate. Y’all are the Kenyans of blog commentors! There were over 25,000 words of comments yesterday. But I guess if you’re used to talking at your kid all day, you wouldn’t know how to cut yourself short.
(Jokes! It’s Sunday… no stones thrown today.)
The comment that resonated with me the most was made by Jerry. He said, “You may be a gifted teacher, but I have seen more than enough well-educated teachers who were totally lost in a classroom. One thing that every home school parent has, that I have witnessed, is total dedication to the education of their children.”
That’s true. But it is within this pedagogical strength that lies my greatest concern for the homeschooled child. Along with total dedication–in any field, from sports to writing to parenting–comes real risks. And, based on the comments, I’ve identified a few true risks of homeschooling.
1. The “Othering” of Public School Students
I was disheartened at the amount of broad criticism pointed at public schools and public school students. Public schools were described as “Where one can find drugs of various types and classifications, alcohol, hard liquor, tobacco, sexual education, pornography, knives, guns, threats, bullying, teachers harassing and name calling (hmm, would that be you), swearing, racial discrimination, gangs, fights.”
Another homeschooler claimed that “it is the public-schooled kids that don’t know how to behave in social settings.” The learning was described as “what clothing you needed to wear to be popular. I learned who was having a party on the weekend when their parents were away. I also learned math and grammar and stuff like that. I did not learn morality…”
Based on some of these comments, it sounds like public school kids are downright feared.
“I would say that kids in public schools these days are less socially ready and definitely more morally corrupt,” said Caroline.
One former school employee had such low esteem for public school students to say, “When I worked in a public school most of the elementary children I worked with thought the world was their state and had no idea about the world.”
And these were just a small sample.
It’s natural for a strict dedication to a semi-separatist way of life to lead to the “othering” of those in mainstream society, and that’s clearly what’s happening here. This almost sounds like the bitterness of a divorced person, attempting to alienate their child from their former spouse out of fear and insecurity. (Sorry… that was a stone.)
This sort of attitude toward the vast majority of mainstream society worries me if it comes just from a parent. But since this comes from the two major authority figures in a child’s life–both parent and teacher– I’m downright terrified myself. How will the child come to learn any different? How can they learn to trust a society their parent and teacher so clearly mistrusts?
2. Too Much Control From One (Or Highly Limited) Information Sources
Mark S made a really intelligent point when he said, “most students, whether homeschooled or mainstreamed, will not make it to an Ivy League college, and learning environments in either situation become acts of behavior modification and cultural assimilation.
“The real question with regards to socialization, I think that this post posits is whether or not I agree with the type of socialization each situation typically brings. The question becomes one of control, really- who controls it- a system that doesn’t value my beliefs or one that does.”
As Mark S sanely implies, homeschooling is no guarentee of success in life. On the flip side, public schools are no ticket to jail or eternal damnation. You can learn everything or learn nothing in either situation, we all have to agree. Pedagogy being equal (for the sake of argument) that leaves us with what moral and social affect the educational environment has on the child.
The problem with homeschooling is that the parents construct the learning environment. By so doing, they hand choose what elements of society their child is exposed to. If you don’t think this is dangerous, I don’t know what to say to you. A child taught by parents– even a group of parents– is being made privy to a paucity of the viewpoints and perspectives out there. Given that the homeschooler is likely to choose like-minded suplementary teachers (morally, ethically), this leaves the child, basically, in a position of being brainwashed.
And while I sincerely applaud your efforts to take your children to Kung Fu and to introduce them to Jewish friends, all dimensions of real life can only be found among the proletariat in public spaces such as schools. Because the Kung Fu fighting Jew you find to socialize with your child is probably a pretty enlightened one… the real bad ass, hate-not-to-hate Kung Fu fighting Jews are at the public schools.
Which leads me to the third point.
3. It Takes A Myriad of Worldviews To Build A True Educational Environment
As Ryan said, “A moral education and a social education are interrelated and to deny your kids the social education of public schools is denying them a moral education.”
Morality is not something that can be taught from a book or through conversation, as some readers suggested. It is learned by doing, by observing. If a parent is worried about teaching their kids about morality, isn’t someone like me (ignorant, childish, stupid, as you’ve said) perfect for being your child’s teacher? Wouldn’t they learn more from my real life, flesh and blood bad example than they could by an indoor conversation? Even more importantly, we all agree that accepting others with different viewpoints is paramount to being a good, well-rounded person. Well, how can a child learn to accept and appreciate others if they aren’t around them?
(Again, a hand-picked cross-section of society doesn’t count.)
I’ll leave the last argument here to Ryan, who I think really hit the nail on the head.
“Practical education takes sides, perspectives and people. Something incredibly challenging to get in a pedagogical environment with a parent and a child.
“To an earlier point about morality and public schooling, social settings are where the rubber meets the road for morality. It is the test. It’s where thou shall not becomes here’s why I shouldn’t do this because of this set of consequences on this set of people. The formal structure of standardized tests, achievement, college pressures makes it difficult to see this in the short term, but one of the most long tail educational imperatives is given students a framework for handling the complicated decisions you’ll have to make as an adult.”
As always–even to you homeschoolers out there–thank you for being a teacher.