Dana at Principled Discovery looks at a recent set of blogposts presenting the ‘case against homeschooling’ and questioning whether homeschooling parents ‘care too much,’ and she very capably addresses several flaws in the arguments presented.
The socialization question gets brought up again, and she responds with a point our friend Michael Morris has made as well. He says that when this is the most common question we homeschoolers get, it is a tacit admission that the general public recognizes that the public schools do not provide better academics. Dana says,
“Thus I find myself asking yet again: Does anyone find it a tad disconcerting that we all so willingly and unquestioningly accept the state as the primary agent of socialization for the child? “
I’ll leave you to read the rest of her post, and focus here on a point that amused me the most, which was this claim:
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.
According to the blurb on the website the author of these posts, Jesse Scaccia, has taught high school-aged students in Brooklyn, San Diego, and Cape Town, South Africa, where he currenty teaches at a home for young men.
This would perhaps explain why he is unaware of life in the fly-over country, where there are entire public schools where children can go to school from Kindergarten through graduation and never see another face that doesn’t reflect their own ethnic background, where the majority of students are attending the same school their parents attended, sometimes taught by the same teachers, and the teachers, for the most part also grew up in the same town and went to the same schools as well.
Pretty much all the African American children in my town are home-schooled. And when we lived in Nebraska (where we met our dear Shasta so many years ago), I asked Shasta once if he had ever had any classmates who were not white. He said he didn’t think there were any in town. I realized he was right. Meanwhile, my own children had a rich diversity of friends through their father’s work on the military base south of us.
I also find it a rather spectacular example of tunnel vision to call a public school a place where, not only ‘all dimensions of real life can only be found,’ but to suggest with a straight face that ‘all dimensions of real life’ can only be found at places like a government institution which functions in the first place by sorting children on the basis of their birth years, geographical location, and scholastic ability, and excluding those ‘dimensions of real life’ with the wrong birth year or address, and which then sorts and separates those children further with labels like ‘gifted and talented,’ learning disabled, ADD- and even separates them from the ‘proletariat’ with these designations and divisions. I took English classes only with a small select group of students who had, like me, tested ‘out’ of regular English. Nowhere else in my adult life have I seen people draw dividing lines as sharp as those between the jocks, the aggies, the music and drama folks, and the 7th avenue kids (the designation in my school for the potheads because 7th Avenue is where they hung out during their extended and rather hazy lunch hour).
Unlike the public school, ‘all dimensions of real life’ as I understand it would include the very young and the very elderly, both populations completely excluded from public schools. It would include people who are greater than six years older or young than oneself- both populations excluded from public schools. It would include people who live on the other side of line which separates one school district from another. It would include those who are very, very smart- who generally are separated from the others by their gifted status, and those who are very, very slow.
A long time back I blogged about our experience investigating a local school for our Cherub, who has many profound disabilities. In the classroom in which she would have been placed by our local school district she would have been isolated from ‘normal’ children for all except the one hour each week the ‘normal’ children were brought in from their music class to sing ‘with’ the disabled children. The school called that ‘mainstreaming,’ although there was zero interaction between the ‘normal’ kids and the special needs children. In my own high school the special needs children had their own classes as well, and the only interaction they had with the ‘normal’ kids was when two students volunteered to help out in a 45 minute class for elective credits. Since my disabled child would have been so pointedly and firmly excluded from the ‘normal’ children (she would have been on a different bus as well), I find it a little jarring to have that exclusive, insular, narrow world of public school described as one of the only places where “all dimensions of real life can only be found among the proletariat.”
There may be excellent reasons for some families to choose public schools. I know and count as friends many people who have had wonderful and excellent experiences in their public school experiences, but any government institution which sorts, separates, categorizes and excludes children on the basis of their birthdates, home address, and academic abilities simply isn’t a place where ‘all dimensions of real life’ are found.
Postscript- in reading the comments, I see he has made this comment, which explains, I guess, the sort of ‘all dimensions’ he means:
“See, you say that public school teachers can be “unintelligent, small-minded, racist, sexist, and even sadistic.” You act like that’s a bad thing. I think our kids need to be exposed to all types while they’re young and have parents there to help them learn positive communication skills and empathy for even the worst of us.”
I am sickened that a professional with access to defenseless children believes it is a beneficial thing for little children to be placed under the authority and control and influence of racist, sexist, sadistic adults for hours every single day.
Educator John Holt wrote in Escape From Childhood that:
“Schools seem to me among the most anti-democratic, most authoritarian, most destructive, and most dangerous institutions in modern society. No other institution does more harm or more lasting harm to more people or destroys so much of their curiosity, trust, dignity, and sense of identity and worth.”
He also wrote of those who object to unschooling:
Their reasons boil down to these: (1) Children are no good; they won’t learn unless we make them. (2) The world is no good; children must be broken to it. (3) I had to put up with it; why shouldn’t they? To people who think this way, I don’t know what to say. Telling them about the real learning of real children only makes them cling to their theories about the badness and stupidity of children more stubbornly and angrily than ever. Why do they do this? Because it gives them a license to act like tyrants and to feel like saints.
That about sums up the ‘it’s good for them to deal with sadists’ argument, I think.