01 December 2010

Lucy! I'm home!(schooled)

This post was originally going to be about the problems posed by schools that either cannot or refuse to adapt to changing technology. I feel that this is a genuine problem, and one I can speak at great length about (I currently can't get into the building I work in since my "key card" has simply stopped working, and I'm not allowed to have an actual key to the building).

But recently I've decided there's a bigger threat to education. English bears.

English bears? No, that's not me, that's Stephen.

My rant? Homeschooling.

Homeschoolers are parents who "opt out" of sending their children to school, instead opting to teach them at home. They often buy special curriculum, and if they meet very basic requirements, then their children don't get dragged to truancy courts. I honestly don't know all of the specifics, but I'm sure there are laws which allow these parents to do this legally. 

I suppose I don't dislike a parent's choice to raise their children as they see fit. If you don't trust the public schools, or schools in general, you should have the right to educate them at home. 

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

You see, as I've pointed out in this space many times before, schools teach much more than just academic subjects. Schools teach social skills. Homeschoolers will often point out that they get together with other homeschoolers to socialize their children. On a very basic level, this is true. However, it can be safely ventured that a group of people who all object to the same schools are almost certainly from similar ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds. Thus, thought their children socialize, they don't get many opportunities to socialize with people who are different from their own family.

This is one of those things that public schools do really really well. For whatever failings they have, public schools have generally in the last 50 years, done a really nice job of teaching children to co-exist with other children who are different from them. We remember well in this nation the ugliness that happened when those schools were integrated. Much of that ugliness was because parents didn't want their children to go to school with children who were different from them. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Click Here).  

I'm not calling homeschoolers racist. But I do think that they are short-sighted. Whatever "evil" they are avoiding by teaching their children at home is surely lesser than the evil of children who are unable to co-exist with people who are different from them. Please understand that racist and intolerant children exist in public schools, but in most cases, the schools can attempt to modify their behavior to a level which is acceptable in polite society.

But there is a bigger problem that the socialization problem. That problem is the problem of what these students are taught. Many homeschoolers teach at home because they object to the curriculum of their local public school. This is supremely unfortunate. Children are a terrible resource to waste.

I don't care if you fervently believe the Earth is only 6000 years old, or that the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Those beliefs are fine for you to have and to hold. I don't even mind if you want your children to believe those things. I do mind if you won't expose them to other options. If your kid sits through "the Earth is 6000 years old" church with you every Sunday, and sits through Science class, I think you should trust them to make the "right" decision, if you've raised them properly. You shouldn't have to resort to hiding the other options from them if your view is correct.

I'll go further. I think you're hurting the country if you're teaching your children at home, and you're teaching them politicized history. I know that you're out there, and I know that you'll deny it. History is full of room for interpretation, but many homeschoolers will either venerate America, or denigrate America more than they should. Just because you believe something, does not make it a fact. (although I believe that last statement, and it is a fact). For a democracy or republic to function properly, its citizens must share at least a basic common history. The more people teach the fringes, the more damage is done to a building block of our nation's stability.

Again, you can teach your version, but please allow your children exposure to other versions, so that they can be well rounded.

I've got a good rule of thumb. If parents want to homeschool their children, we should allow it, as long as those parents are "highly-qualified" to teach each subject their child must take. I'll even let the government determine what "highly-qualified" means. I won't even require a teaching license. If you have a Bachelor's in each of the subjects that you want to teach your children, I'll let you do so; no matter how crazy you are.

If you don't, let's leave it to the professionals. Because if we don't leave it to the professionals, you end up with this:
And nobody wants that.


  1. excellent segue into a classic photo

  2. What is your take on students that take core classes at home and come to school for electives and extra-curricular activities? Do you feel that gives the child enough of an ability to interact with others?

    I realize this question avoids the other half your argument about non-biased education and experts teaching, but for the purpose of this inquiry, please ignore that.

  3. Evan,

    I think that the half-home half-school is a nice compromise for students that struggle in a normal public high school. I'm not in love love with it, but I think that it works for some kids in those situations.

    However, I would note that this is a classic example of the "me first" attitude that permeates our society as a whole. Those are the people who want the things that they view as "done well" by schools, or which are too expensive, bt they aren't willing to put their kids in those classes that they don't agree with, or they think they can do better at home.

    So, I can live with it, and it's not bad as a compromise, but in the end I feel like its cheating. Does that make sense?

  4. Cato-

    That does make a lot of sense, thanks!