Monday, October 31, 2005

Homeschooling Teaches What?

I'm not a parent. I've helped raise two kids while involved with a parent. I've taught loads of kids, and will probably work with kids again. I'm troubled by the growing trend in homeshcooling. A spoiler: You'll be mildly pissed off by what I'm going to say, so be forewarned.

Thousands of children are being homeschooled. Browse the web to hear why parents have chosen to teach their kids at home, and you'll find that most of them have either moral objections to what is being taught (read: their kids are learning that some things like evolution and homosexuality are okay, and they don't want their kids to learn that) or that they fear for their children's safety, either from teachers or from bad influences coming from other kids. Still, other parents argue that their kids are smarter and performing better because they're receiving one-on-one attention, and therefore excelling. And, some parents appreciate the increased time spent with their children, making them more well-adjusted and emotionally healthier.

Opponents of homeschooling have as a primary argument a lack of socialization; children who are homeschooled don't spend extended periods of time with other children. Parents of homeschooled kids say they make a point of creating opportunities for their children to spend time with other children through playdates and organized outings; playdates being the infantile version of the cocktail party. Opponents also argue that no matter how much an intended home-teacher learns, they can't possibly be expert enough to fully teach all subjects to their children.

Here in Brooklyn, New York, a candidate for New York City Council, is a homeschooling parent. Some of the best public schools in Brooklyn are in her neighborhood, but she chose to take her children out of school. According to her definition of the most pressing issue in her district is the creation of parent organizations to share information and making educational choice a priority. But how can you speak for educational choice when your choice is, essentially no choice? You're running on a Republican/Conservative ticket, it's no secret that Conservatives are big proponents of not just homeschooling, but private schools and public funding for private schools, so what choice are you supporting and why should I vote for you? How can I be convinced you'll support public schools when you don't think public schools are good enough for your kids?

I've had a cast on my leg for almost two months now, with no pain, and I'm ready to cut my cast off myself. That doesn't make me an orthopedic surgeon, nor would reading about my procedure, with a medical dictionary next to me, make me qualified to have performed it on myself. And, as much as I enjoy spending time alone, having hours on end with my computer, phone and television to keep me company, probably won't make me a well-rounded person. Homeschooled kids are taught what parents want them to learn, which isn't necessarily what they need to learn, and they're allowed to spend time with kids that parents find acceptable. Before you jump on me, think about this.

Kids who go to school outside of the home spend anywhere from eight to ten hours, depending on the distance from the home, extra-curricular activities, and age, with other kids; kids of different ethnicities, class, abilities, kids who speak languages other than English, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, you get the picture. Schools are, arguably, microcosms of the real world. No matter how many playdates you set up, the fact is that you pick and choose the kids of kids you expose your kids to. That doesn't happen in the real world, unless you're the parents of these kids.

The problem with homeschooling is that it's the new way of avoiding what Brown v. Board of Ed was supposed to have done. Unfortunately, the wording of Brown orders desegregation done "with all deliberate speed;" translated roughly as take your time and think about what the impact would be. In many parts of the South and Midwest, where segregated schools flourished, religious schools popped up to provide a desegregation-free alternative. Unfortunately, with a suffering economy, not all parents can afford to put their kids in these private religious schools, and homeschooling take kids out of undesirably mixed, allegedly unsafe environments.

Listen, stop forcing me to believe you're doing the right thing for your kids. Tell the truth -- you're doing the right thing for you. You're ensuring that your kids never meet real people with real problems, and never learn how to deal with those real problems. I'm not convinced you're teaching your kids the right lesson.


Blogger ronn said...

Great post. I discussed this issue with a co-worker and was pretty shocked by her agreeing with my take on homeschooling (which mirrors your post). She's older, Italian-American and a moderate conservative. She said never in a million years would she allow her grand-children to be homeschooled.

4:10 PM  

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