Monday, June 03, 2002

Oddly enough, the latest posting by isntapundit is one I largely agree with. I still think he characterizes schooling (as everything from a cattle drive to a holding tank to the home of machiavellian intrigue by the "educational establishment") is simplistically anti-education but I have absolutely no problem with the idea that there should be alternatives. As I've said earlier, I have no problem with alternative schooling.


(There had to be a "but" there, right?)

isntapundit strikes me as somewhat naive about several basic facts. First, many (if not most) of those who are "attacked" for homeschooling are attacked because of significant flaws in their child's education. Parents have a role to play, but so does the state, and the state's role is to ensure that children have been taught the right things by somebody who knows what they're doing. The latter can be enough of a problem; despite parent's heartfelt beliefs, there's more to being an effective teacher than knowing something and wanting somebody else to know it too. That being said, it's usually the former concept (being taught the right things) that is the problem. Why? Well, in order to answer that, one has to ask why one would want their child to opt out of the mainstream educational system in the first place. There are many different answers, but one stands out big and proud and obvious like a neon sign in a store window:


Scratch the surface of many "private schooling" or "voucher" advocates, and you'll find heaps of "I don't want my kids learning any of that Godless crap" under your fingernails. The theory of evolution is about as close to scientific fact as one can get without it being as bloody obvious as, say, the theory of gravity, but it contradicts a whole bunch of religions, and parents who want to ensure that their children think exactly the same way they do aren't going to allow scientific education to get in the way of religious indoctrination. Teaching children the theory of evolution is part of any basic scientific education, but there are definitely those out there who think that their children shouldn't learn it.(Then again, there are states and schools that think the same thing; they deserve as much scorn as parents do). This doesn't even necessarily have anything to do with evolution, however: kids homeschooled by, say, Scientologists are no doubt going to be thoroughly indoctrinated in how evil psychology is and filled to the brim with all manner of pseudo-scientific nonsense. While it is by no means true that all homeschooling has religion at its core, I think it's pretty logical to assume that religion has a lot to do with those parents who are "attacked legally" for attempting to pull their kids out of state-sponsored schools. Religious education is a part of any childhood, but the state has a legitimate interest in future citizens and that includes education in everything necessary for a well rounded education, whether it contradicts the parent's religious wishes or not.

Second, and this is a related point: yes, calls for increased parental involvement usually are a fundamentalist tactic. The citation of yet another anecdote of parental failure doesn't mean that this sort of thing is widespread, and it's an inevitable part of American politics that any use of the idea of "family values" is coopted to push fundamentalist beliefs whether they actually reflect the real values of families or not. It's a way of casting one's own political beliefs as a motherhood issue.

Finally, yes, high school dropouts are stereotyped. There's a reason for that, and it gets back to the diploma-as-symbol I mentioned earlier. So what if it increases demand for schooling? Unless you're irrationally anti-schooling (and isntapundit just finished saying he wasn't) there's nothing wrong with trying to get people to get their diplomas. If they can't do it through normal high school channels, then there should be other opportunities to get that diploma, but that doesn't mean that we should give up the concept entirely. Like it or not most parents can't educate their children personally, and like it or not the Real World needs those symbols of competence in order to function. Instead of whining about the necessity of those symbols and trying to reinvent a society built on these sorts of symbols, it simply makes more sense to create as many opportunities to earn that diploma as possible.

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