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WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD

Filed at 11:49 pm under by dcobranchi

Diane Patterson pointed me to a post at Crooked Timber about homeschooling. CT seems to be in the parallel edu-blog universe that Joanne Jacobs discovered via the Hubble Space Telescope (just kidding).

Chris at CT takes the position that “[i]n an ideal system no child would be home schooled, but faced with the prospect of unacceptably poor schools it might well be the right thing for a parent to do.” The discussion that follows is reminiscent of Rob Reich’s autonomy paper against homeschooling.

My big problem with all of this education theory is that it has very little to do with education- at least my idea of it. In my mind, education teaches the basics really well and fosters a love of learning, so that the kids, when they are grown, will have the tools to master whatever subject matter interests them (perhaps even education theory). The theorists seem to view the goal of the g-schools to be some sort of antidote for parental indoctrination.

Schools function not just as purveyors of information about maths, physics and geography but also as social environments in which individuals learn to rub along with others and get exposed to a wider range of social influences than they would at home (or perhaps than their parents judge desirable). That’s a good thing, and is a reason to be opposed to home schooling.

Perhaps in that ideal world that Chris yearns for, schools would actually be, first and foremost, purveyors of education (not information). When they get this primary mission accomplished (Hah!) then we can re-visit the need for homeschooling. Right now, in the real world that my kids live in, the schools stink. Joel Klein wrote that the NYC school system fails to provide even a basic education to over half the kids imprisoned there.

Every day I read nightmarish tales about what goes on in the g-schools. I don’t understand why any parent would send their kid there. It’s not a matter of autonomy but of survival.

UPDATE: Brian Micklethwait has a somewhat related post here.

17 Responses to “WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD”


Comment by
Tim Haas
October 25th, 2003
at 12:32 am

I have a few edits:

The real world functions not just as a purveyor of information about maths, physics and geography but also as a social environment in which individuals learn to rub along with others and get exposed to a wider range of social influences than they would in classrooms segregated by age, socioeconomic level, and academic potential (or perhaps than the education industry and the state judge desirable). That’s a good thing, and is a reason to be opposed to government schooling.


Comment by
Tim Haas
October 25th, 2003
at 12:35 am

And “rub along with others”? Is this what’s next on the liberal agenda — normalizing frottage?


Comment by
Andrea
October 25th, 2003
at 12:43 am

I’m sorry I read it. I was in a pretty good mood and then that drivel.


Comment by
Nick Blesch
October 25th, 2003
at 3:31 am

Crooked Timber is an excellent blog. I don’t agree with hardly anything they write – in fact, the posts usually tick me off. However, unlike most uber-liberals (Ted Rall comes to mind), the guys at Crooked Timber have thought long and hard about their positions and make excellent points. They may be excellent points that I disagree with and rebut into the ground – but 99% of the time their stuff isn’t the same old drivel. (Broad generalizations like the one above aren’t standard fare over there; that’s why I link them in my blogroll even though I never agree with them.)

Will at Crescat Sententia ( cresca...ia.org ) often refers to the crew at Crooked Timber as the Anti-Volokhs. Heh.


Comment by
Daryl
October 25th, 2003
at 5:49 am

that’s why I link them in my blogroll even though I never agree with them.

What?! You blogrolled someone you don’t agree with? Why would you want your blog associated with theirs? (raging controversy via Chris).


Comment by
Chris
October 25th, 2003
at 9:24 am

Chris in VA takes the positon that in an ideal system no child would be subjected to a govenment run school. Take that Chris in CT 😉


Comment by
Lawrence Krubner
October 25th, 2003
at 2:22 pm

At no point does Chris Bertram suggest that he believes children are better off in government run schools. He is at pains to remain neutral in the debate. He has tried to represent both sides as he sees them. He says that in some perfect utopia government run schools would be great, but in the real world parents have some very good reasons for wanting to home school.

Some of you seem to have misread his intent.


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
October 25th, 2003
at 2:57 pm

Au contraire. I explicitly quoted the “ideal world” section and even titled my post to highlight the point. There are so many points of disagreement- I’ll pick just a couple here:

1) Chris makes a big deal of the g-schools freeing children from parental indoctrination. The theorists would have you believe that this is the way to autonomy. BS! The g-schools are every bit as doctrinaire as the most religious of parents. Just because the “uber-liberals” happen to agree with the doctrine in the schools makes it ok? No, better than ok. “Ideal” is the word that Chris used.

2) Like it or not, in our society parents do have rights (Chris is in the UK, right? Things may be different there). A famous 1925 SCOTUS decision, Pierce v Society of Sisters, held “The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” I would argue that religious “indoctrination” is among these duties. Other homeschoolers could argue for other “high duties.” The state has no compelling interest to interfere in the education our children receive. You might have heard of the 9th Amendment?

3) Finally, I come back to my original post. A rhetorical question- What is the primary purpose of schooling (or education, if you please)? Is it, as I stated, to learn how to learn? Or is it, as Chris apparently would have it: “Schools function not just as purveyors of information about maths, physics and geography but also as social environments in which individuals learn to rub along with others and get exposed to a wider range of social influences than they would at home (or perhaps than their parents judge desirable).” Chris concedes that the schools may be doing a poor job at “purveying information.” He also concedes that the “socialization” (the dreaded “S”-word) they receive in the g-schools may be undesireable. So, what exactly is the selling points for the g-schools? And, where is this ideal world?


Comment by
Tim Haas
October 25th, 2003
at 3:32 pm

He says: “In an ideal system no child would be home schooled, but faced with the prospect of unacceptably poor schools it might well be the right thing for a parent to do.”

This implies, rather plainly I think, that if one lives somewhere with a “great” school — or even an acceptably poor school, whatever that might be — he believes it’s wrong to homeschool. And he hedges even his conditional approval in extreme situations with “might well”.

Now, I will be charitable and take him at his word in the comments section of Brian Micklethwait’s site that he’s just wrapping his head around the whole issue. But, really, schooling advocates aren’t going to win with the socialization argument — homeschooling takes place effortlessly in the real world that so many educators say they’re laboring mightily to prepare kids for.


Comment by
Anonymous
October 25th, 2003
at 9:13 pm

“Schools function … as social environments in which individuals learn to rub along with others and get exposed to a wider range of social influences than they would at home”

I teach at a high school and I’ve seen too many kids rubbing along with others. My children will not suffer by not being exposed to that “wider range of social influences.”


Comment by
Chris Bertram
October 26th, 2003
at 8:39 am

Since you’re all speculating on what I do or don’t believe ….

First, a bit of context, I was giving a talk to some graduate students about how Rawlsian arguments might be used in debates in education. Note that I wasn’t saying that Rawlsians believe X, but rather exploring ways in which Rawlsian arguments might count for or against specific policies. Someone in the audience asked me about home schooling. I hadn’t given any thought to the issue before (I don’t know any home schoolers and the phenomenon is much less common in the UK than in the US). So I improvised a reply, but made it clear that was what I was doing, and posted to CT on the matter precisely because I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d said and wanted to hear other opinions.

So it is a bit galling to have people respond to me as if I have some fixed, state-knows-best position on education. I don’t.

Certainly I don’t believe that “g-schools” (an expression I hadn’t heard before) are right for everyone (or even, as they presently exist, for anyone!). Rather, I’d like to see a range of choices available for parents and children and that might well include home schooling.

But, yes, I do worry about whether home schooled children would get a significantly rich and diverse experience of other people from families and background unlike their own. And I do worry about religious indoctrination (though parents certainly have the right to bring up their children within a religious tradition). Sure, parents have rights over their children, but those rights are limited both by the child’s own rights and by the interests of the wider community in having functioning, competent citizens in the future.


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
October 26th, 2003
at 9:30 am

Chris,
Thanks for dropping by. I had figured out that your were in the UK (“maths” is a dead giveaway). In some respects, homeschooling in the UK is about 10 years behind the US (in terms of popularity) but it is growing. In the US, we’ve heard all of the theoretical arguments against homeschooling ad nauseum: Socialization (derisively termed the “S” word), autonomy, fairness to those left behind, etc. Truth-be-told, they’re pretty tired. Mostly because those who forward them tend to have some stake in seeing the g-school pseudo-monopoly maintained. (BTW, “g-school” is another term of derision. The schools here are typically referred to as “public” schools. Referring to them as “government” schools highlights the fact that this is a government run monopoly that doesn’t necessarily have the public’s best interests at heart). Your off-the-cuff remarks (and subsequent blog post) didn’t raise any points that we haven’t beaten to death. If you’re interested in reading some interesting posts on autonomy vs homeschooling there was a good discussion on NHEN 1 1/2 years ago. It was collected into two documents (here and here).


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
October 26th, 2003
at 1:01 pm

Slight correction- The Reich threads have moved to here and here.


Comment by
Tim Haas
October 26th, 2003
at 4:31 pm

Chris:

So it is a bit galling to have people respond to me as if I have some fixed, state-knows-best position on education. I don’t.

Well, it’s a bit galling to us when your rhetoric seems to indicate otherwise.

This statement is a case in point:

Sure, parents have rights over their children, but those rights are limited both by the child’s own rights and by the interests of the wider community in having functioning, competent citizens in the future.

You appear to be coming at this from a communitarian standpoint (Etzioni), or at least a solidly left one, and the way you phrase your contrast between parents’ rights and community rights tells the reader that you don’t trust unmonitored parents to produce “functioning, competent citizens”. A desire for state control is implicit in such a view — what other entity would have the reach to enforce community rights?

The irony is that homeschooled kids tend to be *more* involved in community life and *more* competent at earlier ages because they aren’t kept in artificial authoritarian environments like government schools — and my evidence for that is both anecdotal and academic (the latest study on the topic, flawed but not fatally so, just came out the other day: hslda....lt.asp).

As to the rest of your concerns:

But, yes, I do worry about whether home schooled children would get a significantly rich and diverse experience of other people from families and background unlike their own.

That’s the kind of statement that makes homeschoolers roll their eyes. Government schools are organized geographically, and therefore in large measure aggregate people of the same socioeconomic stratum (and often ethnic makeup) — especially if you’re talking about exurban and rural areas. What you’re describing is precisely what happens every day in government schools, but much less with homeschoolers — there is more economic, philosophical, and racial diversity in the 60-child co-op my boys go to once a week than in the high school down the street from me that enrolls 1,000.

Now it’s true that there are parts of the U.S. where there’s a lot less religious diversity, for example, than where I live, but the homeschoolers who live there *are* reflective of their “wider community”.

And I do worry about religious indoctrination (though parents certainly have the right to bring up their children within a religious tradition).

Where do you draw the line between imparting one’s culture and worldview to one’s children and indoctrination? Do you worry equally about secular humanist indoctrination?

I do hope you continue to explore this subject, because if it’s an engaged citizenry that you desire, homeschoolers, ornery though they be, are your best bet.


Comment by
MARISOL PAGAN
November 24th, 2003
at 4:51 pm

I WILL GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE IN JUNE WITH MY BS IN EDUCATION. HOW DO I GET A POSITION TEACHING IN HOMESCHOOLING?


Comment by
MARISOL PAGAN
November 24th, 2003
at 4:51 pm

I WILL GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE IN JUNE WITH MY BS IN EDUCATION. HOW DO I GET A POSITION TEACHING IN HOMESCHOOLING?


Trackback from
Homeschool & Other Education Stuff
November 4th, 2003
at 7:28 am

ETYMOLOGY

While reading this Vin article that Izzy linked to yesterday, I noticed his reference to the “government schools.” The term reminded me of a comment that Chris Bertram had made in this thread.Certainly I don’t believe that “g-schools” (an expression…