Thursday, January 13, 2011
Kimberly Rae and her mom were having one of those conversations about Conan and his future that involves a lot of things that are really impossible to know until we're there.
It's not a bad thing. Kim and I have those conversations a lot. It helps us to understand that we're on the same page about our parenting ideas, which is healthy.
They came to Homeschooling, which Kim and I are seriously considering and her mom opposes. Her mom apparently made some comment about the importance of teachers and their qualifications.
I do not have fond memories of my experiences with teachers overall, so I cattily scrawled "I will not accept any anti-home schooling argument that involves teachers being so qualified or the system being effective. That will be about the same as arguing I should feed only at McDonalds because the food is so healthy and the environment is so rich." on FaceBook.
So, suffice it to say, I got a number of responses. My brother Nathan, Greg Ferrara, Marty Langford and Rick Weber, of We Wrote the Book on Connectors, came down solidly and thoughtfully in favor of traditional schooling.
They offered a lot of nice personal stories of their experiences and those of their families with school and its benefits. They were reasonably careful to stay away from arguments about teachers and "the system" as their main point, and to stick to "socialization".
So, I don't want to disrespect the experiences, their sincerity or their meaning within their lives. I really don't, but to be blunt for a moment, "Who says?"
Not to deny the truth and personal meanings to their experiences.
I should not that I make no bones that my own personal experience was the opposite.
My first complaint would surround the way the actual education and discipline was handled. My experiences at the private Seattle Country Day School and the The Evergreen School feel as constricting, personally and intellectually, as the ones I had at the public Olympic View Junior High and Mariner High School.
Literally four of the worst five places I've been on the planet. They could all four burn to the ground and only improve the world... ok, assuming no one was physically hurt in the fires.
But, aside from being a location in which I was placed among other people my own age, I don't have anything positive to say about the "socialization" experience of school.
Admittedly, I am, if nothing else, not a very good example of anything, so I'm not trying to use myself as such.
But aside from anecdotal evidence, what is there?
The problem with it all is that goddamn near everyone went to school.
What do Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler have in common?
What do Gandhi and Obama have in common with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold?
How about Vincent Bugliosi and Charles Manson?
It strikes me as something we all take for granted as making sense to the extent of being self-evident, but with little holding it up.
I'm not sure it's better than the Frederic Wertham argument that all of the juvenile delinquents he'd met had read comic books or the Women Against Pornography argument that most rapists read dirty magazines at some point.
Yes, the vast majority of well-socialized people in your life went to school.
But perhaps only because the vast majority of people altogether went to school.
The evidence is, at best, anecdotal and, at worst, specious.
I admit it's a subject I'll need to do research on in the next few years. I have no intention of flying blind into this... nor do I have any intention of making the idea of homeschooling as something that should be considered as only one option that won't necessarily be right for Conan's eventual needs as a real individual person.
I think a lot of people, because of their political or religious beliefs or because of their own poor socialization, do homeschool specifically in order to keep their children away from socializing with a diverse group of people, and I think any attempt to do a broad study of homeschooling right now would be hampered by the high percentage of those.
Brian Pitts, husband of my childhood friend Tiffany Pitts, and Rory Isbell, star of Lakeside (her blog, The Ethical Lush is an interesting idea, but as yet undeveloped), both gave accounts of their educations that included homeschooling and offered some pros and cons to either approach, which were very interesting.
Both reinforced my core belief that the worst thing a parent can be is unaware and willing to adapt to their child's individual needs in the best way they're able.