Friday, January 27, 2006

More on Homeschooling

I’ve met some fundamentalist homeschoolers and… well, I didn’t notice that their kids were particularly screwed up, other than that they were extremely well behaved. (I myself tend to consider that a problem; thousands wouldn’t.) On the other hand, the sort of people who might really screw up their kids tend to be untrusting of documentary crews, so I haven’t personally encountered many bad results from homeschooling, though I'm sure they're out there.

Zuska notes that:
…kids are dependent on their parents' good will for so many things, and that is FINE with the state…
Which is true. But. (As I am fond of saying.)

If the parents screw up badly enough on some of those things for which their kids depend on them, then the state reserves the right to intervene. If you don’t feed your kids, if you don’t clothe your kids, if you don’t… extreme examples, admittedly; nevertheless they do occur, and that is NOT all right with the state. (Where does education fit in here? Well, certainly "harm" in this case is a particularly nebulous concept, and I would hate to have it defined in terms that, say, a state board of education would propose. Let's just say that parents can fairly easily do their children a huge disservice, and leave it at that.)

I guess, instead of framing it in terms of “goodwill,” my question should have been something more like this: why would we, as a society, assume that parents have the ability, resources, foresight… to provide their kids with a meaningful education? After all, history shows us that lots of people will just put their kids to work, in the fields or the factories. (Not that there are many of those jobs left...) Some people will just let their kids play for years on end – and while that may be educationally defensible, especially considering the rather dismal prospects offered by some public schools, is it really a good idea? (I’ll say, based on my own observation: for some kids it may actually be the best choice; for others, more or less disastrous.)

Please note I’m not arguing against parents making educational decisions for their kids. Far from it. I agree wholeheartedly with Zuska that parents' involvement is critical to their kids’ education. I’m arguing against the argument against public schools – in other words, do we really want to make parental competence the sine qua non of their children’s education?

Or, in still other words, aren’t the public schools necessary as at least a safety net?


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