Bad Arguments Against Public Schooling

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Nowheresville, USA has a nice post about some bad arguments for not sending your kids to public schools, followed up by an equally good second post.

There's also a third post, but his skill in responding to the arguments against public schooling doesn't manifest itself in his arguments against homeschooling, which seem to me about as bad as the arguments he's responding to against public school (note the false empirical claims about what homeschooled kids turn out to be like; see my comment). This is one of those issues where it's just overreaching to claim you have a conclusive argument for or against any of the major positions. I can think of about four or five major views you could take about schooling, and each one of them is false if taken as the only legitimate way or even as the best way for all parents and all kids.

Apparently The Dane is planning at least three or four more posts, so this will be a major series. [Hat tip: Jollyblogger]


I said it over at Jollyblogger but I'll replicate it here.

It seems like the Dane's first argument could be used for Christians hanging out in all kinds of disreputable places. Just because your kid isn't in public school it doesn't follow that they are being kept in a closet either. It seems to me that many Christian parents may consider public schools an especially bad environment for young children. The Dane's comments would seem to track closer with older children. Obviously there are times when we do have to "send your sheep amongst wolves, knowing that the true shepherd will protect them," but scripture also teaches prudence. I'm reminded of 1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Parents have an obligation to vigilant and make prudential decisions for their children. Not just throw them to the wolves and pray that God covers their decision.

Unless they've changed in far more serious ways than the ways I keep hearing people talk endlessly about, I'm having trouble seeing why it should be anything too much worse than what I experienced. I was in a public school from K-5, a private Christian school from 6-8, and a secular private school from 9-12. I've been part of all three of those options, and the public elementary school was perfectly fine in all the ways the Dane says they can be.

Parents hopefully make an active decision, one way or another. Parents have to decide based on the context of their particular environment and their perceptions of their own childrens' personalities and vulnerabilities.

It is interesting to consider the socialization issue that comes up. From what I've observed, I've wondering if gender is an issue at all -- whether boys or girls thrive better in a homeschooling or public schooling environment. I only have the most anecdotal evidence so it would be interesting to see a study of this topic.

Jeremy, just so you're aware, it was my purpose to present the standard arguments against both public and homeschooling - not necessarily "good" arguments. I think there is a kernal of truth in many of the standard arguments against either position, but that they are only arguments against the stereotypical and so, have little value when specific parents are trying to find the best means of educating their particular children's specific needs.

What I ususally hear people saying about my choice to homeschool my children is that it is about environment. That's not really it. It is about education, one on one instruction, being a family, and loving my kids and life. I'm not sorry for educating my children by homeschooling them. I think the parameters of the debate assume system versus system. One sense you can't escape that but I don't feel it is a primary debate. Whether you homeschool, pay for a private school or accept the public school education which by the way you paid for, parental involvement in you child's education is very important. Support, encouragement, and inspiration are the keys here.

The violence has gotten pretty crazy in certain Elementary schools though. I'm speaking of NYC Inner City, not the country in general. And proximity to a Junior High School has also elevated violence from Junior Highers to Elementary Schoolers. Ridiculous.

As a homeschooling mother of some 13 years and one who has held leadership positions within the local chapter of our support group, I have met hundreds of homeschoolers and know personally a fair number of graduates. I have also homeschooled in a very small town, a small city and a larger city.

In general I think the writer at Nowheresville simply has not had extensive enough experience with homeschoolers. He is making a number of assumptions which I have not found valid either in the research or in my personal experience.

I don't think most homeschoolers are just trying to keep their kids away from the bad influences which may occur in an institutional setting. Far more homeschoolers have adopted a different paradigm of education altogether and it is far more about lifestyle of learning than about the fact that we don't want our kids taught evolution in school.

While a few of of the home-schooling children I have known have grown into well-adjusted members of the community, the majority are still hampered by or struggling against inadequacies that were magnified by their particular education.

I was fairly dumbfounded by this statement. This would not be the general impression homeschoolers have had on the country at large. His observations seem to be me to be based on too small a sample to be valid. Academic research actually has been done, which is a good place to start.... and leave off the anecdotal stuff.

I am not going to say that there are not weaknesses inherent in homeschooling. I just find some of his observations to be out of touch.

As the movement has grown, I have seen a flattening out of what was once the stereotypical view. Not so many are acing the SAT. Not so many are just from the ultra conservative Christian crowd. Not so many are just plain and simple "nerds." There seem to be homeschoolers from all walks of life these days.

And for the record... I was adamantly opposed to homeschooling until my oldest child turned three. My research and prayer convinced me that our family would take the homeschooling route. It was all theoretical pros and cons until I had to place my child in an institutional setting.

It appears to me that no matter what the form of education, it's hit or miss as to the quality--even within my county public school system, there are some schools that are really good and some that aren't (there seems to be a correlation between racial makeup and quality, but that's another discussion).

Incidentally, I think that one thing that could be skewing The Dane's impression of the social skills of homeschooled children is that many homeschool kids will do their best not to advertise that they were homeschooled, and the kids who don't advertise are generally the normal and properly adjusted ones. When my little brother was playing hockey, he told the kids on the teams he played on that he went to "**** Private School," because he wanted to be judged based on who he was as a person and not some stereotype of homeschoolers.

Note: In my comment above I attempted a back quote which didn't make it. The quote from Nowheresville, USA is

"While a few of of the home-schooling children I have known have grown into well-adjusted members of the community, the majority are still hampered by or struggling against inadequacies"

That was the statement that surprised me.

Forgive my lack of blogging skills. Sometime when I am not "busy" I will learn the proper protocol.

You had it in triple carrot brackets, which the HTML reads as something to ignore. I've fixed it and made it a block quote.

Thank you Jeremy. I learn something new everyday! That format was popular in old time message boards... better get with the times.

It may very well be that my sample is too small. I know, through pretty good to very close friendship, thirty-one people who have been home-schooled for five or more years of their lives. I know through regular acquaintance another forty-eight of the same qualifications. On the periphery, I am aware of (being that I observe though do not interact with) another hundred or so home-schoolers; these last are children and young adults whose names I may or may not know but with whom I have regular visual contact due to church and the nature of my work in a conservative Christian non-profit organization.

This is, of course, too small a sample to accurately portray the breadth of home-schooling in America (or even in Southern California), but it is a greater sample than the average non-homeschooler has available to gauge. Really, all my evidence, and probably yours as well, must remain anecdotal - a point I have made later in the series.

In any case, I don't think being dumbfounded was probably the right response to the statement from my personal experience. I think a better response would have been, "Wow, I guess people really do either buy into the stereotype given home-schoolers or home-schoolers do sometimes/often live up to the stereotype we've tried so hard to avoid." Lack of empathy for the position asserted by others is a primary reason these issues never seem to be resolved to any degree of satisfaction.

And Kathryn, I'd like to think that was the case - that I was unaware of the homeschooling kids who were actually better socially adjusted - but being that I know most of these kids through their parents (who are always happy(!) to share that they are home-schooling), I don't believe this to be the case.

To: The Dane,

Perhaps I should have said that I was quite surprised by your statement. I didn't mean to lack empathy for your assertion. Your correction of my choice of words is duly noted.

Thank you for your lengthly accounting of your familiarity with homeschoolers. It certainly gives more credence to your observations.

I would like more concrete examples of this majority of homeschoolers you know who are "still hampered by or struggling against inadequacies that were magnified by their particular education."

I have observed over time that people in general seem to observe homeschooled children and young adults through "homeschool colored glasses." What I mean by that is this: If a person generally dislikes the concept of homeschooling, they see faults. If they are in favor of homeschooling, they see strengths. And all kinds of things are attributed to the fact that the child was homeschooled, whether they have anything to do whatsoever with the setting in which the child was educated.

I think it might benefit this discussion if you could share situations you have seen and also discuss exactly how you attribute such maladjustment to homeschooling specifically. For example, if you meet a homeschooled student who scores at the 45th percentile on the SAT and clearly lacked motivation in study habits, do you automatically assume this would NOT have been the case if the student was in a more traditional institutional setting? Another example... you see a student who is particularly shy and awkward. Do you automatically assume this would not have been the case if they had attended school outside the home?

Please, The Dane... I am not trying to be antogonistic, but genuinely interested in what your observations have been and how they might improve my understanding of these issues.

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