The Center for Literate Values ~ Defending the Western tradition of responsible individualism, disciplined freedom, tasteful creativity, common sense, and faith in a supreme moral being.
P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
11.4 (Fall 2011)
courtesy of artrenewal.org
Public-Sector Collapse and Communal Rebirth Through Home-Schooling
Home-schooling was at its inception probably most often practiced for religious reasons. Parents who wanted their children raised within a certain belief system realized that the increasingly secular public schools were undermining their faith. The ambitions of stay-at-home ventures of this order could be somewhat narrow. My own exposure to the home-school crowd has revealed a wider set of aspirations than observing certain unusual holidays or insisting that the Old Testament be taught in science class. Most parents who would cite religion as a major reason for home-schooling are primarily concerned about practical values: about substance abuse, speech habits, basic manners, sexual morality, and the handling of aggression (to name only the items at the top of the list). Naturally, a mother who doesn’t want to see her daughter “knocked up” and snorting cocaine at sixteen while answering every question with a curse and a clenched fist is not necessarily a religious fanatic, and may not be religious by any measure. There is a relationship, nevertheless, between belief in a supreme being and an emphasis on self-restraint in one’s personal conduct and in that of one’s children.
More recently, parents seem to me to have chosen the home-school route for academic reasons. What one might call the “health menace” of public schools—not just the abundance of flu bugs and other airborne contagions (exposure to which is part of healthy maturing, to some degree) but also, and especially, the risk of shootings, rapes, bullying assaults, and so on—is at the back of every parent’s mind in poorer school districts. The wealthier districts actually do better than most better private schools at offering a variety of courses, in-depth exploration of subjects, and maybe even superior teachers. Of course, this is owing entirely to the affluence they enjoy from having access to tax dollars. All the same, many conscientious parents are caught in the middle, being able to afford neither a private school nor having an elite metropolitan public school as an option. Since one or both parents in such cases often have a professional background, there is a certain range of subjects that they can teach very competently at home if they can only make the time. Why watch your child struggle with math when you’re spending an hour every evening explaining problems that the teacher can only make more confusing? Why stand by and see your kid acquire a jaw-dropping wealth of misinformation about history when you could do better during a dinner-table conversation? Anyone who is reading this journal probably has English skills at least the equal of the teacher’s who gets paid to ex out every use of “I” in an essay, deduct ten points for a missing thesis sentence, teach Romeo and Juliet by showing a trashy Hollywood movie, and give scantron-ready tests. As for foreign language, a student would be better off sitting in front of Spanish Sesame Street than learning ten different phrases to use at a birthday party; or, come to think of it, both approaches would end up at about the same place, which is not the comprehension of basic grammar that you and I received In Latin class.
The home-school movement, then, has already reached a point where it could essentially take over the education of our children if the public schools all closed tomorrow. This is good news, because many public schools are going to have to close the day after tomorrow. Government at every level is going bankrupt. The current administration and Congress (most of whose individual members, I promise you, could not tell us in less than thirty seconds how many zeroes are in a trillion) are hell-bent on spending us into oblivion. The point-of-no-return has probably already been passed, if by that is understood the necessity of massive public-sector lay-offs and, eventually, of school shut-downs. The poor will suffer most severely from the consequences. They always do. In this instance, they deserve to—and would that they themselves were the true sufferers and not their innocent children! No American should be having a child every eighteen months throughout adolescence and well into her twenties—not unless she has an extraordinary support system. A sainted grandmother and a monthly welfare check are not this support system. Such “adults” have done nothing to acquire knowledge in their lives that might be passed on to their offspring. They either dropped out of school or coasted through with whatever degree of pitiful semi-literacy was needed to receive a pitiful diploma. They spent their adolescence focused only on their personal amusement; and, having reached legal adulthood, they continue to see that they are amply supplied with minivans, burgers, videos, cell phones, Nike sneakers, diamond “bling”, and anything else that strikes their fancy and can be bought on credit. Their love of their children is perversely expressed sometimes in a generosity in showering the same garbage on the next generation. None of this, needless to say, constitutes an education.
So they must be our society’s greatest worry when the school system shuts its doors. Fortunately, we can probably meet their needs far better than that system. As I say, home-schooling parents have already laid the infra-structure for taking over education within their immediate neighborhoods. If these neighborhoods throw open their doors to admit the children of incapable but honestly concerned parents, then those children will be far better educated than they are now. As for the rest who will run wild through the streets like stray dogs, they are already in the same mode, more or less, as we shower them with tax dollars. If they ever appear in a classroom at all, it is only to reduce the possibility of learning for others even below its disgraceful norm. Teachers and administrators alike are physically intimidated by them. After the collapse, they will be freed of us and we will be freed of them. They will be able to fulfill their destiny, shooting each other or being gunned down by what remains of law enforcement—or else, after years of being caged, the best of them may finally learn how to read, how to think, and how to participate in civilized life. It’s a shame that they have no more kindly avenue to a humane, decent existence; but dysfunctional communities have created the hellish labyrinth around them, and government programs are largely responsible (along with their own parents) for building that labyrinth.
Meanwhile, back at the neighborhood home school, the public sector’s demise has freed parents to discipline their students as they deem appropriate, freeing them from endless paperwork and threat of lawsuit. A kid who shows up among the day’s scholars with a chip on his shoulder will be sent home until he apologizes and agrees to cooperate—not enrolled on some list of repeat offenders whose AWOL mother is called in for a conference after the third or fifth or tenth entry. Buildings will not be inspected by an overpaid bureaucrat to ensure that they have multiple clear exits in case of fire and that wheel chairs can enter their bathrooms. Textbooks will not be approved by a mysterious tiny committee of power-drunk ideologues. Lunches will be prepared by mothers rather than by hard-working but disengaged cooks who are restricted to another dictatorial committee’s menu and the dubious contents of huge canisters. Recess and rest will come as needed, not slotted into a one-size-fits-all schedule. Parent-instructors will proceed through material at the rate necessary to cover it responsibly, not at the pace determined by a looming standardized test and using methods geared to the test’s multiple-choice questionnaire.
In a word, everything about our nation’s education will improve as soon as its massive educational bureaucracy comes crashing down. The collapse of public-sector services—at least in this area of our lives—will be a joyous occasion. It remains to be seen what other areas stand to benefit. All of us worry about insufficient funding for law enforcement; yet even there, not-so-distant history has shown that patrols of citizen-groups can be extremely effective. Our media scream about the excesses of vigilante justice, as if the KKK would immediately spring back to life in such circumstances. In the same way, they are not hesitant to warn that home-educating parents, unless strictly monitored, will teach their children that God will destroy the earth next Christmas, that girls should marry their minister at fourteen, and that a fifty-caliber mounted machine gun can be your best friend in certain parts of town. All of this is absurd, of course. If a parent does not love his or her child, then how can a faceless government employee be expected to supply that love? If a neighbor does not care enough about his neighbor to rush over in assistance as home-invaders are beating the door in, then how can a uniform on the other side of town, tied down by strict regulations and needing to cover miles in pitch dark, be expected to render timely, effective help?
The more I think about our imminent crisis, the more I see of opportunities to restore our communal spirit. Education may well be the key to several other ripple effects. Communal education shared out by neighbors who care about each other, perhaps with some bartering of other services involved as payment, is surely the starting point for the overhaul of American society… and the mechanism is already up and running. ~ Gianna DiRoberti
Ms. DiRoberti (as she prefers to be styled, despite a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature), contributed frequently to this journal in its early years before devoting most of her time to home-education.