(Another guest post from my husband)
Actually, I won’t be discussing other stupid myths. The myth about “socialization” is stupid enough. It’s one which has been dealt with so often that I thought it was a dead issue. Yet, critics of homeschooling continue to beat this drum, and as long as they do so, it will require a response.
Critics of homeschooling fall generally into two camps: those who are simply ignorant and easily persuaded by the sophistry and constant drum-beating of anti-homeschoolers, and the anti-homeschoolers themselves. The former group, thankfully, can usually be educated about the facts. The latter, on the other hand, usually have an ideological prejudice (e.g., “it takes a village” collectivism) or a pecuniary or power interest that drives their bias against homeschooling (e.g., public educators, teachers’ unions, or those who trust in big-government power interests). Such anti-homeschoolers will not be convinced by the facts. They will not be convinced by propriety. They are driven by emotion and/or personal prejudice, and no amount of reason will change their mind. What follows will not alter their position.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Homeschoolers, in general, outperform public-schooled students, which is why anti-homeschoolers cannot attack homeschooling on the issue of academics. Hence, they desperately seek something about which to complain. Like most criticisms against homeschooling, the “socialization” myth suffers from a host of false assumptions.
False Assumption #1 – “Homeschooled students don’t get to interact with others.”
While it’s likely that there are children out there that are sheltered from the outside world, such a condition would be the exception, not the rule (so if you were sheltered as a child, please don’t bother to offer anecdotes as if they are representative of the entire homeschool community). The fact is, homeschooled students interact with others on a normal basis.
False Assumption #2 – “It’s the public-school’s job to socialize children.”
What do the critics offer in support of this assumption? Nothing. In fact, such an assumption is likely ground in the abdication (or attempted usurpation) of parental authority and duty, which I covered in a previous post (See “The Village School System“).
False Assumption #3 – “Socializing with others makes one well-socialized.”
There are two ways one might understand what it means to be “socialized”. The first simply has reference to socializing i.e., hobnobbing with others. The second understanding has to do with propriety, i.e., learning to behave in a mature and morally proper way among others. What’s important to note is that there is not an iota of evidence demonstrating that hobnobbing with others leads to mature behavior. Children are taught proper behavior from mature adults, not from hobnobbing with other immature children. Which leads us to…
False Assumption #4 – “The public-school properly socializes children.”
The evidence hardly supports such an assumption. Public-schooled children often act contrary to most every notion of a well-socialized, mature person. They often ditch school, cheat on their schoolwork, engage in narcissistic behavior, are slaves to peer-pressure, join gangs, use drugs, abuse alcohol, are promiscuous, behave disrespectfully toward authority, are cruel toward one another, etc., etc., with no indication that this behavior is any different by the time they graduate (and they often take this behavior with them to college, and even adulthood). What’s worse, the only models they have from which to learn are one another, i.e., it’s a case of the blind leading the blind. These children are away from the only authorities (i.e., their parents) capable of administering proper discipline. Note that I’m not suggesting homeschooled children are perfect, nor am I suggesting that all public-schooled children are little monsters, however, children are less likely to get into trouble if they’re not spending most of their day in an environment that encourages poor behavior. This is not a question about whose child is better than the other. This is a question about which environment is more conducive to producing a mature adult.
False Assumption #5 – “A public-school environment best prepares a child for the real world.”
Is there any one of you out there who works daily in an environment where everyone is the exact same age, and of the same level of experience about the world as yourself? Yeah, I didn’t think so. That’s because the public-school environment is nothing like the real world. Homeschooled children interact with people of all ages and are often out in the real world, learning at their own pace as individuals; while public-schooled children are stuck in a box all day with others their exact own age, secluded from the outside world, and are treated like a monolithic group of robots, expected to learn in the same way and at the same pace.
Other Criticisms – My wife sometimes informs me of blog posts she encounters, written by formerly homeschooled students who complain about having been homeschooled. Some of these children have legitimate complaints, but any such legitimate complaint never actually addresses the principle of homeschooling.
One such legitimate complaint had to do with a student whose parent tried the unschooling method, which failed to prepare the student for college. Unschooling is a method by which a student is essentially left to himself to learn out of curiosity or interests (I’m probably not describing it perfectly, but that’s the gist of it). While some people may have had success with this, I would have to say that no parent ought to assume that a child will learn by such a method. Also, note that this is not a criticism against the principle of homeschooling, but against a particular method of teaching (or lack thereof). One is not logically warranted in criticizing a principle because of a poor method.
Other criticisms I’ve encountered were from children who were abused or poorly raised. Because such children were also homeschooled, they erroneously conflate homeschooling with their parents’ poor parenting methods, blaming their childhood traumas on the principle of homeschooling.
There is also the criticism regarding “awkwardness”. This is a supremely banal criticism, but it’s emotionally persuasive to many who have suffered from awkward situations. Suffice it to say that everyone at one time or another will have awkward situations, none of which are in any way worse than the trials and tribulations one faces in public school (and many awkward experiences do occur in public school). To suggest that homeschooling is bad because one grows up to be the only person in the workplace who failed to “get the joke”, or because one finds it difficult to converse about trivial matters regarding pop-culture is hardly a convincing argument against homeschooling. The fact is, attending public school will in no way inoculate a person from encountering awkward situations in life.
I’ve also known of troubled (or anti-social) children who were pulled out of public school and then were homeschooled in hopes that being home would solve their behavior issues. When homeschooling failed to correct their problems, such children were then held up as examples of how homeschooling does’t work. But note that such children entered homeschooling as troubled students. Their problems were not the product of homeschooling.
Also, there are some who simply resented not having gone to public school, believing that they somehow “missed out”. The response to such persons would be the same as the response to those who resent being raised with a religious upbringing (which you can read in a previous post, “…And They Will Not Depart From It“).
Finally, there are those who hold the view that only those with academic credentials are capable of transmitting knowledge. Given that homeschooled students generally excel academically (usually better than their public-schooled counterparts who receive their education from professional pedagogues) this is a rather toothless criticism.
Conclusion – I already noted that anti-homeschoolers will not conform their position to the facts. Attempting to reason with such persons is futile. However, if you encounter someone who has simply been misled by the “socialization” myth, the former ought to provide you with something to offer them for consideration.