Out Of The Past 7

Homeschooling

January 6, 2005
10:10 PM CDT

Reader Mike H. sent me this article about homeschooling, and I have to say that it’s remarkably even-handed about the topic, for a newspaper article. (Go ahead and read it first, if you want.)

Let me address a few of its points, one by one. As a general rule, I’m going to say that every single thing we do with our children is done to educate them—and all our differences with what the so-called “educators” say in the article are based on our opposition to what these people and their institutions represent. Here we go.

As the Beacon Journal examined the state of home schooling in America, no issue sparked more debate or stronger emotions than socialization.

A July U.S. Department of Education report on home schoolers found that 31 percent kept their children home out of concern about what children are exposed to in public and private schools.

Another 30 percent said they wanted to control their children’s understanding of religious or
moral ideas.

Only 16 percent named academic instruction as a reason.

The recent study and one in 1999 that had similar findings make it clear that home-schooling parents want to be the primary influence on their children’s moral, ethical and religious views.

They don’t want their children to be socialized by educators or other children in the public- or private-school setting.

Among Christian home schoolers, this idea is often expressed as their “worldview.”

For others, known as unschoolers or inclusives, there is a “me and my children” approach that asserts that no one – or no government – should interfere with their lives. They resent negative outside influences and want to keep their children from being programmed by commercial, materialistic views present in society. They want their children protected from the cliques, bullies and potential violence in schools.

That’s pretty much us, although we would rank “quality of education” much higher on our list of concerns. Now let’s hear from the Educators:

Michael Apple, a University of Wisconsin professor who opposes home schooling, believes most religious families want their children in a protected environment, a phenomenon he calls “cocooning” within their “fortress home.”

Home schools are “the equivalent of gated communities in which their children will not be tempted by sinful ways or ways that go against their religious beliefs,” Apple said.

He said these families have a worldview that they believe represents the truth when it comes to God. They do not recognize, nor do they want their children exposed to, the broader society, where “different truths” may be represented.

“That’s a pretty dangerous position to take, to me. It’s a little disrespectful of large numbers of equally religious people who may believe that God spoke in Islamic terms or spoke to Moses or spoke in multiple Christian voices that are not recognized as being really Christian by many home schoolers,” Apple said. The words “freedom” and “liberty” ring hollow considering the intolerance among home schoolers for other ideas, he said.

“You can’t say at the same time, ‘Let a thousand flowers bloom’ and ‘All voices be heard’ and then say, ‘Yeah, but ours is the only right voice,’ which means that the ultimate goal for my freedom is to deny you the freedom. In a nice way, I will convert you, I will smile and give you the only truth,” Apple said.

It would be difficult for me to compose a piece of satire which would do as well as this professor’s comment.

“Different truths”???? That’s the whole “multi-culti relativism” mindset encapsulated in one single phrase.

Here’s the fact: we discuss all sides about everything. The difference between us and people like Apple is that we’re not shy to call “bullshit” on something like, for example, the stoning of female adulterers, no matter how precious a tenet that may be in another culture.

Let me deal with another of this numbskull’s little canards, that of the “fortress home”.

What nonsense. Humans, as animals, are rightly protective of their young, and guard them carefully. Bears, for example, don’t let their young cubs go near other cubs until they’re ready to go off by themselves, even though most cubs are born at about the same time each year.

Lions don’t behave the same way. Because lion cubs are born at different times of the year (there being no seasonal need to regulate the birth cycle in Africa), you often have the situation where older cubs bully the younger ones—lions, like humans, are predators—and the resultant loss of younger cubs to injury caused by “rough play” is the result.

Well, humans generally don’t have six babies at a time (singles are much more the norm), so we, like bears, are more protective of our young, and what Apple refers to as a “fortress home”, we refer to as the “nest”.

Yes, we hardly ever let our kids out of the nest unsupervised. That’s why they won’t become teenage parents, juvenile delinquents or accident victims. Neither are we interested in “toughening them up” for life, at an age where they don’t yet have the tools to survive the process unharmed.

Basically, whenever I see an educator moaning about how parents keep their children cloistered away from society, the underlying reason for their concern is not that the children are harmed by such activity (homeschooled kids, by and large, are more well-balanced and mature emotionally than the average high school graduate, not to mention better educated).

What the educators are really worried about is the fact that a group of kids is not under their control—and that these kids are showing up their proteges in every field imaginable.

No wonder they’re appalled. The shortcomings of their own system are being rubbed in their noses, constantly. Hence the near-hysteria of the next statement:

A children’s services worker said parents are isolating their children. “I really think it’s emotional abuse when you don’t allow your children to interact with other children, other people,” she said.

Many non-home schoolers share the belief that home-schooled children are too confined to their own worlds and that socialization comes from learning to get along in different settings with people from different backgrounds.

“They don’t want diversity. That is why they home-school,” a focus group member said. “They want (the children) to be with people who have the same value system.”

“Emotional abuse”??? Anyone who has met our kids in person would be rolling on the floor with laughter round about now.

Here’s one of the most basic differences we have with the “socialization set”:

“Lord of the Flies” wasn’t fiction.

Anyone who has ever observed children at unsupervised play (which is pretty much what occurs in the public school system) will see that the so-called socialization is really a brutal yet compulsory interaction: the stronger, more popular and more charismatic kids prey on the weaker ones, usually with the support of acolytes—and without adult support and the proper tools to counter such behavior, school life is utter misery.

Our normal response to the “socialization” statement is: “Yeah, Daughter really misses her public school socialization: the teasing about her weight, her ostracization because she couldn’t do Phys Ed, and her physical abuse at the hands of Megan Kampf. She reallymisses the occasional vomiting at the school bus stop—vomiting caused by fear and the prospect of another day’s loneliness and isolation. And Number 2 Son also misses being called a ‘retard’ by the other boys, and being picked on because he took his time in responding to questions in the classroom.” [#2 Son is mildy autistic, by the way—yeah, he used to ride in the “small bus”.]

Here’s the Big News about how we view the socializing issue:

Kids do better when they learn how to socialize with adults, rather than with other kids.

Son&Heir, who’s a little more of a social butterfly than the other two, is of course active in the Boy Scouts (Eagle next year, we hope)—which is also peer socialization under close adult supervision, lest anyone forget. Daughter (17) will be attending community college this year, taking Japanese and sculpture classes. This in addition to whatever topics she studies at home (cooking, sewing, guitar and, of course, voracious reading of just about everything that’s put in front of her). #2 Son socializes with us, his parents, and with his elder siblings—and if you don’t think sibling interaction can be brutal, you’re an only child.

The difference between family socialization and societal socialization is quite simple. As adults, we have the tools to deal with others: manners, morals and so on (which we teach constantly and remorselessly, by the way) which enable us to interact smoothly with others; and, if all that fails, as adults we can simply distance ourselves physically from unpleasant people: quitting the job, terminating the visit, and so on.

Neither of the above options is available to kids in public schools.

In the first place, manners seem to be nonexistent (and have been replaced with stultifying, unworkable regulations in consequence), and in the second place, kids aren’t allowed to distance themselves from the unpleasant ones—their coexistence is forced, just like it was in “Lord of the Flies”.

One of the things we are always telling the kids is, “You may have the hardware [ie. physical capability], but until you get the software [maturity to handle the responsibility], you’re not going to be allowed to do it.” We apply the concept equally, whether it’s dating, shooting or learning to drive.

The kids appreciate this, by the way—there is no “generation gap” in our house—because we’re completely honest and open about everything. The default answer to most requests, by the way, is “yes”, because that’s the way to create responsibility in a young person. If we say “no”, however, there’s always a reason, and a damn good one.

Let’s go a little further into the thicket:

Rob Reich, a Stanford University professor who maintains that he supports home schooling, believes that many parents wield too much control over their children and don’t want them exposed to contrary ideas.

He contends that children need to learn to participate in a diverse democracy.

“In no other setting are parents as able to direct in all aspects the education of their children, for in home schools they are responsible not only for determining what their children shall learn, but when, how and with whom they shall learn,” Reich said in a published essay, Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling.

Many home-schooling parents see Reich as an opponent because he wants government to play a larger oversight role.

He said that while home-schooling parents insist they must have the freedom to raise their children, they often are intolerant of anyone with different views.

“Children can grow up to become ethically servile to their parents, which is incompatible with them being free persons,” Reich said.

In his speeches and writings, Reich talks about two concepts of society: one in which citizens vote their own interests and the majority rules; and one in which citizens are involved, talk to each other and exchange ideas in the public forum before taking a majority vote.

He believes that home-schooling parents are preventing their children from being part of the public forum, and that the children are being raised in isolation. If they’re not part of that forum, they may not know that other views on life exist.

“I think that is a potentially disabling aspect of home schooling,” Reich said.

The state cannot mandate that children from diverse backgrounds come together, but Reich said government can and should insist upon curricula that expose children to different religions, cultures and points of view.

“Not all home schoolers are going to like this, but this will be part of the aim of regulation – to ensure that even within a home-school environment, children are introduced to and exposed to the world of diversity in a liberal democracy,” Reich said.

That’s the heart of the matter right there, isn’t it? Those who think that their idea of education is better for the kids than what parents may decide is better for their kids. (In a curious coincidence, it should be noted that “reich” is of course the German word for “state”—so it’s difficult to think of a more appropriate name for the horrible little statist quoted above.)

I have no idea what this foul person means by the term “ethically servile”—as with much of what his type utters, it’s obscure nonsense, not to mention cheap emotional hype.

Our kids are drilled in having good manners, telling right from wrong, the values of obedience to conscience and morality, and all the values inherent in our society, as embodied in our Constitution and Judeo-Christian foundation principles. (Note to Prof. Reich: We’re not a liberal democracy, we’re a representative republic. Look it up.)

That doesn’t mean that youthful dissent is suppressed—anything but—but at the end of the day, we the parents are wiser and more experienced in the ways of the world than they are, and we expect them to heed what we tell them. We make a very clear distinction between choices which have no serious consequences to self or society, and choices which appear to be such, but which aren’t really choices at all (eg. is it so bad to take stuff home from the office, even if it’s only a pencil?—answer: it’s theft, regardless of the item’s value). The first can be debated endlessly; the second isn’t open to debate, ever.

And let me tell, you I am certainly “intolerant of anyone” who preaches political correctness, historical revisionism, socialism and multi-cultural relativism to my kids.

We’ve seen what’s happened to the generation of schoolkids who have been reared according to the principles preached by people such as Reich and Apple, and we don’t want any part of it for our kids, thank you very much.

Here’s the viewpoint of another homeschooler, Jorge Gomez:

He’s troubled by pop culture and what children learn in organized schools.

“We have the freedom to choose. In a school, you don’t know what books they’re being shown. There are more quotes from Marilyn Monroe than from FDR or about World War II. They don’t need pop culture or revisionist history,” Gomez said.

No kidding. Most of our history and cultural reference works were written before 1970, before the multi-culti PC nonsense started.

And here, in a nutshell, is the difference between the way we are raising and educating our kids, and the way the State would like us to raise them, as evidenced by public school curricula.

We believe that kids in the 1920s and 1930s were raised better (in terms of manners, mores and morality) than kids are today. We believe that the same is true of their education.

So our kids will have had to conform with the standards of those days, rather than the modern-day ones.

Unlike the earlier generations, however, while our kids’ behavior is strictly regulated, their thoughts are not only unconstrained, but liberated. Compare that to the public school system, which attempts to regulate both, and turns out ill-educated, maladjusted boors.

We’ll soon see which approach works better.

I wouldn’t bet against our kids, though.

Moving Trends

Now this came as a surprise to me:

Why Some Americans Won’t Move, Even for a Higher Salary

Apart from the Great Wetback Episode Of 1986 (emigration, for those who haven’t been paying attention), I’ve moved around the U.S. on several occasions, mostly for job reasons (better job, more money), and every one of them was wrenching.  And of course none of my moves in the U.S. was from my home town, so I can well imagine that someone who has grown up and spent most of their life in (say) Indianapolis would be reluctant to leave family, friends, business contacts and so on to start all over again in a new location.

Many people, of course, take moving as part of life (I’m excluding Armed Forces folks from this, because moving is part of the deal), and I suppose I’m probably one of them — but that’s because my first move was so comprehensive and so final, the uprooting was total.  Subsequent moves, while somewhat disturbing, were much easier by comparison.

After Connie passed away, I gave serious thought to starting all over again, not just in another town, but even in another country.  During my sabbatical travels, I discovered that the cost of living in the south of France, for example, was about the same as living here in Plano, and for the briefest moment I considered it.  I love France, always have, and with little or no language issue, that part would have been easy.  The cultural change, however, would not  have been easy, and so I didn’t move Over There.  (Interestingly enough, while I love Britain even more than France, that was never an option, because the cultural change would have been even more  pronounced.)

And finally, I realized that the urge to move, to start all over again somewhere else, was more a factor of bereavement than from any desire for change:  so I stopped considering it.

Going back to the chart, however, I am very interested in the downward trend of the phenomenon.  If we assume that when America was still an agrarian, immobile society until the Industrial Revolution caused the mass migration to cities, could it be that the beginning of the study (in the late 1940s) was simply the crest of the wave, and that people were once again preferring to remain settled than to move?

And in recent years, of course, the technology has increasingly been able to support work-from-home or work-from-home-city, so one would expect the incidence of moving to slow even more.  That said, however, if one is able to work from home, then it doesn’t really matter where home is — so people could be expected to move elsewhere to improve their standard of living, say to cheaper housing.  So what do the numbers say about that?

Even the “housing” number has been falling — and I suspect that if one were to take away migration away from high-cost areas like the Northeast and California, the trend would be even more pronounced.  Interesting indeed:  I would have assumed the precise opposite trends, from both  charts, but apparently not.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Memorial Day

Charles Loxton was a small man, no taller than 5’6”, and was born in 1899.  This means that when he fought in the muddy trenches of France during the First World War, he was no older than 17 years old — Delville Wood, where he was wounded, took place in July 1916.

Seventeen years old.  That means he would have been a little over sixteen when he enlisted. In other words, Charles must have lied about his age to join the army — many did, in those days, and recruiting officers winked at the lies.  After all, the meat grinder of the Western Front needed constant replenishment, and whether you died at 17, 18 or 19 made little difference.

Why did he do it?  At the time, propaganda told of how the evil Kaiser Wilhelm was trying to conquer the world, and how evil Huns had raped Belgian nurses after executing whole villages.  Where Charles lived as a young boy, however, the Kaiser was no danger to him, and no German Uhlans were going to set fire to his house, ever.

But Charles lied about his age and joined up because he felt that he was doing the right thing.  That if good men did nothing, evil would most certainly win.

It’s not as though he didn’t know what was coming:  every day, the newspapers would print whole pages of casualty lists, the black borders telling the world that France meant almost certain death.  The verification could be found in all the houses’ windows which had black-crepe-lined photos of young men, killed on the Somme, in Flanders, in Ypres, and at Mons.

He would have seen with his own eyes the men who returned from France, with their missing limbs, shattered faces and shaky voices.  He would have heard stories from other boys about their relatives coming back from France to other towns — either in spirit having died, or else with wounds so terrible that the imagination quailed at their description.

He would have seen the mothers of his friends weeping at the loss of a beloved husband.  Perhaps it had been this man and not his father who had taught him how to fish, or how to shoot, or how to cut (from the branches of a peach tree) a “mik” (the “Y”) for his catapult.

But Charles, a 16-year-old boy, walked out of his home one day and went down to the recruiting center of the small mining town, and joined the Army.

When years later I asked him why he’d done it, he would just shrug, get a faraway look in his blue eyes, and change the subject.  Words like duty, honor, country, I suspect, just embarrassed him. But that didn’t mean he was unaware of them.

So Charles joined the Army, was trained to fight, and went off to France.  He was there for only four months before he was wounded.  During the attack on the German trenches at Delville Wood, he was shot in the shoulder, and as he lay there in the mud, a German soldier speared him in the knee with his bayonet, before himself being shot and killed by another man in Charles’ squad.  At least, I think that’s what happened — I only managed to get the story in bits and pieces over several years.  But the scars on his body were eloquent witnesses to the horror: the ugly cicatrix on his leg, two actually (where the bayonet went in above the knee and out below it), and the star-shaped indentation in his shoulder.

The wounds were serious enough to require over a year’s worth of extensive rehabilitation, and they never really healed properly.  But Charles was eventually passed as fit enough to fight, and back to the trenches he went.  By now it was early 1918 — the Americans were in the war, and tiny, limping Private Charles Loxton was given the job as an officer’s batman: the man who polished the captain’s boots, cleaned his uniform, and heated up the water for his morning shave every day.  It was a menial, and in today’s terms, demeaning job, and Charles fought against it with all his might.  Eventually, the officer relented and released him for further line service, and back to the line he went.

Two months later came the Armistice, and Charles left France for home, by now a grizzled veteran of 19.  Because he had been cleared for trench duty, he was no longer considered to be disabled, and so he did not qualify for a disabled veteran’s pension.

When he got back home, there were no jobs except for one, so he took it.  Charles became, unbelievably, a miner.  His crippled knee still troubled him, but he went to work every day, because he had to earn money to support his mother, by now widowed, and his younger brother John.  The work was dangerous, and every month there’d be some disaster, some catastrophe which would claim the lives of miners.  But Charles and his friends shrugged off the danger, because after the slaughter of the trenches, where life expectancy was measured in days or even hours, a whole month between deaths was a relief.

But he had done his duty, for God, King and country, and he never regretted it.  Not once did he ever say things like “If I’d known what I was getting into, I’d never have done it.”  As far as he was concerned, he’d had no choice — and that instinct to do good, to do the right thing, governed his entire life.

At age 32, Charles married a local beauty half his age.  Elizabeth, or “Betty” as everyone called her, was his pride and joy, and he worshipped her his whole life.  They had five children.

Every morning before going to work, Charles would get up before dawn and make a cup of coffee for Betty and each of the children, putting the coffee on the tables next to their beds.  Then he’d kiss them, and leave for the rock face.  Betty would die from multiple sclerosis, at age 43.

As a young boy, I first remembered Charles as an elderly man, although he was then in his late fifties, by today’s standards only middle-aged.  His war wounds had made him old, and he had difficulty climbing stairs his whole life.  But he was always immaculately dressed, always wore a tie and a hat, and his shoes were polished with such a gloss that you could tell the time in them if you held your watch close.

Charles taught me how to fish, how to cut a good “mik” for my catapult, and watched approvingly as I showed him what a good shot I was with my pellet gun.  No matter how busy he was, he would drop whatever he was doing to help me — he was, without question, the kindest man I’ve ever known.

In 1964, Charles Loxton, my grandfather, died of phthisis, the “miner’s disease” caused by years of accumulated dust in the lungs.  Even on his deathbed in the hospital, I never heard him complain — in fact, I never once heard him complain about anything, ever.  From his hospital bed, all he wanted to hear about was what I had done that day, or how I was doing at school.

When he died, late one night, there was no fuss, no emergency, no noise; he just took one breath, and then no more.  He died as he had lived, quietly and without complaint.

From him, I developed the saying, “The mark of a decent man is not how much he thinks about himself, but how much time he spends thinking about others.”

Charles Loxton thought only about other people his entire life.

In Memoriam

The Full Texas Thang

Last Saturday I took New Wife out for a Full Texas Day (I know, I know:  never go Full Texas).

Part One was the Fort Worth Gun Show (that was for me, of course, although she found several Girly-things to buy there, and did).  Blessedly, there was more on display than the usual AR-15/Glock/Tacticool stuff (although there was plenty of that too):

… although that mythical unicorn (mint condition Colt Python for under $1,000) was nowhere to be found, of course.  There was a S&W Mod 65-3 for sale, but it looked like it had been towed behind a Ford F-150 for a mile or two, and they wanted $700 for it, so:  pass.  However, there was a vendor selling from a huge  selection of Anza knives, and somehow I managed not to buy a single one (although I could have bought six or seven, easily).

Good grief, they’re lovely knives.  I’m rapidly starting to think of Anza knives as I do .22 rifles — i.e. every home should have at least one — and the next time I go to the Ft. Worth gun show, I’m going to buy another one, because… I shouldn’t have to explain myself on this one, should I?  Here’s one that caught my eye, just because of the shape:

…but honestly, I could also see myself getting any one of these little beauties too.

We were planning on getting a late lunch of BBQ in downtown Ft. Worth (Part Two), but as it happened, there was a vendor at the show from Robinson’s BBQ (“since 1947”) so that was the brisket taken care of — and it was excellent.

We did take a little drive trip through Ft. Worth, and would have stopped to listen to the orchestra playing in Sundance Square, but parking in downtown is crappy, so we didn’t.  Instead, we went out to The Stockyards for a little shopping and entertainment.

The shopping at the various Western wear stores (Part Three) was patchy — some expensive stuff there, Bubba — but I did manage to snag a decent summer-weight vest which doesn’t look like a mil-surp, fishing- or photographer’s vest for a decent price.  New Wife, not so lucky.  (She steadfastly refused to let me buy her some cowboy boots, but hey:  she’s been in Texas less than five months, and I only got a pair of cowboy boots after over fifteen years  here, so it’s a long-term project.)  Also:

Anyway, it was getting late, so we went into Riscky’s for more BBQ and margaritas (Part Four):

Decent ribs, outstanding  grilled shrimp (seriously, maybe the best I’ve ever tasted), and Ernesto the barman is brilliant.  (I tended bar in my distant yoot, so I know the trade.)

Dinner over, we went to Part Five of the Full Texas Thang:

Oh yeah, baby… rodeo! 

Now I have to confess that I’m no expert on rodeo — mostly, I think it’s cheap country entertainment — but you can’t go Full Texas without rodeo, right?  So we watched the bull-riding, bronco busting, calf-roping and all that, until the over-loud PA (and screaming commentator) got to my tinnitus and the hissing/whistling sound became unbearable (my ears are still ringing as I write this, the day after).

But New Wife enjoyed the day thoroughly, even the gun show — although she won’t be going to another one anytime soon — and hey… how often do you get to go Full Texas with a newbie?

Begging Your Indulgence

…in that today is a special day for me.

The Son&Heir turns 30 today (and if you’re a Longtime Friend and/or Reader, you have my permission to go ahead and feel very old).  It is customary for a proud father to brag about his son, but in my case, I am truly blessed.  (And those of you who have met him, please feel free to weigh in with your opinions.)

Eagle Scout, champion pistol shooter, drummer, cum laude  college graduate and now junior executive at a successful retail business;  he’s popular with everyone who meets him, works with him or has anything to do with him.  He’s witty, polite, well-mannered, intelligent, astonishingly well-read, and the best dinner companion anyone could wish for.

He never reads my blog — not one of my kids has ever read anything  I’ve written: blog, novels, whatever — so he might or might not read this, but I don’t care.  I bless the day he came into my life, and every day since.  He is my son, I love him dearly, and he is a fine, fine man.

Happy birthday, boy.

— Dad

(aged 15, at Faro Airport in Portugal)

Crime Update

With all this matrimonial nonsense, I forgot to post an update on an earlier Bad Thing.

Loyal Readers will recall that a few weeks back, Doc Russia’s Doom Wagon was stolen from outside the hospital where he was working.

Among the contents:  a semi-automatic rifle, a Glock and his emergency medical bag.

Less than a week later, the Doom Wagon was found undamaged (other than the window broken to gain access).  Missing was the medical kit, the Glock and the jerrycans of gas attached to the rear door.  The rifle had been undiscovered, and was still in its hidden compartment.

Four days later the Glock was recovered, still unfired, at a crime scene.

Of course, the medic bag was gone (Doc is still hoping the thieves shot up the Lidocaine in their enclosed syringes — it’s mortally toxic when thus administered).

Nevertheless, the Wagon has been completely fixed up and is now in its original condition other than with the addition of various anti-theft devices (which I may not describe for legal reasons).

A round of applause for the Dallas P.D. is called for.