Sunday, August 22, 2004

Social Pariahs

CNN has a Back to School Special which includes a write-up on homeschool. While there’s the usual snapshot of a homeschooling family, nay-sayers weigh in their opinions too. This comes as no surprise as the National Education Association (the largest teachers union in the U.S) has been among one of the most vocal critics of homeschool for years. The National Association of School Psychologists is another group that charges that homeschooling deprives kids from developing social skills. Here’s an excerpt:
"Unless we are prepared to keep our children in bubbles their entire lives, we have to give them an opportunity to have some exposure to real-world problems so they can develop coping strategies," says Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists.

Feinberg argues that as cultural understanding becomes more valued, social interaction and exposure to different people and ways of viewing the world are necessary components of education.

"It's one thing to read about it," he says. "Much of what we learn in life is a matter of interaction. I just wonder how that takes place in a home school environment."

In any case, as Dr Gary Knowles of the University of Toronto said after years of study on homeschoolers, "Where did we ever get the idea that 2,000 13-year-olds were the ideal people with which to socialize other 13-year-olds?" As I see it, the assumption that interaction in schools develops coping strategies is a myth. If this is true, then what is self-evident is that schools aren’t doing a good job at all. The one single common denominator in the army of disillusioned, alienated, and self-obsessed youths and adults we encounter today is the fact that they have been to school.

David Guterson, the best-selling author (Snow Falling on Cedars) and homeschooling parent wrote in Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense that we need to look at society and question if schools are preventing it from unravelling or if it is a contributing factor.

Going further, Guterson argues that there is a world of difference between social health and financial success, between sound relationships and economic necessities:
"Those who assert that we are condemned to social struggle in order for our economic system to work assert by extension that we must live unhealthy lives. Schools should not be arranged so as to foment a perpetual and relentless social strife merely to prepare people to perpetuate the same arrangement when, one day, they go to work in the world. On the contrary, we should want our schools to aspire to something better."
On the other hand research on homeschoolers turned adults since the 1990s suggest that being educated at home have not turned anyone into a social pariah. Instead, they tend to be entrepreneurial, professional, and independent, with a healthy connection with their families. What is also evident from research is that teenage homeschoolers are not angst driven nor do they demonstrate a desire to isolate themselves from their parents.

Homeschool is changing the paradigm in education. It may seem so obvious now, but it wasn't very long ago that schooling was thought to equal education, or that schools are the sole repository of knowledge (okay, there are still many who hold this view). Above all, more and more families are now educating their kids at home not just because they see schools as a fading behemoth (which it is), but for reason of lifestyle too. Homeschool presents the best option for the life we choose, the values we cherish, and the goals we’re aiming at.

For additional stories, visit the following links:
First Wave Of Homeschoolers Come Of Age
At Home In The Classroom

Patricia Lines (senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and former researcher for the U.S. Department of Education) writes about the progress homeschooling has made in the U.S:
Homeschooling Comes Of Age

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