Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Homeschool Whistleblowers and the Religious Thought Police

Home educators are perhaps the most mystifying group of people on the planet.  We are all dissenters of one kind or another.  Some flat-out reject mass education, others feel their special-needs kids cannot be served well, and many fear negative socialization, violence and bullying.  But the majority of home educators do the arduous work of schooling at  home for religious reasons.  These families were the pioneers decades ago who blazed the trail for the rest of us.   Most of mainstream America cannot fathom why sane parents would choose to spend every day and night with their kids.  The whole world thinks we are weird.  That's our burden to bear.  Thanks to this article, our job just got a little harder:

Ms. Joyce begins her attack on Christian Fundamentalist home educators by telling a shocking tale of a young adult woman who is basically held hostage in her home by a mentally ill mother. For her to imply that this is emblematic or typical of home education is disingenuous at best.  It is a lousy introduction to what is an otherwise informative essay.

A few clarifications - I am not a fundamentalist, but I am a Christian, and I've home schooled for 15 years. We home school for academic excellence.   I've met hundreds and hundreds of home school families, most of them Christian.  It is safe to say no two families are alike.  As a population home educators are practically impossible to categorize.  We defy generalizations.  Not knowing any better, Kathryn Joyce stubbornly tries to categorize home educators but only succeeds carrying out a crazy witch hunt..  This is so regrettable because she does unveil other important issues - issues that merit more discussion.  But, the most worthy aspects of her essay are buried in her own bigotry.  More on this later.....

As mentioned, the most conspicuous flaw in this essay is found on the launch pad - the author devotes the first few paragraphs to the awfully sad,  extraordinary, and rather dreadful circumstances of Jennifer's schism with her parents.  News flash:  Correlation does not imply causation!  Jennifer's parents are a little nuts. Home school or not, these parents eventually would have been a force for poor Jennifer (and Lauren) to deal with.

After Kathryn Joyce primes the pump with this theatrical opening, she proceeds to throw many people and organizations (all of them conservative Christian in scope and sequence) right under the "religious-thought-police bus".  She has sat behind the wheel of this buggy for many years, but she seems only to steer toward Christians, cheerfully eager to plow them down.   She is a bigot and she is barreling around in the bigot bus, targeting Christian initiatives with all of the zealotry she seems to detest in others.

There are many ways she could have addressed some of the valid issues that exist in very conservative Christian home school circles.  An even-handed approach would have borne more fruit.  For example, this article would be more plausible, if it had included a discussion of what the Amish are taught in their homes and churches.  Additionally, if Ms. Joyce is truly concerned about what children are learning outside of this nation's state conditioning centers, she really should have included a discussion of ultra conservative Judaism, which is most analogous to the very conservative fundamentalist Christian. For example, in conservative orthodox Judaism, marriages are often determined by parents and it is frequently a financial arrangement.  Boys and girls are taught separately.  They are opposed to viewing secular movies and reading secular newspapers.  They are told to be fruitful and multiply.  This sounds like just the thing to get Ms. Joyce's knickers twisted, but she does not talk about them or other groups.

Kathryn Joyce is deeply interested in religious liberty.  Well, why doesn't she focus on the oppression of young Muslim girls?  Here, a storehouse of great exposés await her golden pen.  Imagine the good she could do by raising awareness of the ocean of brutality and subjugation in the extreme forms of this religion.   Instead she spends her time accusing Christians of evil-doing when they rescue children through adoption. Better those children should die slow and painful deaths from infection, neglect and abuse, right, Kathryn?  Anything would be better than having them cared for by Christians.

Also, I cannot  help but wonder why Kathryn Joyce did not give any space in her article to talk about the amazing achievements of home educated students.  It is a glaring omission.  It robs her thesis of integrity.

The Homeschool Apostates (the title of her essay) gave voice to a growing group of young adults who feel they were robbed of a normal childhood.  This is a terrible thing - a heart breaking outcome.  I am glad these young people have found each other and have a public forum for airing their grievances. Their parents may wish they had done things differently.  Many parents do and most of them did not home school.  But, I had no idea that there were homeschool recovery groups, and it was deeply challenging to read the personal stories of so many young adults on these homeschool refugee websites.  It is important to read how things can go sideways - it doesn't only happen in school families - it happens in homeschool families, too.   I am glad that Kathryn Joyce put these websites out there. Together, all of these recovery stories present a complete manual on what NOT to do if you plan to home educate.  Ideally, some of these stories would make it into the "new homeschooler info packet".

I do not want to detract from the stories of these defectors.  However, much larger than this apostate group (by several million) are the public forums for young adults who wish their parents had rescued them from a hellish existence in school.

Here's the thing - some conservative Christian families do go over board in my opinion.  I know families who do not allow their teens to date and where the "Master of the House" dad is viewed as an overlord.  There are some families who meddle constantly in their children's lives and who smother them with rules.  Some have a highly flawed approach to academics.  But, at the end of the day, this is no more my business than is the neighbor's kid who gets on a big, yellow bus every day and who at the age of 12 still cannot read.

Kathryn Joyce seems very alarmed by the fact that home education puts most control into the hands of parents.  Who else should have control over our children's lives - the marauding, predatory, minions in Washington?  It is obvious that this author wants everyone to have the same life views.  Yes, a mob of automatons would be a manageable mob.  Hmmmm.  Don't you wonder what Kathryn Joyce really wants?

In this article, she was trying to get at some of the flaws in home education but her hostility toward Christians derailed her effort.  Hate is a terrible burden to bear.  Ultimately, I think this author degrades herself with her evident hatred of Christians and the result is a lack of imagination in her research.