Fear-Based Schooling

In his latest blog post, radio talk show host Matt Walsh explains why he is going to home school his two children when they reach school age.

I am going to assume that he has good reasons for making this choice for his own family.  I think it's wonderful when parents are willing and able to take on the gargantuan task of educating their kids at home, after thoroughly and prayerfully researching the choices available and deciding that this is what will work the best for their family.

It's somewhat less wonderful when parents who have zero personal experience with home school or public school whip their audience into a frenzy of fear.  Walsh says that he will no longer rant and rave about the dreadful things he hears are going on in public schools.  Instead, he says,

I’ll attack the thing in it’s [sic] entirety ...

Government education is designed to be an instrument of propaganda and bureaucratic control. This isn’t a side effect –it’s the whole point. If you don’t want your kid subject to government propaganda and government control, then don’t send him to a government facility 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 13 years of his life. Or go ahead and send him — perhaps you have no choice, I understand that — but confront the reality of the situation.

Okay.  I fear and mistrust government as much as any red-blooded American.  But my children aren't going to "a government facility" when they go to school, any more than Walsh is going to a government supermarket when he eats a carrot inspected by the USDA, or going on a government vacation when he drives on a road built by the DOT.  When it comes to making decisions that affect the actual children we're actually raising, my husband and I thought it made sense to do some actual research into the actual schools in our actual town.

As I've mentioned many a time, we home schooled for about six years, and then, for several complicated and private reasons, started to look around for something else.  We have now had experience with private school, parochial school, public charter school, public elementary school, and public high school.

Guess what?  They were all different.  Like home school, they all had their advantages and disadvantages.  Some of the disadvantages were intolerable to us; some of them were a fair price to pay for the advantages.

The key was, we did our research.  We got our information.  We met with the teachers, looked over the curricula, sat in on classes, talked to the principal, got to know the other kids our kids were spending time with, and kept a close eye on all of the above each time our kids joined a class.  When Common Core became a reality in our school, we met after school with the curriculum director and found out exactly what changes will be made, and why.  When the kids got up to units of study that we thought might be problematic (things like medieval history or environmental studies or health class), we made sure our kids knew the truth, and encouraged them to present it to the class if it wasn't being covered by the teacher.  In most cases, it turned out the teachers were not eager for controversy, and were respectful and accommodating.

So you could do what we did.  Or, you could base your decision on YouTube clips and Facebook memes.

Later in his post, Walsh rhetorically asks,

So I’ll send my child to public school during her formative years, watch as her attention starved peers attempt to tear her to emotional shreds for the next decade, and then, at the end of it all, she’ll be “socialized”? Really?

Okay, that's one way to approach the decision.  Another way would be to understand that your child's school experience will be affected by the way that child's  particular school is run.  In some schools, wild and damaged children will be allowed to bully and injure your children.  In other schools, discipline will be handled wisely and reasonably, so that both your child and her "attention starved peers," who are surely just as important as Matt Walsh's children, will be given what they need.

That is what most teachers and school administrators are there to do:  to try to give children what they need.  Sometimes  bureaucracy will make it harder for them to do this.  Yup, and sometimes the unavoidable logistics in your  own home will make it harder to give your children what they need while you are home schooling.  You have to make a choice based on the facts as they apply to your particular situation.

If you want to home school because you think you can do it well and your children will benefit from it, then by all means, home school, and God bless you.

If you have to home school even if you don't want to, because you have researched the alternatives and they are all terrible, then God bless you even more.

If you are going to home school because you have been stewing in a steady stream of sensational horror stories about schools halfway across the country, and are making your decision based on terror and disgust and disdain, then please think again. Good decisions are not born of terror and disgust and disdain.

Maybe your fear is justified:  maybe, when you do your research, you really will discover that your local public school is, for some reason, deliberately designed to turn children against their parents and God.

Or maybe you will find that your child has teachers who love knowledge and children equally, and have dedicated their lives to bringing the two together, even though they aren't well paid or well respected.  Maybe you will drag yourself to your kid's evening concert and hear your children singing Bruckner and playing Duke Ellington.  Maybe you will get an email from your daughter's math teacher, offering to meet with her several times a week until she becomes more confident.  Maybe you will breathe a sigh of relief when your son's teacher says, "He brought his pocket knife to school.  Here it is.  Please don't let him bring it again, okay?" 

Maybe you will discover that the public schools in your area are an answer to the prayer you were too proud, for many years, to even pray:  please help me.  Please help me take care of my children.  There is no shame in needing help.  There is shame in scaring people away from looking for help when they  need it.