I have been asked by several people to share my opinions on homeschooling. Well, what can I say about this atrocious practice that cripples children socially and intellectually in order to serve the needs of fanatically religious, racist, or socially unadapted parents? When I first heard about this practice, I couldn't believe that a civilized country would allow such a huge percentage of children to be deprived of the benefits of secondary education. A free, all-inclusive system of compulsory primary and secondary education is one of the most crucial inventions of the Enlightenment. The enlightened thinkers of the 18th century see a human being as a work in progress, as a project of self-betterment and acquisition of knowledge. In order to be good citizens and full-fledged human beings, we need to engage in a constant process of getting educated.
Homeschooling parents, however, couldn't care less about their children's well-being and whether these kids will be able to inscribe themselves into a society inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment*. All they want is to cannibalize their children's existences in order to conceal from themselves their own grievous incapacity to participate in everything our society has to offer. Such parents are lost in the stream of changes that accompanies our transition to modernity. They are confused by and terrified of everything that's going on around them and wish to make their children feel as miserable, confused and unadapted as they do.
Parents who homeschool can be subdivided into three groups** which can, of course, overlap:
- Religious fanatics who don't want their children to be "contaminated" by the secular beliefs of their classmates and teachers. Obviously, these people have no faith in their own religion if they think that it's so easy to tempt their kids away from it. If you need to lock yourself up at home to avoid temptation, you must find said temptation to be extremely attractive.
- Racists who hate the idea of desegregation. These folks (I don't really want to call them "people" because racism, in my opinion, makes one less than human) only homeschool because their racism drives them in everything they do. Who cares if their children grow up to me maladjusted, unintelligent, intellectually challenged little racists? As long as there are no black or brown people around them, the racists have achieved their goal.
- Bored housewives who need to justify their lack of occupation. It's really paradoxical that the process of educating children should often be entrusted to people who failed most signally in terms of academic achievement and socialization. Taking into account that housewives are also the group that suffers the most from depression, we have a sad picture of kids being taught by somebody who is perennially depressed, is not developing intellectually (reading Nora Roberts doesn't count as intellectual development) and has failed to achieve anything professionally or socially.
Homeschooled children are disadvantaged in a variety of ways. They are robbed of academic success because all they are taught to do is answer the inane questions of standardized tests like trained little monkeys. All such tests achieve is stunting intellectual development. Proponents of homeschooling tout the homeschooled kids' capacity to succeed on these standardized tests as one of the advantages of homeschooling. Their lack of intelligence prevents them from realizing that this skill is just as valuable as knowing how to jump through hoops. Which I'm sure their miserable children also know how to do really well. Deprived of a chance to learn how to take initiative, these kids are nothing but little, brainwashed parent-pleasers.
Students who attend school can counterbalance the stupefying effects of standardized tests with the help of everything else that is available to them at school (discussions with classmates and teachers, listening and responding to the opinions of others, development of critical skills). None of this is within the reach of a child locked up at home with a religious fanatic, a racist or an unfulfilled housewife. I'm sure nobody will argue that representatives of these groups end up being the most authoritarian parents you can imagine. Their poor children get no opportunities to learn to form opinions of their own, let alone express them.
Of course, children don't go to school only to acquire knowledge. School prepares us for the workplace and helps us build our social identities. There is a plethora of daily situations, conflicts, issues among students and teachers, students and administrators, students of different age groups, etc. that a regular student has to negotiate and resolve on a daily basis. These social skills are crucial to one's success in the workplace. You can't stick a person into college at 18 and expect them to catch up in terms of social skills that normal children acquire over 12 formative years of their lives. Being in school differs from any other interactions that can be offered to homeschooled children in that it is structured, it involves discipline, responsibility, dealing with authority, a schedule.
Parents who homeschool for racist, fanatical or selfish reasons that I listed here are incapable of seeing their children as separate human beings. Their kids are nothing but objects who are expected to serve the parents' egotistical needs. As a result, homeschooled children are crippled intellectually and socially. If this isn't abusive, then I don't know what is.
* If you don't know why the US is the most successful of all enlightened projects, then I'm guessing you were homeschooled by an ignorant parent.
** Of course, there are also cases of disabled children who live in areas with no access to schools for children with disabilities. These are legitimate cases of homeschooling that are caused by an obvious lack of other options. Ideally, we will see our schools, universities and workplaces become more accessible to people with disabilities but, unfortunately, it will take a lot of time to see that happening.