Friday, October 12, 2007

More polite, smart, well-behaved teenagers on the horizon

Some good news in the world, for a change: Homeschool numbers increase

... In 1999, according to federal statistics, there were 850,000 home-schooled children in the United States. In 2003, that number rose to 1.1 million. Some estimates put the figure today as high as 2.4 million.

"It's certainly on the rise, there's no doubt about it," said Brad Haines, executive director for the Missouri-based Families for Home Education. "Exactly how fast is up to speculation."

Before their four children were born, Kim and her husband, David, decided they were going to home-school them. They had the most common reasons for doing so: They wanted an alternative to the sometimes violent culture of American public schools, and they wanted to educate their children with a Bible-centered focus.

"People always ask me, 'Why do you want to stay home with your kids?'" Perry said. "I tell them, they're my kids. I want to have a positive impact on them. I want to raise them according to my values not someone else's."
Regina Morin, director of admissions at Columbia College, says the school is seeing more home-schoolers apply each year. "They tend to be better than their public school counterparts," she said. "They score above average on tests, they're more independent, they're often a grade ahead."

"Why do you want to stay home with your kids?" I hope this question is not coming from other parents. Although, that would go a long way to explain all the messed up kids out there; if their own parents don't want to be around them, who else would..? What teacher would? If a parent acts as if their child was a curse to them, why wouldn't the child believe themselves to be unworthy of improvement?

I've tried to keep an eye on the growing trend of homeschooling since I first started meeting homeschooled teenagers a few years ago. To date, making their acquaintance has remained a uniformly inspiring experience. They are so well-mannered, respecful and well-spoken. Particularly admirable is their curiosity; they seem to have developed learning into a habit, an itch always in need of a scratch. I'm sure there must be ill-served homeschooled children somewhere in North America; people are people, some good and some not so much. Nevertheless I've yet to meet any homeschooled young person who didn't impress me mightily. And really make my day.

If we are ever blessed with children, we both hope to be able to have them home-schooled, for as long as we can manage it, as our preference.

Seems as if we're in good, and growing, company.

(With thanks to the blog Why Homeschool, one of my favorite places to visit when looking for good news)


dag said...

Charles beat me to the blog this day. I have a longish piece on schools and parents myself, a thing not like his at all, a partial review of a new book by Diana West, The Death of the Grown-Up.

My piece is called "Kill Your Parents." It's not appropriate to pile it on top of Charles's work just now.

Look on my contribution next time as a counterpoint to the post Charles has up now. Mine deals with those who put their children through public school. It's even worse than that, though. Diana West writes of parents who created a generation in the 60s who chanted the slogan at universities: "Kill Your Parents."

I'm loving this book; and though I might well finish it by tomorrow, I'll post my review in the originally intended two parts.

Then we can compare the ideas of homeschooling and infantile parents.

Charles Henry said...

Dag, I would think that the reason that book shocks you as it does, is that you are so far removed from the story, and have been for so long, that a comprehensive immersion such as offered by West’s book staggers the mind.

It breaks my heart when I talk to the many young customers that I deal with. On the occasions when we have time, and I have opportunity, to shift the conversation to ask them questions about their schooling, to compare our school experiences, many of them are stunned, and admit they would have really loved the standards and expectations that were placed on me when I was in school.

For sentimental reasons my parents had saved their own school textbooks from when they were young children, and when I was a kid I would often scan through those books with awe. It made me ask my parents about what school was like when they were my age, and I remember how their answers left me resenting the “low standards” I saw around me in my elementary and high schools.

With the exception of homeschooling, even those standards seem positively unheard of today, judging from the stories I hear, week after week, from recent escapees of the current public school system.

Some of the young have learned their school’s lessons well, emerging convinced that learning in itself is a useless, futile and illusory thing… that stuyding and working hard is a task undertaken by suckers and “geeks”; life is about “partying” (intoxication, not celebration) and sex (not love, sex). Oh, and “games”, which it is “cool” to win by cheating, whole websites being created to serve as reference for all the ways to cheat at their favorite games. (When I was their age, we had a thing called ‘strategy’ that we used to win at games like chess… times change.)

One thing that West’s book may not tell you, that needs to be part of this story, is that an inspiring number of young people leave school with a deep frustration, knowing that a great wrong had been done to them, yet not knowing enough to know how to channel their frustration towards filling the hole left in them.

Some have parents that know how to fill it, and work towards that goal.
Too many have parents that carry a hole of equal size, so that studying michael moore or howard zinn is a path seen as equal to following a Thomas Sowell or Jacques Barzun... It is the children of these parents, that go to university and get their minds filled with poison, convincing themselves that it is instead the remedial cure that they had been seeking.
The cure being worse than the disease, such "education" curses them to do even less for their children, should the cycle continue.

Charles Henry said...

Here's a public school story to make you weep.

I was talking with a young lady yesterday about a film she had just seen, and the conversation wandered to her recent english class in high school.
Apparently her class had been shown the remake of "Psycho", in class, as a work of "english" to be studied.

The teacher had been required to show the original, Alfred Hitchcock film from the early '60s, but "she couldn't find it", and settled for showing the remake instead.
What is the defense to showing a **movie** as substitute for books, in an english class?? And a thing like Psycho, no less.

I can understand showing a movie adapting, oh, one of Shakespeare's plays, in order to acclimatize the young to the potential difficulties in the original material that they would also be studying... but it seems that even this idea has degenerated into some useless waste of time, compared to the good use that time could be put to instead. Showing a movie as if it's equal in intellectual weight to a book!

The defense for such a choice must be, that teenagers are considered too stupid to be able to read books.
If the parents don't complain, or take action to counter such choices, then surely it is the parents themselves that are pronouncing that judgment upon their own children.

The whole point of a parent's love for their child is that the parent must not give up on that child's future, they must have faith that there exists a better version of that person to be aimed for, and progressed towards.

Love your child, parents, get them out of these schools.

Anonymous said...

I’ll put up a brief counter-point to your home schooling advocacy. I haven’t done the research you have though my public school days are not a distant memory and I deal regularly with young people. I won’t dispute your anecdotal evidence that home-schooled kids are well-mannered. My own experience is that they have been relatively socially awkward and naive, though this could reflect a link to a traditional religious upbringing more than it does home-schooling.

The more important point is that going through the public school system is useful social exercise for young people. Public school is all about living with a mass of people, getting in fights, avoiding the bully, having juvenile relationships, annoying the teacher, getting the piss taken out of you by the principal, going on field trips, playing on school teams, talking shit about other social groups, skipping class, getting drunk at the dance, trying to score with your prom date, and doing all of this while trying to keep your grades high enough to make sure your parents didn’t kick your ass.

There are opportunities for kids to excel academically, but in reality it tends to be dependent on how hard they are pushed by their parents. And obviously schools won’t provide a full education. Politics, history, Bible, and literature were all stuff that my parents taught me outside of school. Still, attending public school is part of leaving the nest and coming to grips with the fact that people can be assholes, rules can be both arbitrary and important, and your mom won’t always have your back in the situations you confront. I tend to see the home-school movement as part a peak form of a larger movement of over-protection that manifests itself in anti-drug, anti-violence, anti-discrimination, anti-streaming, anti-‘everything that makes life life’ campaigns. Cocooning a kid in a home-school program still strikes me as a misguided form of love.

krentz said...

I take so much exception to Anonymous' comment that I don't even know where to begin.

"Public school is all about living with a mass of people"

Remind me, again, why having to spend the most imperative, formative years of your life with a conglomeration of people with no choice whatsoever in the matter, most of whom you will not have to associate with in later life should you not so choose, and many of whom take out their insecurities and emotional disturbances on you for no reason other than the fact that you are a readily available target is a good thing?

"getting in fights"

Not once have I ever been in a fight. No, sorry, I take that back. I have had to use physical force to disorientate and overwhelm the sadistic and narcissistic boors who oftentimes thought it would be fun to steal things from me. This is a good thing how?

"avoiding the bully"

Again, why should we have to do this? This is an adaptive response to a less-than-ideal circumstance in life, one should not be forced to suffer through it simply due to the expectation that it will occur later in life. If we accept things that we know are fundamentally wrong simply because we believe it is 'the way the world works' then nothing will ever change this way.

"having juvenile relationships"

I have never really been interested in anything superficial. Physical attraction is one thing, but I was not going to risk significant emotional damage for one or both parties because most of the people I remember from school were lacking both in depth of intellect and depth of feeling. Perhaps I would have had more success in my adult relationships were I not to have had such high standards, but though I must carry the pain of the aftermath around with me daily, they each were profound and life-changing experiences that I would not revoke for the world.

"annoying the teacher"

Again, why would I do this? Why would I deliberately try to make difficult the life of someone who had made it their livelihood to suffer abuse and disrespect at the hands of irreverent children? I usually empathised with them and discussed things with them after class more than anything.


krentz said...

(pt. 2)

"getting the piss taken out of you by the principal"

I would openly call into question the professionalism and commitment of any 'principal' (or headteacher as they are called in the UK) that deems it acceptable to mock his students. I actually wrote a letter of gratitude to my own headteacher (as he left halfway through my school term, and his speeches always seemed heartfelt and sincere - unlike his successor). I received a letter in reply from him in Germany, along with a cassette tape of a radio interview he did. I didn't want him to think his efforts were a waste.

"going on field trips"

Sure, this is both enjoyable and rewarding, but nothing that can't be done outside of school hours, unless the school has particular leverage with certain venues.

"playing on school teams"

I'm terribly unathletic so I was never able to, not that I cared. We each have our roles to play and I believe we should play to our strengths.

"talking shit about other social groups"

Yeah, great. Because this is such a mature thing to do, right? It's a disease and it festers in every level of society. The only reason I became arrogant and disdainful towards my intellectual inferiors was as a defense mechanism. If they hadn't been so disparaging and offensive towards myself and others, I really wouldn't have given a crap.

"skipping class"

I don't think I ever did this. Maybe once or twice, if I was having difficulty sleeping.

"getting drunk at the dance"

I never even went to the dance. Yeah, let's intoxicate ourselves and gyrate away to music we don't even like in a room full of people we have nothing in common with. Parental alcohol abuse made my teenage years a misery, so I'm not keen to repeat the pattern, though I have no problems drinking socially.

"trying to score with your prom date"

If there was anyone sufficiently intelligent and mature to warrant the attempt of overcoming my anxiety then perhaps I would. But out of everyone I knew in the whole school I could count them on one or two hands, perhaps.

"and doing all of this while trying to keep your grades high enough to make sure your parents didn’t kick your ass"

How about trying to keep my grades at the highest possible standard because of an insatiable thirst not only for knowledge but also because I like to take pride in my achievements, even if schools on the whole do reward conformity and compliance more than creativity.

I'm sorry, but I'm a child of the public school system and it was one of the most miserable experiences in my life and probably left me with a number of dormant psychological issues. However I can't help but feel that even if people manage to avoid this clusterfuck then they will still feel isolated and alienated when participating in wider society anyway, as the effects and trends are all too prevalent. It really is a shame.