“Larger Projects”

June 26, 2007 | 118 comments
By

Last week, Adam Greenwood pointed out to me an essay by Sally Thomas in First Things, titled “Home Schooling and Christian Duty.” Her article defends home schooling against a very particular kind of attack–specifically, the claim that educating one’s children in the home, away from the public schools, is a failure to be a witness to others as a Christian, a failure to be “in the world,” and more specifically be a light unto it. It’s an interesting claim, one which comes down to, as Ms. Thomas puts it, the idea that homeschooling is selfish, that “homeschoolers [have] enthroned the needs of their own children at the expense of the larger society…[and therefore have] truly turned [their] backs on the lost of the world.”

Frankly, I think this is a rather odd claim, and I think Ms. Thomas does a fine job in demolishing it on scriptural and prudential grounds. (Specifically, children are to be brought up in such a way that they can become spiritually strong enough to take on the task of witnessing in hostile environments–which is what Ms. Thomas clearly sees the public school system as being–through their own choice and wisdom; they ought not be sent into such environments out of some sort of misplaced Christian or liberal guilt on the part of parents.) Her demolishing, though, doesn’t especially interest me, because the original claim itself is not one I’ve ever heard or would likely take seriously. (Perhaps some of you homeschoolers out there, particularly those who live in communities with a large evangelical population, have heard something similar though.) What did really interest me about the article, however, was the language of one’s obligation to the “larger society.” How best to fulfill that obligation, to the extent that it exists? And what if it exists, in fact, in multiple, even contradictory ways? On my reading of ther essay (which, as you might guess, took the form of a long post about the ideal of equal public schooling and the uses to which families may be obliged–as both Christians and citizens–to make use of their “human capital”), Ms. Thomas makes a good defense of her decision to keep her children at home and thus be part of one kind of “larger society”–specifically, her immediate neighborhood, which is mostly empty during the day as all spouses depart for work and leave the streets available to whatever bad element may move in–rather than banging her head against the wall trying to “witness to” another, much less responsive larger project–specifically, the local school district.

I bring this up here, not because I want another throwdown regarding home schooling (we’ve done that a few times before), but because the more that I thought about it, the more that I felt that the whole matter of how one arranges one’s “larger” allegiances cuts to the heart of ordinary lived Mormon experience. Unlike home schoolers, Mormons do not, in fact, have the option of withdrawing their children from wards they don’t like and constructing a Sunday School entirely on their own. (Well, of course, they do have such an option, but the word used to describe such a decision is “inactivity,” and so far as I know the church is not exactly busy responding to pressure from various “home churchers” to reconstitute the temple recommend questions so you can still get one without attending your ward, the way home schooled kids can still receive a high school diploma.) Unless you’re buying a new home or moving to a new city or in a fairly specific demographic category, you can’t even really “ward shop” much in the church, certainly not as much as you can strategize through the public school system, what with all the exceptions and special arrangements which parents keep clamoring for. Basically, we are expected to attend a certain ward, and are presumed to have a obligation–one which the church enforces through strict rules about membership records–to stick with it, for the sake of making the “larger project” of the gospel a reality wherever God has planted us. (Kaimi’s old but still moving post on our “duty to stick with a dysfunctional ward” remains must reading here.)

Why be beholden to dysfunctional ward, but not a dysfunctional school system? Why does one’s presence at church, even if one should have complaints with its functioning, loom so much larger in the thinking of your average potential homeschooling Mormon than does the similar call to support the local school system? Some likely answers: a screwed up ward cannot possibly hurt one’s children in three hours on one day a week as much as a screwed up public school could over a seven hour period five days week; as wards are lay organizations, one can get to know and become involved with repairing the defects of any given ward much easier and much more effectively than in the case in a professionalized school district; we basically trust and our familiar with what gets taught and what takes place in a ward, much more so than is the case in much less focused and more spread out school systems; etc., etc. But of course, none of these are the real reasons–the real reason is, quite simply, that we don’t put the public schools ane wards into the same category. The latter is a community structure we bind ourselves to by covenant, because we believe in and accept the ideal of Zion, however distant our present day lives as Mormons may be from that end. Whereas on the other hand, while many Americans may feel some general allegience to the ideal of equal public schooling for all, we aren’t in any serious sense covenanted to that project–and moreover, there’s no teaching to suggest that the principals and administrators who set policies for that project our prophets guided by inspiration. Add to that the fact that we have fundamental responsibilities to our families, and it’s easy to say that when family and church collide, some complicated and painful negotiations and compromises may be necessary…but when family and the public schools collide, hey, we’ll happily be out the door and on our way home.

I don’t disagree with that sentiment, not ultimately: as I wrote three years ago, quoting Jonathan Alter, children should never have their education sacrificed on the altar of their parents’ principles. My commitments to my children and their education and happiness is bigger than the larger project of supporting, through potentially dysfunctional institutions, similar efforts on behalf of other peoples’ children. And yet…is it really always so easy to be clear as regards to which principles properly should pull you away from your own home and children and privacy, in the name of something larger? It used to be common to hear pacifist and rejectionist language when it came to politics and war from church headquarters; now such messages are few and far between–and yet why would should the call to support the military aims of the country one happens to live in (aims which may include, as sometimes is the case, unjust wars) be seen as an acceptable obligation despite its manifestly disruptive impact on the lives and families of ordinary saints, while the obligation to support the schooling and education of one’s neighbors’ children through common efforts be seen as an obligation easy to–maybe even righteous to–shuck off? (Again, I can think of some likely answers here–but I’m not sure they are necessarily obvious ones.)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once stated that he was “not much of a joiner. I don’t remember belonging to many clubs or social units at school, and more recently I have been about as cautious in my professional affiliations. I give civic service to my community and country, and I try very hard to be a good neighbor, but in many other ways I am a private person.” But then he added that as a “veritable pacifist when it comes to social guilds or luncheon clubs, I turn into something of a militant on the subject of the only true and living Church on the face of the earth.” I like that line very much (though I’m much more opening to joining things than he is). It tells us where our primary membership–our most important “larger project”–lies. But it still leaves open how to negotiate, and why, everything else.

Tags: ,

118 Responses to “Larger Projects”

  1. Frank McIntyre on June 26, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Russell,

    That is a great Holland quote.

  2. Adam Greenwood on June 26, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Real thought-provoking, Russell F. Your military comparison especially got me thinking, because I do see that serving is a virtuous and worthwhile thing to do even though it puts stress on the family and takes the father out of the home for long stretches of time.

    I guess I have two thoughts: first, while I think far too few men take their civic duty to serve seriously, I don’t think the duty to serve is paramount, overriding other duties, such as family duties. When duties conflict, people have to consider their particular circumstances and will rightly come down on different sides. In other words, I think some men may be justified in serving even though it does some damage to their duty to family and some men may be justified in staying behind to take care of family even though they aren’t filling their duty to serve. I myself got a discharge when Betsey Pearl went into a coma, a couple of months before my unit was activated. I still wish I could have gone, but I had my responsibility to my family that couldn’t be shirked.

    Second, the military is a relatively effective organization that accomplishes things. Many, many public schools are not. I could see the good that I would be contributing to when I took the oath, but I don’t see what difference sending my kids to public schools might make. Most of the problems are structural, in my opinion, and not the sort of thing that a little leaven will help, not without herculean effort.

    I should note that its still possible we’ll decide to send our kids to public schools, just not because we feel we’re making a difference to our community. The one influence on our decision that intersects with your post here is socialization. Not socialization as it usually comes up in homeschooling debates, since as far as we can tell homeschoolers can be socialized just fine, especially since they tend to get more socialized by a real community of people of all ages instead of being socialized by a pack of peers. Its just that we feel some obligation to be socialized with the people we live with.

  3. Seth R. on June 26, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    “Her demolishing, though, doesn’t especially interest me, because the original claim itself is not one I’ve ever heard or would likely take seriously. (Perhaps some of you homeschoolers out there, particularly those who live in communities with a large evangelical population, have heard something similar though.)”

    When he found out about our intent to homeschool our own children, my dad actually used a similar argument to this (not obnoxiously – he was quite respectful about it). It seems to cut to the heart of the popular perception that homeschoolers are weird and are sheltering their children from healthy social contact. The “light on a hill” argument is just a way of putting a uniquely Mormon spin on the age-old argument that homeschooled children are socially maladjusted.

    So it is out there.

  4. Russell Arben Fox on June 26, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Adam,

    Thanks very much for your thoughts.

    “I think some men may be justified in serving even though it does some damage to their duty to family and some men may be justified in staying behind to take care of family even though they aren’t filling their duty to serve.”

    That sounds eminently reasonable–but of course, it implicitly places one’s responsibility to family and one’s responsibility to country on the same level, if not necessarily in the same category. If you say that sometimes country trumps family, and sometimes family trumps country, then you’re saying that both are dependent variables in the equation called life. That actually makes a fair amount of sense to me, but taken as whole perhaps we should be careful in accepting such. Would we extend the same logic to the church? Or is the church always the independent variable, capable of trumping every other possible larger project? If so, then what might we make of the fact that, in recent years, the call of the church has been very, very rarely invoked as a trump to the calls of military service, but is increasingly often used as a trump in regards to other obligations?

    “The military is a relatively effective organization that accomplishes things. Many, many public schools are not. I could see the good that I would be contributing to when I took the oath, but I don’t see what difference sending my kids to public schools might make. Most of the problems are structural, in my opinion, and not the sort of thing that a little leaven will help, not without herculean effort.”

    No, a little leaven won’t help, but a million acts of “leavening”–that’s “human capital,” again–most certainly would. It seems to me likely that the military would have massive structural problems as well if soldiers could transfer themselves to different regiments and services simply by moving, or by bringing some sort of complaint or lawsuit, and on top of that if different divisions and bases of the military were funded differently depending on the contributions of localities, etc. And all that is to say nothing of the fact that so many parents make use of expensive private schools of various sorts, but our military is not made up of regiments put together by wealthy patrons, allowing select soldiers to escape association with their fellows.

    I guess I don’t know what my point is here: yes, the military would have the same problems as the public schools if it was the public schools, but it isn’t, so it doesn’t. That’s pretty obvious. But perhaps one could at least say that if the expectations involved in participating in the public schooling ideal were as formalized and consistent in our thinking as service in the military is, many of those structural problems could be minimized (as I think they in fact actually often are, or at least such has been our experience, having sent our girls to various public schools in Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois, and now Kansas).

  5. Tatiana on June 26, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    This is an interesting topic. When the public schools were integrated in the 70s, and academic standards dropped precipitously, my parents left us in public schools as an act of faith toward racial equality and integration in the United States. Academically I fell far behind during those years, which I had to make up by taking remedial math and chemistry in college, however, I learned something in that time that I consider priceless. And now I’m extremely glad I had that experience, that my parents made that choice. Basically I am a person who would have been shy and timid in facing life’s experiences, had I been given the chance. I wished fervently to be homeschooled every school-day morning from 4th through 8th grade, but now I’m so glad I wasn’t, because I would never have learned how to fend for myself in potentially hostile environments. I would not have learned how to respond to bullying and browbeating. I would have been uncomfortable in groups of people who were different from me in income or culture. I would be afraid of other parts of town, and think of the people there as being “the other”. I’m very glad I’m not saddled with those handicaps.

    It’s ironic, therefore, that I would make the opposite choice today for my own children, if I had them. I would want to keep them safer, and also to provide a much better academic environment for them than any school, particularly a public school, could provide.

  6. Adam Greenwood on June 26, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    perhaps one could at least say that if the expectations involved in participating in the public schooling ideal were as formalized and consistent in our thinking as service in the military is, many of those structural problems could be minimized

    The military has to be a collective enterprise by nature to achieve its purposes. Education not so much. The reason you don’t see a welter of public, private, and home armies in this country, all competing to provide their own foreign policy, is that it absolutely wouldn’t work. Most of the benefits and purposes of education inure are private, however. I think there are public purposes of education–inculcating and embodying a civic and community sense, e.g. But the differences are large enough that trying to take the same attitude to public education as one takes to the military just won’t work. Especially since people are just a lot more willing to sacrifice young men hungering for manhood then they are young kids.

  7. a spectator on June 27, 2007 at 10:11 am

    I think Mormons generally accept that at least part of the REASON for going to Church is for others whereas I would guess that most people would say that the REASON for going to school is significantly more selfish: for MY education.

    Personally, as a member of the school community (a teacher) I can clearly see the service rendered by some students and their families simply by attending. Having a diverse student and family population that includes those most likely to home-school (naturally inquisitive, studious, educated, religious, white, conservative, etc.) can be a great boon to a school. It goes from making a difference in one person’s life (the kid who sits next to you and learns from your example how to work independently), to your whole class (a racially or economically diverse class/school so everyone is exposed to diverse view-points), to the school (educated and academically-concerned parents being involved in PTA). I do think that most people view school as a wholey serving entity but it is actually a great place for service. I am sure that when people make the decision to home-school it is largely a family decision (better for the kids, better for us, better for our lifestyle) and while I agree that that ought certainly be an important consideration, I do wish people would also carefully consider the impact they have on their neighbors and school communities when they withdraw (same goes for private, charter, and magnet schoolers).

    School is marvelous service opportunity, but I don’t think people view it as such.

  8. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Of course children who go to public schools are also depriving private, charter, and magnet schools of their contribution. To the extent these schools are less messed up they probably need it less. But the most important contribution Mormon teenagers can make is the restored gospel of Christ and they’re needed for that everywhere (especially teens). I think the argument for helping others isn’t enough to justify neighborhood public schools over more distant private schools or magnet schools or whatnot. You need to argue that a human has greater duties to the people in their immediate locality than they do to more distant people, which I think is true.

    Additionally, the younger the children are, the less sense it makes to talk about having a duty to accept a lesser education in order to benefit others. Children don’t usually have self-sacrificing duties the way adults do. They probably best serve their community by getting the best instruction in morals and knowledge as they can.

  9. bbell on June 27, 2007 at 11:03 am

    RAF,

    This is an interesting post.

    “Why be beholden to dysfunctional ward, but not a dysfunctional school system?”

    To be honest I do not feel beholden to either right now in my life. I am engaged in raising a pack of LDS boys to adulthood. My goals are three. Missions, Temple marriages, and college degrees (or technical training) The most important work of my life. Any obstacle that I see in the path of meeting this goal for all of my sons is one that I will avoid.

    I will not sacrifice their spiritual or temporal development on the alter of my own sense of duty or any other reason.

    If the local public school is unsatisfactory I will move. If the ward I am in is failing my kids I will move.

  10. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Adam,

    “Of course children who go to public schools are also depriving private, charter, and magnet schools of their contribution. To the extent these schools are less messed up they probably need it less.”

    I don’t entirely follow the line of reasoning here. I think I can see how it might apply to various types of charter and magnet schools that are in a kind of hybrid category; parents who–just for the sake of hyperbole, let’s say “lazily”–send their children to their assigned, centrally-funded public school without much interest or involvement on their part do arguably make it much less likely that the innovations represented by charter schools (innovations which depend upon shaping the school in accordance with parental priorities and locally available resources) will be a success. But how could it be the case that sending children to public schools could “deprive” private schools? Private schools already presume–indeed, are premised upon–forms of deprivation: they are a privilege and a resource whose primary selling point is that they are not available to everyone (unlike charter schools, which still exist within a free and universal system). The more children that are–again, using hyperbole here–”lazily” sent to public schools, the easier it is for private schools to enforce their exclusivity and selectivity.

    “I think the argument for helping others isn’t enough to justify neighborhood public schools over more distant private schools or magnet schools or whatnot. You need to argue that a human has greater duties to the people in their immediate locality than they do to more distant people, which I think is true.”

    I don’t profoundly disagree with you here, though I suppose I would want to insist that, in line with my post’s argument, the “helping others” aspect of supporting the public schools can plausibly be understood as one’s obligation to a larger project, one arguably guaranteed by the basic principles of the social contract we live under. Still, all things considered (and this goes back to our comparison to the military above), I concur that the civic purposes of education have got to be centrally tied to one’s neighborhood and community to be justified. Part of my defense of public education is, unlike the many no doubt accurate horror stories out there, Melissa and I simply have never yet sent our children to a public school where we felt the teachers and principals were out of touch with, unresponsive to, or disconnected from the majority wishes and sympathies of the community they (and we) were part of.

  11. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 11:11 am

    BBell,

    I admire your consistency. But elaborate a little bit. Your language alone does seem to suggest a somewhat different approach to these two different “larger projects”–you say you would move from a school district if the education it provided wasn’t “satisfactory,” but when it comes to the ward it would have to be “failing” for you to move. An innocent matter of word choice, or do you think–as I suggested above–that for all our talk of the importance of families, we really are in fact willing to put up with greater hassles and interruptions and disatisfactions when they come from the church, than when they come from the schools?

  12. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 11:44 am

    “Of course children who go to public schools are also depriving private, charter, and magnet schools of their contribution. To the extent these schools are less messed up they probably need it less.”
    I don’t entirely follow the line of reasoning here.

    I don’t understand your response here, or what it is that you don’t follow. My reasoning is that if you object to homeschooling on the grounds that “A Spectator” does, that it deprives “others” of the influence of your children, then your objection to private schools, magnet schools, and so on is attenuated. They also are full of others.

  13. bbell on June 27, 2007 at 11:46 am

    RAF, 2 different standards for wards vs schools in my mind.

    Wards are not schools. There is an element of spiritual stretching that is good for us in limited amounts. Because of the small size of the ward family and the fact that thru our callings we can in some cases influence heavily the ward its worth sometimes toughing it out in a less then ideal ward. The ward would have to be failing us spiritually for me to leave.

    That being said the ballgame changes when the kids approach 10-13. That is when the quality of the youth program and even the individual families participating in the youth program matter a great deal to me. I am looking for good LDS friends, solid LDS girls to get to know, and leaders that inspire for my future teenagers.

    I require solid public schools with a good reputation and track record and will not compromise. There is little I can do to influence these public entities so I shop them as my parents did for me.

    In my experience good public schools have good wards that feed into them.

  14. Julie M. Smith on June 27, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Adam et al,

    Homeschooling is also “full of others.” I’ve had many missionary opportunities in our circles of homeschooling friends (co-ops, scouts, etc.).

  15. Seth R. on June 27, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Julie,

    Not if you want your kids to learn about evolution there isn’t.

  16. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    My reasoning is that if you object to homeschooling on the grounds that “A Spectator” does, that it deprives “others” of the influence of your children, then your objection to private schools, magnet schools, and so on is attenuated. They also are full of others.

    All right, Adam, but it still doesn’t seem to entirely hold water to me. The “others” that are in private schools are not the same as the “others” in public schools. Universal public schooling aims to treat all children, to treat them all the same; private schools, by contrast, begin with an act of economically enabled separation from all other “others.” Sure, if you don’t send your child to a private school you are, in a sense, “depriving” that school, but it’s not like every possible “other” in the public school system could have attended a private school if they’d so chosen. Most of the time, the choice of whether or not to attend private schools turns on economic factors far removed from questions of how one feels about civic obligations. So I just can’t see the “deprivation” which private schools might suffer from the fact that there are children which in theory “could have” attended them going to public school instead, operating anything like the deprivation which the larger project of public schooling suffers.

  17. mlu on June 27, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Universal public schooling aims to treat all children, to treat them all the same; private schools, by contrast, begin with an act of economically enabled separation from all other “others.”

    One of the reasons for not bothering with the public schools is that when you try to fix anything you run into people who keep saying things like this, which make them feel quite nice about themselves, but interferes with doing the things that would work, such as holding kids responsible for behaving in civilized ways.

    The quote is true in roughly the way it\’s true that Hugo Chavez cares about poor people. After all, that\’s why he does what he does, he says. Some people will support any nonsense (Stalin, Castro, Chavez) as long as some functionary mouths egalitarian ideals.

    Public education has thousands of ways to avoid educating the under classes. Many private (parochial) schools do a much better job of treating poor people like everyone else (and thereby getting better results). Public schools are quite segregated, internally. Visit an honors class, then visit one of the many classes designed to \”provide special services\” to special students.

    Otherwise, there would be no Shakespeare and no physics being taught at all.

    The short answer to your main question: the church is ordained of God. The public school system was long ago co-opted by the devil (who, I believe, promises to treat everyone the same and save them all).

    This is a good post. My bellicose tone may be related to the fact that I\’ve worked in and around public schools for my entire career–teacher, principal, angel from outside bringing grant money and training to staff. They are hopeless messes in many places, and quite a lot of the blame belongs to progressive idealism.

    It\’s quite easy to see oneself as contributing to the larger social good by doing everything possible to speed the collapse of these massive, tottering bureaucracies that for decades have made no serious effort to teach the children of poor people.

  18. TMD on June 27, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    No picture is big enough to convince a home schooler that maybe they shouldn’t home school.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to convince a home-schooler that home schooling is not the best thing since sliced bread. (see: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2619). No argument will ever suffice.

    Basically, it’s aesthetic choice, strongly grounded in class–much like shopping at whole foods or other fads like ‘eating locally’ or the organics movement, the aesthetics of which I disagree with on pretty much every level (and think that in many cases is bad for the kid), but like most matters of taste, there’s no convincing.

    Ok, what I just said, perhaps they think it’s the best thing since home-made whole wheat bread.

  19. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    RAF,

    I don’t see that the pretensions of the schools make much difference. Sure, I suppose that to the extent going to a private school sends a message that stratification is ok, and going to a public school sends a message that we’re all equal, it matters some, but the act of going to either one actually doesn’t send much of a message that way, I think, and the effects of such a message are likely to be minimal.

    So what really matters is what the circumstances are in the various schools you can consider. I think its probably true that to the extent public schools are worse than private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools, then one can probably help others more by sending your kids to public schools. But since I think the biggest way your kids can help others is by witnessing to the Word, the difference is slight, since kids with wealth, talent, or concerned parents are also in need of glory.

    That’s why a think helping others is not a decisive reason for choosing public schools over private schools or charters or magnets (or even, as Julie in A. points out, homeschooling). I think something like a moral obligation to be involved with your neighborhood and local community has more weight.

  20. spencer on June 27, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    I am much less concerned (but not totally unconcerned) about using my kids to provide a good environment for others than I am about finding a good environment for my kids in which to grow and contribute.

    I have heard a similar argument from parents of athletic kids to justify missing church activities and services because of athletic events. They maintained that by allowing their kids to be involved in sports on Sunday and to the exclusion of weekly youth activities and seminary that they were a force for missionary work and a source of light in the sports organization. But how do you know that your kid will be that shining light, rather than have their light dimmed through the years of decreased emphasis on church? I saw more kids get side tracked by the drugs and alcohol prevalent in the social scene associated with the sports teams at my high school than I saw convert baptisms due to the “good Mormon influence.”

  21. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Basically, it’s aesthetic choice, strongly grounded in class–much like shopping at whole foods or other fads like ‘eating locally’ or the organics movement, the aesthetics of which I disagree with on pretty much every level (and think that in many cases is bad for the kid), but like most matters of taste, there’s no convincing.

    None of the homeschoolers around here fit that description at all. They’re mostly lower-middle class evangelicals or Mormons with stay at home moms that struggle to make ends meet.

  22. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    A question, RAF: how does your strong public school-private school distinction account for the strong stratification of public schools? We could get our kids about the same quality of education by moving into the snooty high school district here as we could by sending them to the local snooty private school. And for about the same cost. This isn’t really a matter of these places having extre money. Its a matter of who the kids and parents are, which is largely the same for both places. In both places the ‘others’ are the same, so I fail to see why going to the one instead of the other would “help others’ more. In fact, we would probably get a larger cultural and class mix if we sent our children to the private Catholic schools than if we went to the public high-school in the best part of town.

  23. TMD on June 27, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    21: Most are highly educated (or at least seem to be), making overt choices in this regard.

  24. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Making choices doesn’t make you an latte-sipping aesthete who shops at Whole Foods. And, for the record, lots of the homeschooling parents aren’t “highly educated.” Some have state-school college degrees, some don’t have college degrees.

  25. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    MLU,

    One of the reasons for not bothering with the public schools is that when you try to fix anything you run into people who keep saying things like this, which make them feel quite nice about themselves, but interferes with doing the things that would work, such as holding kids responsible for behaving in civilized ways.

    Yes, of course, you’re right–equality is always fundamentally incompatible with responsibility; appealing to what is common amongst all people always prevents the development of civilization amongst any people. Aristotle was right! Let’s bring back slavery, so the natural aristocrats can shine.

    The quote is true in roughly the way it’s true that Hugo Chavez cares about poor people. After all, that’s why he does what he does, he says. Some people will support any nonsense (Stalin, Castro, Chavez) as long as some functionary mouths egalitarian ideals.

    Horace Mann = Hugo Chavez. Yep, that one’s clear as day too. How could I have been so blind?

    This is a good post. My bellicose tone may be related to the fact that I\’ve worked in and around public schools for my entire career…They are hopeless messes in many places, and quite a lot of the blame belongs to progressive idealism. It’s quite easy to see oneself as contributing to the larger social good by doing everything possible to speed the collapse of these massive, tottering bureaucracies that for decades have made no serious effort to teach the children of poor people.

    Turning off my snark (with apologies for the above comments) here, I have to say that agree with you to a degree. A great many “progressive” and “egalitarian” reforms (busing perhaps more than anything else, but it is only one of many) have often made public education systems a bureaucratic nightmare, an enemy to local neighborhoods, a screwed-up top-down machine that teaches students without much competence or parental involvement. I’m generally a defender of unions, but I’ll be the first to acknowledge that many of rules teachers unions have enforced have been wholly detrimental to students. Put all that together, and your final observation–that many the best “larger project” to be committed to is the collapse of the whole system–seems eminently plausible. I disagree with it, but I suppose that’s primarily because I’ve haven’t seen the sort of abuses and failures that you obviously have, as well the fact that I am admittedly hung-up intellectually on the whole communitarian/egalitarian thing. But who knows? If we’d been sending our kids to school in downtown Dallas or Chicago or St. Louis, perhaps my civic principles would be more easily trumped.

  26. ronito on June 27, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Another thing that public schools will provide you with a point of view different from your own or your parents or your friends. I am constantly meeting homeschooled kids that have very one sided educations and that makes me greatful for my parents having put me in public school.

    Just an example when I explained to a grown homeschooled kid that was going on and on about what great clean christians Ben Franklin and George Washington were when I explained to her about Ben’s exploits and that George was a Mason it was as if her whole world imploded. Likewise when I heard another grown homeschooled kid talking about the UN is a horrible thing and I explained to him how it got founded and it’s lofty goals he was visibly shaken. And these are just two examples I have

    As it was said, there is nothing anyone could say that will convince a homeschooler that public schools will do their kids good. Likewise nothing you can say to a defender of the villified public school system that will convince them that homeschooling is a healthy alternative. I’m just greatful for my public schooling. It has taught me plenty and I wouldn’t trade it.

    Adam, homeschooling does bring up a class thing. We were dirt poor and both of my parents had to work hard to just get food on the table. I’m definetly not saying that it’s impossible to have a stay at home parent do the teaching, my wife stays at home. But honestly, it is a class thing, we’re not at the edge of poverty. And yes we scrape by with her at home, but we’re much better off than my parents were. It most definetly is a class thing. A single mom is not likely to homeschool her kids, she has to work. Families like the one I grew up are far too poor to afford to have one of the parents stay home also will not have the choice. It might not be the ultra-filthy rich that do it, but you must admit the option is not open to the poorest.

  27. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Ronito,
    Saying that you have to be able to afford to have the mother stay at home to homeschool (even if you scrimp and pinch) is a far cry from saying that homeschooling is an upper-middle class aesthetic preoccupation and class signifier, like shopping at Whole Foods. It may become that and for all I know it is already becoming that in some areas, but it started out as a revolt of the unwashed masses against evolution, PC, and sex ed, and still remains that way some, at least around here.

  28. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Ronito,
    I’m constantly meeting publicly-schooled children who have a very one-sided negative view about religious topics and American history. Come to think of it, nearly everyone I meet who disagrees with me seems to have a very one-sided view. Funny.

  29. ronito on June 27, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    “Come to think of it, nearly everyone I meet who disagrees with me seems to have a very one-sided view.”

    Adam you win the funniest quote of the day award! Congrats! I might quote you on that one in later conversations. It’s brilliantly ironic.

    I’m not one that equates it to Whole Foods. But again it is something that many simply cannot do. Can you really call it a mass revolution if there is a price to admittance? Honestly, that’s like saying “I’m going to run my minivan on biofuel!” and calling it a revolution.

  30. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    TMD, Ronito, Adam,

    I think it’s undeniable that home schooling today caught up in class divides–but that is because everything gets caught up in class divides, eventually. (This is why everyone should read Marx.) I believe that Adam is correct about the history, though: the modern home schooling movement in America, leaving aside those dissident Christian sects which have always practiced it to a degree (the Amish, etc.), was the product of two things: the hippie rejection of the “establishment” in favor of the communal ideal in the 1960s, and the evangelical rejection of modern pedagogy and sexual education in the 1970s. Honest and open-minded home schoolers of all stripes who have been at it a while will all admit that in the early, difficult years of the movement, Christians and counter-culturalists found themselves jointly aligned against the middle- and upper-class powers that be. It has only been in the last twenty years or so that highly educated parents with resources to spare have started getting involved (and not coincidentally, through their involvement have greatly changed the nature of home schooling, to the point today where you have pricey home schooling seminars and symposiums being hosted in major cities all across the country.)

  31. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Honestly, that’s like saying “I’m going to run my minivan on biofuel!” and calling it a revolution.

    True, it’s not a revolution. But then, the fact that it isn’t a revolution doesn’t mean it’s therefore wrong or unnecessary to run your minivan on biofuels, if you can.

  32. TMD on June 27, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    24: See, here’s a difference–to me, if you have any time in college, you are culturally middle class, at very least. Even if you went to a state school. (If you went to the university of Michigan, you’re probably culturally upper class.)

    To me, class is not just a matter of current income or where you went to school, but a wide range of attitudes, tastes, and values, produced in part by the economic structures associated with income, but also with things like family background (in a harper lee sense, ‘how long your family can read,’ a sense also seen in the differences between, say, lace curtain irish and shanty irish). There was a great article in the nyt about the role of class in the classroom a couple of weeks ago. It well illuminates the many faceted character of the class I’m talking about.

  33. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I agree with you, TMD. I disagree with you that having gone to a year of college before dropping out means that you are part of the local foods movement, shop organic, or homeschool for aesthetic reasons and as an act of conspicuous consumption (see your # 18).

  34. kristine N on June 27, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I went to public school and was in the ELP/IB programs (this was in SLC in the 90′s), and I have to agree with mlu–it was pretty segregated economically. There were a few of us “west side” kids, but mostly the people in AP/IB classes were east siders, and mostly from around the U. Supposedly AP/IB classes were more challenging (I think they were just less busy work–good grades were still ridiculously easy to come by). Really, what the AP/IB classes were was a vehicle to get kids into better colleges. The thing that amazes me to this day is the number of my classmates who didn’t go on to ivy leagues, or even to college. I really think isolating the smart kids from the not so smart kids early does all of them a disservice.

  35. bbell on June 27, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    RAF,

    Address this issue.

    While living in Chicago I noticed the following…

    I would commonly speak to Chicago residents who in principle would make strong statements regarding how important the Chicago public schools are for society. The same individuals would then proceed to send their own children to private schools despite their philosophical/political leanings. Or they would move to the suburbs when the kids were school aged

    I bring up this point to illustrate that involved parents tend on aggregate to be rational actors regarding their kids education. They want what is best regardless of philosophical outlook.

  36. Julie M. Smith on June 27, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    “pricey home schooling seminars and symposiums being hosted in major cities all across the country”

    What are you talking about? With one or two very minor exceptions nationwide, all the conventions I know about are a 20-dollars-for-the-whole-weekend kind of thing. (Of course, most hsers buy a lot of stuff they don’t really need once there . . .)

  37. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    By the way, for a homeschooling discussion y’all are being pretty civil and thoughtful. Good work. And thanks to RAF for starting us off right.

  38. TMD on June 27, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    AG: Note that I said that these things were also grounded in class, not necessarily that they have the same relations to the same class. They were corollary examples, rather than clumped ones. My point is not that one or the other is wrong, but rather that we should see it as it is–generally an aesthetic choice–about which its adherents are for all intents and purposes insusceptible to contrary argument.

  39. lamonte on June 27, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    In the past I was skeptical about home school, believing the students would miss out in important socializing experiences. I have been corrected in my thinking by many who support home schooling. My sons were all schooled in the Fairfax County Schools in Virginia and received an excellent public education but it was not without its trials.

    My wife is the primary president in our ward and marvels at how bright the home schooled children in our ward are, not just about gospel subjects, but also in reading skills, logical thinking and in confidence levels. I mention this fact to a friend of mine who is otherwise very conservative – politically speaking – and he becomes incensed at my comment. Then I realize that his wife taught in the public school system for more than 20 years, although she tutors privately now. So I find it interesting to consider this interesting subject.

  40. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    BBell,

    “I would commonly speak to Chicago residents who in principle would make strong statements regarding how important the Chicago public schools are for society. The same individuals would then proceed to send their own children to private schools despite their philosophical/political leanings. Or they would move to the suburbs when the kids were school aged.”

    I guess I would respond to that by saying that such individuals are 1) like me in that they are trying to affirm their belief in the larger project which public schooling represents, while also recognizing the necessary limits upon their own ability to positively affect that larger project, and at a particular point in time allowing their obligation to their children to trump their ideological commitments accordingly; or 2) hypocrites and pharisees. Sympathy suggests that we treat them as belonging to group #1, but I’ve known plenty of group #2 as well. They’ve been around for a while.

    Julie,

    “With one or two very minor exceptions nationwide, all the conventions I know about are a 20-dollars-for-the-whole-weekend kind of thing. (Of course, most home schoolers buy a lot of stuff they don’t really need once there . . .)”

    Maybe I’m thinking of the stuff for sale rather than the registration price, then. All I know is that I’ve seen some of the brochures and catalogues and listings and programs that my home-schooling relatives get sent all the time, and a lot of it looks pretty high-end and pricey to me.

  41. John Mansfield on June 27, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, D.C., recently pushed through a reform giving the mayor control of the D.C. public schools. In a radio interview, he was asked if this means his two sons will now attend public school. He fielded the question pretty well, first pointing out that he is a graduate of D.C. public schools, and then saying that he hopes to improve the schools to the point that he will educate his own children there.

  42. Jonathan Green on June 27, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Without a functioning public school system, you can forget about the linguistic assimilation of immigrant children. It’s one part of the educational landscape where home schooling is totally useless. People may differ on how much they value assimilation, or on how best to promote it, but there’s no getting around the necessity of public schools for it.

  43. bbell on June 27, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    JA,

    An interesting point. I agree with you on this issue. Strong public schooling was a large factor in assimilating the last big wave of eastern and southern europeans.

    I believe that immigration is a factor that drives some parents to homeschool. Esp in border states.

  44. Ray on June 27, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    FWIW, I think the same central issue applies to public schooling as to the debate over decreasing the length of the Sunday block schedule. If people are experiencing what they view to be success in public schools (like being spiritually fed in church) – or believe they can help make it become successful, they will accept the system as presently constituted – or work within it to make it better; if they are not experiencing success and have no such hope, they will pull their children from the system (if they have that ability) and place them elsewhere. Personally, I have worked in and around the public education system for the past 14 years, and I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that.

  45. John Williams on June 27, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    How do homeschooled kids do on standardized exams like the SAT, ACT, AP tests, etc.?

  46. Alison Moore Smith on June 27, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Her demolishing, though, doesn’t especially interest me, because the original claim itself is not one I’ve ever heard or would likely take seriously.

    The claim is a living and well. And I hear it a million times more often from LDS folks than I ever did from evangelicals.

  47. ronito on June 27, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Ray,
    If only it were that easy. I would call my bishop and tell him I’ve decided to be homechurched and please send my temple recommend in the mail.

    JW,
    I don’t have the study readily at hand but the dept of education did a study last year comparing private vs. public vs home. If I remember rightly. It found that when you take mass numbers homeschooled kids are relatively close to public school kids (except for when it comes to math and science Home school kids fared better on those while public school kids did better on english). Private schools just tie public school except for conservative religious schools which fared worse than public schools. It doesn’t speak to SAT and such scores. It would seem that homeschooling has it’s share of bright bulbs and dull crayons just like public schools.

  48. John Williams on June 27, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks, ronito.

    I wonder if education should be totally privatized. I mean, do we want a free market or socialism? Maybe completely private education would be much more efficient.

    Also, I think education acts partly (and maybe even primarily) as a filter for employers… it just gives future employers a metric for lowering employee risk. (Education probably has an inverse relation with employee risk). Education is clearly not only about giving students useful skills.

  49. Russell Arben Fox on June 27, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    The claim is a living and well. And I hear it a million times more often from LDS folks than I ever did from evangelicals.

    That is really interesting to me, Alison. Obviously I’m not on the direct receiving end of such arguments, since we don’t home school, but six of my eight siblings’ families do, and I talk to them about home schooling pretty regularly. So far as I recall, none of them have ever mentioned to me being told by their fellow Mormons that their children ought to be in the public schools for “missionary” reasons. (Of course, just because they didn’t relay it on to me doesn’t mean they’d never heard it.)

    Hey, here’s a chance to possibly refocus the thread: does the claim that LDS children and teenagers ought to attend public schools so they can be an example of the faith to others even work the same way as the evangelical claim which Ms. Thomas’s article responded to? After all, we envision “witnessing” in a very different way than the evangelical world does. Yes, there’s talk about “every member being a missionary,” and yes the young men are supposed to go out with the elders, but seriously, I’ve never seen the youth of the church given the sorts of forums and responsibilities for preaching and witnessing that I’ve often seen in some Protestant churches. So does that mean the complaint doesn’t even really apply to our youth, and LDS home schoolers can completely brush it off? Or does the charge still make sense–not just in the civic, “larger project” sense that I discussed in my post, but in a specifically religious and scriptural sense as well?

  50. John Williams on June 27, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    My freshman-year roommate at BYU once made a wisecrack about how you could spot the home-schooled kids by their attire.

  51. Adam Greenwood on June 27, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Yes, there’s talk about “every member being a missionary,” and yes the young men are supposed to go out with the elders, but seriously, I’ve never seen the youth of the church given the sorts of forums and responsibilities for preaching and witnessing that I’ve often seen in some Protestant churches.

    No, but perhaps we ought to. The best converts I’ve seen were teenagers.

  52. Alison Moore Smith on June 27, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    when I explained to her about Ben’s exploits and that George was a Mason…how [the UN] got founded and it’s lofty goals he was visibly shaken

    Yea, because public schools generally spend SO much time discussing Ben’s exploits, George’s Masonry, and the UN on any level. That’s pretty much what I learned in public school.

    pricey home schooling seminars and symposiums being hosted in major cities all across the country

    I am a convention speaker and just conducted four workshops at UHEA last Saturday. The cost was $35 per adult, $45 per couple. It was held at the Salt Palace.

    Russel, I can’t even recall being told that by an evangelical Christian. Only other Mormons. Perhaps it’s because the evangelicals don’t think “our kind” would be a positive influence in the schools anyway?

  53. ronito on June 27, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    Alison,
    Well obviously my public school did.

  54. Julie M. Smith on June 27, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Russell,

    Yes. While the conventions themselves are not pricy, one could certainly spend a lot of money homeschooling. However, I’ve seen lots of informal surveys and would conclude that families are spending on average maybe $400/year per child for elementary and $600 for high school.

    bbell, except that many of those immigrants (including my own Italian ancestors) sent their kids to private Catholic school.

    John Williams asks, “How do homeschooled kids do on standardized exams like the SAT, ACT, AP tests, etc.?”

    Usually better than their peers. However, the data is dicey because some homeschoolers refuse contact with any institution, including that type of test, and some kids are homeschooled only because they had terrible school experiences (so: is their terrible score the fault of homeschooling or public scools). So I don’t think there will ever be really good stats on homeschooled kids as a population.

    John Williams again, “My freshman-year roommate at BYU once made a wisecrack about how you could spot the home-schooled kids by their attire.”

    That may be true. And it may be a good thing.

  55. John Williams on June 27, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    @Julie M. Smith

    “John Williams again, “My freshman-year roommate at BYU once made a wisecrack about how you could spot the home-schooled kids by their attire.”

    That may be true. And it may be a good thing.”

    The wisecrack was said in the context of the FLDS-type dresses that some of the girls at BYU would wear around Helaman Halls in the Fall of 1996. They looked like they had just been bussed up from Colorado City. It wasn’t exactly a flattering remark.

  56. Julie M. Smith on June 27, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Never mind, then. I had more in mind the kinda scraggly, definitely-not-trendy homeschoolers that surround me here in Austin.

  57. Ray on June 27, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    ronito, I really like most of what you write, but I am totally mystified by #47.

    All I said is that those who stop attending church usually do so because they no longer feel that they need it to be successful, and those who want a shorter block usually do so because they feel they don’t need all three hours to be successful – for whatever reason. The central theme of this threadjack boils down to why parents who have the ability to choose their children’s education home school them rather than keeping them in public school – or put them in private or parochial schools. Most of the responses indicate that those who choose to educate their kids outside of the public system do so because they don’t feel that those kids will be as successful inside that system as outside of it – that they can do a better job at home or in a different setting than public education. How is that any different than what I wrote?

    BTW, my observation is based not just on my experience working in the system, but also my association with dozens of family members and friends who home school their kids and literally thousands of people who send their kids to private schools. Every single one of them would agree with what I wrote – that they have little or no hope that the public system will educate their children the way they want their children to be educated. Many of them choose the option they choose for religious reasons as well, but even that ties into what they believe the public system cannot provide.

    I never said anyone can “home church” their kids, nor did I imply any connection to temple recommends. Don’t brush off what I wrote based simply on an irrelevant distortion.

  58. dangermom on June 28, 2007 at 12:00 am

    I’m late, but as a homeschooler, I have heard the “light on a hill” claim. The first time was by my Primary President when I was considering homeschooling. “They’re such a light,” she said. That may be true, but it’s a pretty heavy burden to lay on any 6-yo. And the fact is that we mostly hang out with hippie unschoolers (frequently very poor ones, ronito) who know next to nothing about Mormons. Or else evangelicals who have never heard much truth about us.

    Anyway, it’s a rare homeschooler who will claim that homeschooling is for everyone; it’s not an easy lifestyle and definitely not for everyone, or even most people. But it’s still an option that should be available.

  59. Zoltar on June 28, 2007 at 3:34 am

    No success can compensate for failure in the homeschool.

  60. John Taber on June 28, 2007 at 9:10 am

    “Anyway, it’s a rare homeschooler who will claim that homeschooling is for everyone”

    The homeschoolers who dominated the elders’ quorum in both my parents’ ward when I passed through there in 2002, and to a lesser extent in my current ward (when I first came in 2003) most certainly made that claim. (I was even subjected to a lesson from the John Taylor manual that was supposed to be on education turned into “Public schools are evil” and “Scientists are all atheists”.) They based their argument in part on an alleged quote by Alvin R. Dyer that in the Millenium there will be no schools outside the home.

  61. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 10:31 am

    So far the indictment against homeschooling looks like this:

    1) Upper-middle class people shop at Whole Foods for aesthetic reasons and as a class signifier. While homeschooling may not be an upper-middle class phenomenon, parents who both work can’t afford to do it. Therefore homeschooling is also purely an aesthetic phenomenon and a class signifier.

    2) Homeschoolers don’t learn about George Washington’s Masonic ties or about the formation of the UN, while public schoolers do.

    3) Some homeschooled children don’t dress fashionably.

    4) Some homeschoolers think everyone should homeschool.

    Ouch. You people just aren’t pulling your punches.

  62. madera verde on June 28, 2007 at 10:52 am

    I think, Mr. Greenwood, that you are forgetting a point. Ronito remembers a study that shows homeshchoolers are no more academically advanced than their public school counterparts. Also I think you are downplaying the effect of poverty. Without the option and public acceptance of public schooling some of our great presidents might not have achieved as much.

  63. Bob on June 28, 2007 at 10:59 am

    If people think that you should send your kids to public school so that they can be an example to others, then I think those families so go move to the slums and gang-controlled neighbothoods so they can be such good examples.

  64. TMD on June 28, 2007 at 11:05 am

    AG–No, you misunderstand. I have lots of arguments against homeschooling (for instance, I think it narrows childrens’ range of intellectual experience and sense of the opportunities in life available to them, intertwines intellectual development and parental relationships in undesireable ways, and severely limits their common experiences with their peer-group, something important, over the long term for interacting and building community with them–rather than the ‘adults’ of today.

    I’ve just been convinced by earlier discussions that it is a waste of time to argue with homeschoolers about it, because nothing will ever change their minds, which is not surprising given that it is an aesthetic choice. Seriously, what would it take for a homeschooler to come to the conclusion that they had been wrong to homeschool, or, in process, were wrong to homeschool? Based on earlier discussions, I really don’t know of anything.

    By the way, you continue to mis-describe my comment above. Much like most decisions to adopt a counter-cultural lifestyle, it is a strongly classed (mostly middle classed) preference. Remember, even most of the hippies were the children of the upper and middle classes, and were people whose skill sets made the pretty economically secure, regardless of their current income–they were just choosing to ‘opt out.’ But that did not make them like real lower class people, who are culturally very different.

  65. Amira on June 28, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I’m another homeschooler whose been told that my children should be in public schools to be an example/missionary. I find this to be particularly silly because I’ve homeschooled in Utah County, Rexburg, Idaho, and in a country where missionary work was illegal. I’m sure the Christian school we would have put our children in overseas would have loved to have my sons handing out copies of the Book of Mormon.

    Our family has had more missionary opportunities because of our many Muslim friends than anything relating to our schooling choices. My children’s missionary opportunities have not been limited because they are homeschooled, just different from those most public schooled Mormon kids might have.

  66. Russell Arben Fox on June 28, 2007 at 11:20 am

    If people think that you should send your kids to public school so that they can be an example to others, then I think those families so go move to the slums and gang-controlled neighbothoods so they can be such good examples.

    Of course, there is a long tradition in the Christian tradition of missionaries and families doing exactly that–indeed, one of pastors I know through Friends University bought a home and moved his family to one of the poorer neighborhoods in town for exactly that reason. And then, of course, there is also the frequent times when middle-class, suburban Mormon families have been called en masse to attend inner city or poor rural wards and branches, to provide them with bodies and leadership. So really, I think your snark actually touches on something meaningful, perhaps something we ought to take more seriously as an option.

    Amira, I think your home schooling experiences and thoughts have been exemplary; while you haven’t convinced Melissa and I, we’ve both benefited from following your family’s adventures over the years.

  67. ronito on June 28, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Ray,
    You misunderstand, my friend. It was a just an unsucessful snark. Pointing at how many of the people who homeschool feel “this isn’t working for me so I’m going to do it at home and have my certs/diplomas sent.” However, many of these same people would gawk at the idea of taking the same approach with church.

    Don’t read too much into it. I really meant nothing by it.

  68. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Ronito remembers a study that shows homeshchoolers are no more academically advanced than their public school counterparts.

    That’s a real argument, so I didn’t snark it. I’m not familiar with the study, but if homeschoolers can get the same results with much less expenditure of public funds, great! My anecdotal impression is that some homeschooling parents get better results than the public schools and that most get the same results in less time.

    Also I think you are downplaying the effect of poverty. Without the option and public acceptance of public schooling some of our great presidents might not have achieved as much.

    Which President did you have in mind? In any case, home schooling doesn’t take away the option of public schooling for the poor.

  69. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    TMD,

    you may have lots of arguments, but you haven’t given them here. Instead you just asserted that it was an aesthetic choice. Your only evidence for that is that when you get in an argument with homeschoolers, they don’t change their minds. Apparently you don’t change your mind either–does that make your distaste for homeschooling merely aesthetic and all your other arguments mere epiphenomena? I know lots of Mormons who don’t change their minds when someone tries to argue with them about their faith. Does that make them unreasonable and their Mormonism an aesthetic choice?

    I’m not sure how I’m “misdescribing” your comment. I agree that homeschooling is largely a middle-class phenomenom. I just disagree that its an upper-middle class phenomenon and I disagree that being a middle-class phenomenom discredits it.

  70. Bob on June 28, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    “And then, of course, there is also the frequent times when middle-class, suburban Mormon families have been called en masse to attend inner city or poor rural wards and branches, to provide them with bodies and leadership.”

    Well then every time someones asks me about the schools in the this area, I will say, “Oh it’s a wonderful opportunity. There are several problems that I’m sure your kids can help with. Lots of kids with serious problems.” When people are looking for a new home, I’ll point them to the area sthat have the highest crime rates, the ones that look the most unkempt, and have lots of drug use. Then people can send their good little examples and help those people.

    Ridiculous. I am all for people reaching out to people with challenges, giving service, and being examples, but not children, definitely not by themselves. They are still developing. They don’t need to be sheltered from every bad thing or challenge, but they do need some protection so they can fully develop.

    Anyone who tries to live in a nice neighborhood in a good school district and then argues that homeschoolers are doing something wrong by not sending their kids to public school to help disadvantaged kids, is a hypocrite.

  71. TMD on June 28, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    AG: Actually, I cited the thread where I have described my arguments, in an extended discussion with JMS, which I continued until she stated that she was no longer interested in continuing the dialog. It did not seem to me that this thread was the place to discuss all of those arguments, generally.

    It is an aesthetic taste, ultimately, inasmuch as it comes from a desire to have “different” children, or to protect the existing “differentness” of children. Being different, as opposed to more or less conforming (at least outwardly, few “conforming” people are actually as conformist as those who self describe as “different” or “countercultural” them are), are essentially aesthetic choices in this sense, based on the attitudes, values, and preferences of individuals. Only in the most extreme circumstances are there significant moral differences between them. This is most emphatically the case with regard to this subject.

    I carry no particular brief for public schools–K-8, I attended a parochial school run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and believe that in some cases, parochial and private, as well as charter schools can be excellent alternatives to the mainline public school.

    I do believe that homeschoolers tend to be deeply dogmatic on the subject. Not only do they defend their own particular choice, they tend to claim that any principled argument against homeschooling is invalid (regardless of the degree to which it may actually implicate their own circumstances.) That is my experience with them.

    Dogmatism is ok in some realms of life–like perhaps faith (though, as a convert, I myself have shown a willingness to change even there), but surely you would not suggest that the mere policy issue of school choice is a subject comparable to the gospel in this regard.

  72. Ray on June 28, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, ronito. I can accept that completely.

    I have sisters and cousins who home school, as do a couple of my best friends. Some of them are doing a fantastic job (their kids are receiving the kind of individual attention they would have no chance of getting in their local public school system and are excelling in amazing ways), while some of them are doing a terrible job (their kids are far behind the public school average in most academic areas). Sadly, IMO, the latter parents place their own negative priorities of avoidance (sex ed, character ed, secular ed, etc.) over their kids’ positive opportunities for academic education. As I said earlier, the actual decision tends to be focused on the parents’ definition of success. Sometimes that definition matches mine; sometimes it doesn’t. I only comment on it with those who (I believe) are failing their kids if they ask me to do so, since unwanted advice in this area is like trying to Bible-bash with a Baptist preacher – or a Mormon Elder. It is doomed to failure and just leads to hard feelings, so I leave it alone.

  73. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    This is most emphatically the case with regard to this subject.

    Says you. But most of your evidence is pronouncement ex cathedra, which doesn’t cut it much around here. My wife and I are currently evaluating whether to send our kids to private schools, parochial schools, public schools, or homeschools. We don’t see it as an aesthetic choice and most of the homeschoolers we know don’t either. We and they are deeply concerned with our children’s intellectual and moral formation. I don’t think I refuse to acknowledge any problems with homeschooling–look at this thread, for instance, where I’ve agreed that homeschooled children may be less able to share the gospel with their peers and that homeschooling can have separatist tendencies. But we’re still considering homeschooling because we also see lots of advantages. Yet you insist that we’re deluding ourselves, that its all because we’re upper-middle class bobos who can’t stand the idea that our children won’t be unique.

    Frankly by far the most dogmatic pronouncement about homeschooling I’ve ever encountered is your insistence that no one has good reasons for homeschooling, that its all aesthetics. The second most dogmatic pronouncement is your insistence that if you have a debate about homeschooling and the other person doesn’t accept your point of view, its because of irrational dogmatism.

    I can understand why JMS decided toend the “dialogue” with you. I intend to profit by her example.

  74. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    This is most emphatically the case with regard to this subject.

    Says you. But most of your evidence is pronouncement ex cathedra, which doesn’t cut it much around here. My wife and I are currently evaluating whether to send our kids to private schools, parochial schools, public schools, or homeschools. We don’t see it as an aesthetic choice and most of the homeschoolers we know don’t either. We and they are deeply concerned with our children’s intellectual and moral formation. I don’t think I refuse to acknowledge any problems with homeschooling–look at this thread, for instance, where I’ve agreed that homeschooled children may be less able to share the gospel with their peers and that homeschooling can have separatist tendencies. But we’re still considering homeschooling because we also see lots of advantages. Yet you insist that we’re deluding ourselves, that its all because we’re upper-middle class bobos who can’t stand the idea that our children won’t be unique.

    Frankly by far the most dogmatic pronouncement about homeschooling I’ve ever encountered is your insistence that no one has good reasons for homeschooling, that its all aesthetics. The second most dogmatic pronouncement is your insistence that if you have a discussion about homeschooling and the other person doesn’t accept your point of view, its because of irrational dogmatism.

    I can understand why JMS decided to end the “dialogue” with you. I intend to profit by her example.

  75. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Bob,

    Russell F. isn’t saying that people need to send their kids to failing public schools no matter what. He’s saying that we have an obligation to help out our local communities even at some cost to ourselves and in some cases even at some cost to our children. This is hardly an overriding obligation and as should be clear from the rest of this thread, I mostly come down on the side of homeschoolers, but its still an obligation we need to consider.

    I don’t think most Mormon families need to move the inner city or do something equivalent, but I think more Mormon families probably ought to consider it.

  76. Seth R. on June 28, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Homeschooling is not a monolithic thing (even if right-wing Christian sensibilities do tend to dominate a good chunk of it). There are several different theories of effective homeschooling with their accompanying curriculums and advocates.

    The moment I read that statistic from ronito about homeschoolers being about on par with public schoolers, my wife’s immediate response was “that’s because of all the unschoolers out there.”

    Unschooliing is the approach that you should not impose too many restrictions on your child, allow them to learn what they want to learn, at their own pace, happy happy, touchy-feeley…

    We think it’s a load of rubbish. Or an excuse not to act like a real parent.

    But I’m also open to the possibility that I’m being entirely unfair and pig-headed. I’m not sure what my wife thinks.

    But take home point – not all home school programs are created equal.

  77. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Seth R.,

    Are there any stats about the relative merits of various approaches? I get itchy without data, so I wish some were out there.

  78. a spectator on June 28, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    I find it very interesting that people feel that sending their kids to less than ideal public schools is “sacrificing” them. I wonder why I feel so differently? Maybe because:

    1–I would never, no matter the school, equate school with education. It is my job as a parent to educate my child and school is a tool. I would supplement any schooling with such things as literary study and field trips, or anything I thought the school was weak in. Same with Church–I check with my kids what they have learned and if it does not seem appropriate, we study the topic together–I am sure most of you do, too.
    2–I have specifically chosen to live in beleagered wards and school districts in order to improve the situation. It has been very educational and fulfilling–I do think many American Mormons are lacking in service at this level (and, as RAF mentioned, “missions,” choosing service careers, etc–many Mormons seem to serve only within a small comfort zone of the home, family, and lifestyle they choose to maintain).
    3–I associate many positive early exposures to other lifestyles with my attendance of public schools. Some of these schools (my family moved quite a bit) were, in fact, scary (I wasn’t scared at the time, but I look back now and think, wow, I bet my parents didn’t know that was going on!)
    4–Of all values, service and compassion are the 2 I most want to impart to my children; I start young and we actively “serve” my kids’ friends when they are one-year-olds. Being a part of the public school community is an important extension of learning service and compassion for my family. As much as I value formal eduaction, is not the ability to serve more important than the ability navigate quantum physics?

    I think bbell mentioned his 3 priorities of missions, temple marriage, and education for his kids, which are very appropriate and his passion is commendable. Maybe I think (hope, pray, am quite confidant) my kids can get there through public schools, too and in doing so, improve some lives while we are at it.

  79. ronito on June 28, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Adam,

    I am not trying to say that you are a upper middle-class bobo or anything. However, I would like to point out the fact that you have the ability to weight the choices of paroichal vs private vs publics vs homeschool does mean you have a luxury of a choice where many have none. Which does sort of make TMD’s point.

  80. William Morris on June 28, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    What’s wrong with aesthetic choices?

    —–

    When it comes right down to it, I have a hard time shaking the idea that home-schoolers are a bunch of sissies who are afraid to put their kids through an experience that will toughen them up and prepare them for the trials of the “real” world. But then I had it pretty easy — my younger siblings not so much. And I’m quite sure that my emotional reaction is the same type of thing that perpetuates hazing (at the damaging end) and walk-6-miles-in-the-snow grumbling (at the grumpy end). Not the best way to make important choices, which means that good data and realistically available choices are what U.S. parents really need. And not all of them get that. It’s a big reason why my family and I recently moved out of the Bay Area to the Twin Cities.

  81. Bob on June 28, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Adam,

    Did you read the first paragraph of this blog post?

    “Her article defends home schooling against a very particular kind of attack–specifically, the claim that educating one’s children in the home, away from the public schools, is a failure to be a witness to others as a Christian, a failure to be “in the world,” and more specifically be a light unto it. It’s an interesting claim, one which comes down to, as Ms. Thomas puts it, the idea that homeschooling is selfish, that “homeschoolers [have] enthroned the needs of their own children at the expense of the larger society…[and therefore have] truly turned [their] backs on the lost of the world.””

    That’s the point I am responding to. If Sally Thomas, or you, or anyone else feels this way, yet try to place yourself and your family in nicer neighborhoods, schools, or even employment, then that is hypocritical. Don’t get a job in a nice office because you won’t be “in the world” enough. Move into some run-down apartments. LA has got some bad parts. Go move there.

  82. TMD on June 28, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    AG: ?????

    Umm, I never said the first thing you said I dogmatically insisted on. Personal aesthetics are a fine reason to do things, after all, much of what a person is and wants to be is a matter of their aesthetics, I’m just saying that in many cases (but not all–note above repeated usage of the word tend and its synonyms) that’s what’s determinative, and it’s pretty hard to argue tastes with people. Certainly aesthetics can only be argued ‘in principle,’ rather than in a particular case–and even then, I don’t think that it’s particularly easy to convince someone to like something they don’t already have some sympathy for.

    I’d also note that I didn’t actually draw any of the allusions between class aesthetics and hs that you seem to think I did. You’re putting words in my mouth in good part. Certainly I didn’t cite david brooks. You seem to be taking things quite personally here, which I don’t really understand. However, it is clear that you don’t like bobos. But I’m not entirely sure why.

    As to ‘ex cathedra,’ well, I don’t see any rigourously crafted, cited and footnoted studies of anything here, no studies of how hs may influence moral formation, social integration, or even comprehensive educational performance. There’s not even any systematically developed argument about what makes for a sound moral or intellectual formation. It’s all speculation, weakly developed argument, and experience. It’s a blog, after all. Everything, everyone, is ex cathedra. (unless you blog standing up). Even the initially cited article is pure argument, rather than evidence.

  83. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    “I am not trying to say that you are a upper middle-class bobo or anything. However, I would like to point out the fact that you have the ability to weight the choices of paroichal vs private vs publics vs homeschool does mean you have a luxury of a choice where many have none. Which does sort of make TMD’s point.”

    I don’t think TMD has a point. Could you explain what you think the point is? I don’t think the fact that our family has choices invalidates them, so I’m assuming its something else.

  84. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    That’s the point I am responding to. If Sally Thomas, or you, or anyone else feels this way, yet try to place yourself and your family in nicer neighborhoods, schools, or even employment, then that is hypocritical. Don’t get a job in a nice office because you won’t be “in the world” enough. Move into some run-down apartments. LA has got some bad parts. Go move there.

    I disagree, Bob. Let me see if I can explain it this way: I think there’s probably some truth to the claim that “educating one’s children in the home, away from the public schools, is a failure to be a witness to others as a Christian, a failure to be in the world, and more specifically be a light unto it.” But reading Thomas’ account, I also think she made the right choice. The obligation to be in the world is not an absolute obligation. When it conflicts with obligations to one’s family, family obligations can win out. That’s why I don’t think that its hypocritical for someone to think there’s an obligation be in the world but to look for good schooling. Along the same lines, I think there’s an obligation to “lift up the hand that hangs down” but when it conflicts with family obligations, family obligations win out much of the time. That’s why I don’t think its hypocritical for someone to want to “lift up the hand that hangs down” but not live in the inner city.

    I suspect that most Mormons go wrong in never even considering whether God might want them to do something like that, but even if more Mormons did consider it, I think most of them wouldn’t end up going and probably rightly so. Not everybody has that kind of special call.

  85. Ray on June 28, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    FWIW, there is a reason that assignments to serve in small units and branches are extended by the bishoprics in the neighboring wards – or stake presidents. As Adam says, or implies, some would do well there and some would not – both for themselves and for the church. I think that’s a good description of home schooling, as well. (not that the decision should be made by someone else, only that it is a two-edged sword – both for the individuals involved and their church / gospel service)

  86. ronito on June 28, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Adam,
    You don’t think TMD has a point?

    “Basically, it’s aesthetic choice, strongly grounded in class”
    “I think it’s undeniable that home schooling today caught up in class divides”
    “My point is not that one or the other is wrong, but rather that we should see it as it is–generally an aesthetic choice–about which its adherents are for all intents and purposes insusceptible to contrary argument. ”
    “it is a strongly classed (mostly middle classed) preference.”

    Really? Cause I caught it. Though it was subtle. Again the fact that you have the luxury of even thinking about homeschooling sort of proves it. When I was a kid my mom didn’t work, we didn’t eat. It was even an option for us.

  87. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Sorry, Ronito. Still don’t get it. How does the fact that we have the choice to homeschool make homeschooling a bad idea?

  88. ronito on June 28, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    It doesn’t.

    What I’m trying to say is that there are plenty of people that do not have the luxury of even thinking about it. (sorta speaking to TMD’s point of it’s a class thing). Doesn’t make it good, bad or indifferent.

  89. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Oh. So what’s the point, then?

  90. ronito on June 28, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    That if there are people that can’t afford to even think about it then yes, it is a class thing.

  91. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    But why does it matter that its a class thing?

  92. ronito on June 28, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    It doesn’t matter.

    It’s just a point that it is. And ergo why some people just view homeschooling as something middle-class to well off white people do. While those who don’t have the luxury of doing so really have no choice but the public school system. Homeschooling is a luxury, which many can’t afford.

    Doesn’t make it bad. It just is.

  93. TMD on June 28, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Perspective. A sense of the likely nature of the arguments, who those arguments will be intelligble to and who they won’t be, the kinds of people who will be engaged in them and their likely responses. A sense of how much of this may be a temptest in a teapot or not.

  94. Adam Greenwood on June 28, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    All right, Ronito.

  95. TMD on June 28, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    q.e.d.

  96. Julie M. Smith on June 28, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    So, Adam, is this all hypothetical or will your family being homeschooling?

  97. public school mom on June 29, 2007 at 9:24 am

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this thread because of how it reveals a tension between individual and community needs. How do we balance the needs of our children and of our community. Hawaii has a huge proportion of its children that attend private schools. At the public school that my children attend, a surprising number of the teachers there have sent their own children to private schools. The high number of children who go to private schools means that little attention is paid to public education by either elites or middle class folk. Add to this an economy dependent on tourism. This means that the underemployment necessary to maintain tourism benefits from a public school system that undereducates students. Thus there is little, if any, systemic motivation to reform and improve the school system in Hawaii. This leaves parents with difficult ethical and financial issues in regards to choices for their children. In our own local high school, parents’ attempts to improve the school has resulted in the creation of a kind of private school within the public school. There those children who want to take a college track sign up for gt courses, creating a clearly bifurcated school community.

    The conundrum parents face is not just what is best for their child educationally. Public education here is at the nexus of the question on how to create a better society. I do not mean this in the way that many reformers do–education as the primary means of reform to end drug addiction, teen pregnancy, etc. I mean it as an indicator of our society’s dedication to democracy and sense that a strong economy is a one where people are able to make living wages. In a certain way, the question of education also raises the question of work in society. Who is to do the manual work required? Who is to grow our food? To pick up the trash? To make beds in motel rooms? How do we view and compensate such work? I do not want to sound reactionary, but I do wonder sometimes if public education (at least in Hawaii) is increasingly becoming a place to undereducate those who will do the least-desired work in society. I have a problem with that.

  98. Don Murphy on June 29, 2007 at 10:23 am

    I have not been able to read all the posts so I apologize if this has come up already. I agree with Russell that the main difference between public schools and our local wards is in loyalty to the leadership. The leaders in our church are inspired men and women. They are not infallible which probably leads to the dysfunction at times, but I suppose we are all here to progress.

    Public schools on the other hand are not even remotely inspired. By that, I draw a tenuous link to the notion that the Constitution is an inspired document and it has no provisions for public schools. Public schooling is simply a good example of how the government has taken what should be a private enterprise and screwed it to the wall with inefficiencies and high costs!

  99. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2007 at 10:31 am

    So, Adam, is this all hypothetical or will your family being homeschooling?

    Undecided. We are gathering facts right now, so if you know any informative studies or books, let us know.

  100. Julie M. Smith on June 29, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Adam, I always recommend _The Well-Trained Mind_ to people considering homeschooling.

  101. Ardis Parshall on June 29, 2007 at 11:17 am

    In a certain way, the question of education also raises the question of work in society. Who is to do the manual work required? Who is to grow our food? To pick up the trash? To make beds in motel rooms? How do we view and compensate such work?

    public school mom, your comments triggered a memory of a moment in church history where the same questions were asked. I find this in Apostle Anthon Lund’s diary for October 1907: “David Eccles called on the President He says that we are making too much of the educational work our boys are studying and becoming unfit for labor. He says they can not get workmen to keep their factories going.” Brother Eccles was speaking as a capitalist, not as a parent concerned with his own and his neighbors’ children being deliberately undereducated in order to provide a laboring class. Lund doesn’t record any specific response of President Joseph F. Smith, but of course we know from the record that the Church continued to make enormous investments in education despite this kind of complaint.

    Not that that really furthers a discussion on the very valid questions you raise, psm … I’m a lover of trivia, and you gave me an excuse to dig out a piece. Thanks. :-)

  102. Seth R. on June 29, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Well Trained Mind is good, but it represents the Classical model of homeschooling. I like it, but some don’t.

    “100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum” by Cathy Duffy is a really good survey of different available curriculums out there. Cathy does a fairly good job in being unbiased, but she’s obviously partial to the Christian-friendly approach.

  103. Ugly Mahana on June 29, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    As I do not yet have school age children, this discussion is largely hypothetical for me. I do, however, feel strongly that the entrenched public school system needs shaking up, that, to this end, private schools and home schooling should be very competitive with public schools, and, at the very least, that public funding for education should be attached to students, not institutions. My own antipathy towards public schools arises from an experience I had during my freshman year of high school. My geography teacher equated today’s middle class with the serf class of yesteryear. He insisted on the validity of the assertion even when I pointed out some differences (potential for upward mobility, for example). I was in an urban school, and I could see that most students at the school were either middle class or lower middle class. It became very clear to me that not only did he believe he was teaching the children of serfs, but he was also educating the next generation of serfs. The vice-principal at this same school emphasized that our graduating class should set, as its goal, the objective of graduating from high school, because you can’t get a job without a diploma. Very little was said about preparing for college. Finally, in a school system that obsessed about opportunities for minorities, and in a school that was at least half african-american, 9 out of 10 students in each class that I took were white. Most of the classes I took were college prep classes, and usually there was only one section offered.

    The society that undereducates suffers when the world changes technologically because mass reeducation is needed. Our schools must strive to educate independent citizens as well as workers. Independent citizens will see themselves as entrepreneurs whether they own their own business or not. They will seek out the skills they need to compete, not expect someone else to provide for them. I consider schools that, like the one that I attended, set their sights on educating the serf class, a failure because they only prepare their students to survive as dependent citizens. I would like to see greater competition so that public schools will change. I am much more interested in individual outcomes than the continued existence of a melting pot that fails to educate independent citizens.

  104. ronito on June 29, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Both UM and Public School Mom bring up very good points.

    To me as embattled as the public school system is it is largely a part of the american dream. At least it’s goal is. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or who many friends you got. You connections don’t matter. Everyone has a good chance to make themselves into something great and better. It is the key to making a better society. I am a good example. I didn’t go to the best schools. But still I forged through graduated went on to college and got a career. This from a very poor immigrant family.

    It’s no surprise that UM’s teachers felt they were teaching Serfs. I have the same thing in the school I went to. Why shouldn’t they feel that way? Anyone that has enough money and means will homeschool or send their kids to private schools.

    I believe in the public school system. As an immigrant here I quickly learned that Public schooling was the very nexus of the american dream. I admit that in many respects it is very bad. But things can be done to make it better, if we as a society make it a priority. I know it’s bad and fixing seems impossible to many, however the prospect of having a perpetually undereducated under class to me is worse.

  105. a spectator on June 29, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    When people start talking about “entrenched public education” it makes me think that they do not appreciate the truely revolutionary nature of public education; educating everyone in an excellent manner is a very radical notion.

  106. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Circa 1850.

  107. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    @Spectator

    Here’s a radical notion: maybe we should completely privatize education. It might cut out a lot of inefficiencies. It would lower taxes. Then people could use that saved money to pay tuition at schools of their choosing. Or they could opt to not educate their children and have them learned a skilled trade. Is it really efficient to force future automotive technicians to read Shakespeare plays?

  108. Seth R. on June 29, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    The problem with the middle class = serfs thing, is…

    In America, there is no middle class. It’s largely illusory. In America, you are either rich, or you are poor.

  109. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    “In America, you are either rich, or you are poor.”

    What’s the cutoff income?

  110. Ardis Parshall on June 29, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    What an awesome idea, John Williams. Efficiency should really be the goal we’re all striving for. Business leaders could plan their labor needs a generation in advance because there would likely be few children who would have the awareness or means to be educated beyond their parents’ status. Children’s futures could be decided when parents picked a school track for them as 5-year-olds, because nobody would have to explore options, and take time to develop their tastes and talents, before being plugged in to a work slot. We wouldn’t have to waste resources teaching anybody anything that wouldn’t be immediately and obviously employable — except, of course, for those sissy elites whose parents DID know enough to offer Shakespeare.

    I suppose I’m especially in favor of this idea because it could have saved me, personally, so much effort. I still remember the aptitude test I took as a high school senior, and the interview with the guidance counselor afterwards. I was told not to bother with college because I was most ideally suited to auto mechanics. Really. It’s funny you should have lit on my own ideal destiny in your own illustration. Why, oh, why, did I waste so much on the humanities?

  111. Seth R. on June 29, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    The cutoff is where a medical crisis or job loss won’t put you in bankruptcy.

  112. a spectator on June 29, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Adam–
    Do you not think 1850 relatively recent? Considering that universal education is such a major undertaking, it does not bother me that we are still refining it. The revolution continues….

    John Williams–
    that is precisely what we did before public education. Are you really interested in a return to absolute poverty for most of the population? Not I, especially now that we let everyone vote!

    Seth–
    Oh man, thanks for the reminder.

  113. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Not particularly recent, no. Anyway, I’m all for universal education. Universal education does not an obligation to send your kids to public schools make.

  114. John Williams on July 1, 2007 at 12:02 am

    Ardis Parshall,

    Some people might actually not hold automotive technicians with as much disdain as you apparently do. They provide a valuable service to our society.

    Look, you don’t understand the implications of what I meant private education. No one should be forced to study particular fields based on aptitude tests. People should have the opportunity to buy whatever education they (or their parents) want, or to avoid buying any education at all. In the marketplace, a lot of valuable goods and services are created by people without extensive formal education. If you can create something of value without a high school diploma, why should the government strongly encourage you to spend time in high school?

  115. John Williams on July 1, 2007 at 12:11 am

    a spectator:

    It is unfortunate that you attribute the strength of the American economy to state-sponsored socialized education. It’s not that simple. A lot of people without college educations have helped make this country what it is.

    Our nation has wealth not because people are “educated” but because our citizens produce things of value. Getting an education is not a prerequisite of being able to create someting of value. Do yourself a favor and Google “Henry Ford.” Steve Jobs, an Apple co-founder, didn’t even graduate from college. Neither did Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft.

    This country boomed economically because we had abundant natural resources, lots of open immigration, and a free capitalist society that rewarded innovators and risk takers with wealth. Education can be useful for employers looking to filter out employees in reducing risk. Likewise, there are some fields where rigid formal education can help people gain skills for the workplace. So I think education is a good thing, but we shouldn’t force it down the throats of people who can add value to society without being educated.

  116. Ardis Parshall on July 1, 2007 at 1:00 am

    (114) Because, John Williams, kids who have never been exposed to a field are in no position to judge how or whether it might be useful for them to learn. In very many cases, neither are their parents. In my own case, that would have been true — while my parents valued education in the abstract, they were old enough to have been my grandparents: their ideas of how to make one’s way in the world were from another era and would have resulted in my being trained for far less than I am capable of doing, even with their best intentions. While I was in high school, I didn’t know enough about anything to know what I wanted to do — I could easily have fallen in with that aptitude test and become an auto mechanic. A fine thing, I’m sure, but not the best use of my life. Because I was exposed to a much broader range of options, I eventually found what was best for me. I’ve changed careers three times, made possible not because I had limited vocational training but because I had a liberal education and could make the necessary adjustments.

    I’m grateful for the opportunity of a public school education, even though it fell far short of meeting all I could have done. If a family is able to provide better for their children, I’m in favor of that. But it isn’t fair to offer LESS than the public schools are providing now, which is, I think, what would happen if we didn’t encourage that minimum.

    Is your stand based on the belief that you were taught more than you can benefit from, or is it that you don’t think others have a right to learn the same? Or are you confusing education with advanced schooling?

  117. a spectator on July 1, 2007 at 8:34 am

    Adam–
    You are correct that universal education does not equal public education, I just think that reverting to a system like the one JW describes would result in many not receiving an adequate education.
    JW–
    Of course education does not equal wealth, but if you allow, as you suggest, “Or they could opt to not educate their children” I think plenty of people would take you up on that, which I think would be disastrous. Having people instead learn a skilled trade would be better, but let’s face it, anyone can have kids and some neglect their children’s needs in other realms, I am sure it would happen in education, too.

  118. John Williams on July 2, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    a spectator,

    All I’m saying is that maybe we shouldn’t cram education down people’s throats if they don’t want it. And even better, we shouldn’t make everyone pay for schooling that some students don’t really want or need. People can still add value to society even if they haven’t had formal schooling. With the socialized education system we have in the United States, I think a lot of resources are being burned on people who might not want education. If we made education private and made it optional, then maybe resources would be used more efficiently.

    I think your problem is that you think someone who doesn’t have an education is not valuable to society.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.