Saturday, July 29, 2006

Random Rants

A few things got to me today as I thought about them.

Why does Paris Hilton have a record? It isn't cute, she sounds like a tin can tuned up with remix equipment and why is it that she can say that singing's been a dream of hers since childhood and that makes it "legit"? I'm pretty sure lots of us dreamt of being stars... and then learned to shut up already. Shut up, Paris, already.

Why do some people categorically judge homeschoolers as weird? Over at Jesus Creed (tell me to stop getting sucked in to those screeds), a raging debate about the value of homeschool versus supporting the public schools as devoted Christians is getting everyone's panties in a bunch. I might have to up my chocolate intake to cope.

Let me just say it once here: homeschoolers are weird. So are public schooled kids. What teen do you know who isn't "weird" in some way? God, they've perfected it as an artform!

The debate centers on the idea that public education is the grand experiment that is achieving homogeneity and tolerance of difference in our nation. Like that's what's going on. Like kids in public school have become tolerant, globalized, responsible citizens because they share square footage with people from outside their cultures. Uh-huh.

I know it can happen. I know a few families who are devoted to those values who live them. I have a friend whose kids are in a Spanish immersion school in Santa Monica and who study Chinese on the weekends. These kids (this family) gets it. They believe.

But is that what is going down in the inner cities in Cincinnati? Are suburban schools in the midwest that are 90% white really leading to the grand vision of racial and ethnic diversity and tolerance? Or are they reinforcing insidiously (through their fancy equipment, their semi-professional sports teams and their pressure on students to perform academically so that the schools show a high percentage of college-bound graduates) the idea that being white, gifted, educated and moneyed is the key to the American dream?

For the record: We homeschool because we love to. It's been the greatest joy of my life to be with our kids every day, to share in their academic and personal growth, to create a family culture that is a pleasure to us every day. These same kids have a global awareness, exposure to other religions and cultures because that's who we are as parents. Public school is a tool in our educational kit, not the focus of our devotion or faith or aspirations. Somehow, I think parenting is the key to raising culturally sensitive citizens, not school.

So yeah, I guess we're pretty weird, on balance.


Kansas Bob said...

We in Kansas haved worshipped education into the dust. We give generous offerings to that sacred calf ... religious people of different flavors inflict ideology into the system and the arrogance of intellectualism speaks on all levels. I wonder where our kids are in the middle of all this? I wonder if the debate makes any difference.

On the flip side I know many who homeschool and, generally speaking, these kids seem to grow up pretty well adjusted and educated.

Matt said...

Since I have no experience on homeschooling, and have met very few folks who were educated at home, I don't feel qualified to try and address that.

However, I'll take a moment to reply to your first rant. Paris is overblown, overrated, overexposed (in more ways than one), and overdone. I'm tired of her! And this recent quote she gave in an interview with the Sunday Times in England didn't endear her to me one iota more: "“There’s nobody in the world like me. I think every decade has an iconic blonde — like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana — and right now, I’m that icon.”

To paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen, "I've admired Marilyn Monroe. I had a crush on Marilyn Monroe. You, ma'am, are no Marilyn Monroe."

Glad to have you posting again, Julie!

julieunplugged said...

Hey guys! Great to see you both again.

Bob, you are so right. Sometimes the grandiosity of the educational vision clouds the truly imporant part of school: the kids themselves. One of my professors said that had Maria Montesorri been a man, our entire public education system would look different. I certainly wonder... At least that form of education works as has been demonstrated again and again.

Matt - What an amazing quote by Ms. Hilton! Iconic blonde my foot! She's more like the annoying gnat that won't get out of your face even after you take a few swipes at it.


Dave said...

Re: homeschooling, it's always seemed like an option that might be attractive if the circumstances were just right, but our four children were born between 1985 and 1989. When it came time for us to decide how to do our children's education, home-schooling seemed completely impractical and private schools were unaffordable. Julie grew up going to Christian schools so this was difficult for her to accept but we basically had to "settle" for public schooling, and IMO our kids turned out fine, though I could also envision various improvements and better outcomes that weren't achieved because of some of the limitations of the public school system where we live. Overall though, I don't have too many regrets. My biggest reservations about home-schooling revolve around the likelihood of some parents taking an overly-controlling approach in determining what their children will learn about or be exposed to. I'm concerned about kids being overly sheltered or indoctrinated into certain forms of prejudicial or separatist thinking, though I readily grant that home-schooling doesn't inevitably lead to that kind of perspective. It just depends on those doing the teaching.

I am not particularly idealistic about public schooling. I have never harbored many notions that it's a vital part of our society or a grand experiment that will lead our society to a progressively higher level of insight, integration and appreciation of diversity. Those are not the ideals endorsed in action by our nation's highest authorities, so even the flawed and limited efforts that our schools put into achieving them don't really yield much fruit anyway.

As for Paris Hilton, I think her statement about being the iconic blonde of our times is actually fairly plausible, but that's not a good thing. She's a media-savvy rich kid fashion-plate whose claim to fame stems indirectly from porn clips leaked on to the internet. That about sums up early 21st century celebrity culture to me!

julieunplugged said...

My biggest reservations about home-schooling revolve around the likelihood of some parents taking an overly-controlling approach in determining what their children will learn about or be exposed to. I'm concerned about kids being overly sheltered or indoctrinated into certain forms of prejudicial or separatist thinking, though I readily grant that home-schooling doesn't inevitably lead to that kind of perspective. It just depends on those doing the teaching.

This is my chief concern with the homeschooling movement as well. I have seen and do see that many kids are raised in enough isolation or with such a strong worldview of "rightness" as over and against the mainstream culture "wrongness" that many kids do develop judgmental attitudes.

There is a shift in the homeschool culture away from that isolationism, though, which I find encouraging. And I have to admit, I've met my share of biased, narrow-minded kids in public school too - just different.

I know your kids would turn out well with you and Julie for parents. :)


Emily said...

If only Paris would go away...It's really too bad that someone with that many resources can't do something worthwhile. Geesh.
I'm pretty much all for homeschooling when my husband and I have children because we don't see public schools challenging kids enough. We weren't. Public schools have too many hoops to jump through between the federal government and the teacher's unions. I'm not sure anyone in either of those groups really pays attention to whether or not the kids are learning. I go to Curves a couple times a week and there are several teachers there who are with Cincinnati Public...they have become the reason that I refuse to send any child of mine to public schools here. The thought of such vapid people teaching my kids makes me a little nervous.
However, I grew up going to public schools in a small town, and, while they taught to the mediochre, I did get a few great teachers along the way. Nothing is really ever black and white.

SusansPlace said...

Julie, what is the title of the post about homeschooling vs. public schooling? I'll grab some chocolate before I start reading. ;-)


P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I've observed people who do home schooling extremely well. And people who do it and don't let their children do anything independent at all. And people who supposedly do it, but go to work every day, not staying home with the kid (older teen.) I know one family who homeschooled their kids even though the parents themselves hadn't finished high school and had never traveled or moved away from home.

People who get their education away from the home will, ideally, come into contact with some positive ideas, subjects, and people that their parents don't know about. Also some negatives, but if you "protect the kids from everything," you run the risk of them exploring wildly without thinking when they are finally set free.

Ideal homeschooling, IMHO, includes some group activities in subject areas that need the group to happen. And some activities away from the parents to be healthy for the children. I know of a couple of homeschool families with kids in their upper 20's where the kids have still never left home!

My kids went to public school and then college. The biggest blessing of that situation were the praises and encouragement that they all got from so many people for their school work and attitude and activities that would not have happened if they had only been schooled at home.