Racism and Homeschooling

June 4, 2009 § 6 Comments

Over at Bendng the Twigs I found a pair of posts refuting the idea that a common motivation for homeschooling is racism.

Emperor Of China's Gardens - William Alexander

Emperor Of China's Gardens - William Alexander

Usually I miss the hotly controversial postings about homeschooling until they are well past their expiration date, but this one I almost made it in time for.   Apparently Jesse Scaccia, a teacher, has put his ‘well honed’ mind to the test and was able to come up with ten reasons that homeschooling is bad.  His list boils down to:  homeschool children are weird, homeschool parents are arrogant, selfish and isolationist, homes are not schools,  Mr Scaccia has some sort of personal issue with homeschooling and apparently the Great Commission requires sending our impressionable offspring to schools that weren’t even in existence in the first century.  I count five reasons there,  but I don’t judge Mr Scaccia too harshly on his math problem; he is an English teacher not a math (or biology) teacher.

I am not overly interested in dissecting Mr Scaccia’s opinion except as it  is related to the issue that homeschoolers are somehow more isolated culturally than schooled children and that this could in some way create citizens who are bigoted.  To quote:

4. Homeschooling could breed intolerance, and maybe even racism. Unless the student is being homeschooled at the  MTV Real World house, there’s probably only one race/sexuality/background in the room. How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?

3. And don’t give me this “they still participate in activities with public school kids” garbage. Socialization in our grand multi-cultural experiment we call America is a process that takes more than an hour a day, a few times a week. Homeschooling, undoubtedly, leaves the child unprepared socially.”

Being socially isolated and culturally backwards I have no idea what MTV Real World house is, but considering it is MTV I am comfortable making a guess that more often than not it wouldn’t be a great environment in which to raise a child to be anything remotely resembling a cultured and liberal minded person.   But let’s answer Mr Scaccia’s question:  How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?

The Maasai of Tanzania

The Maasai of Tanzania

I have never lived among the Maasai of  Kenya and Tanzania, but I do appreciate their culture.   I could say the same about the Japanese  or  the Spartans of Ancient Greece.   Other groups I have some first hand experience with:  Members of  the Modoc tribe of Southern Oregon and Northern California were family friends in my childhood.    I have lived among African-Americans and Choctaw tribal members  in the South and the next street over from Orthodox Jews in Boston  and at the same time one apartment down from a family from Lebanon – the second wife was a particular friend.    I have traveled in Mexico, Germany, France and Austria and brought home an appreciation of these countries’ art, music, culture and food.  But none of these experiences were gained inside the walls of a traditional school — not a single one of them.

While I won’t deny that there may be some parents who homeschool their children with the hope of insulating them from other cultures and peoples  0r who, even worse, homeschool them in the hopes of indoctrinating them into a belief that their race is superior to others;  such parents are the minority.  They are a minuscule group defined by an ideology of fear, fear of blacks, fear of whites, fear of anyone who doesn’t agree with their world-view, but they do not represent homeschoolers at large.   But, to quote Jefferson again:  “It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible transportation  and education of the infant against the will of the father”   Even if a very few wacky parents wish to teach their children thus it is not an argument against homeschooling.   It is at most an argument against parents being wacko, but since that is rather impossible to avoid (public school or not) the point is moot.

But turning again to the question at hand I realize that my personal experience will most likely be met with “Yes, but that is just your personal experience, how are most parents going to manage that?”    Let me answer that obvious objection by talking about my personal experience a little more in depth.

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