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Bridging the Great Schooling Divide

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Bridging the Great Schooling Divide

By Linda Dobson

GrandmaAndGrandaughter childrenMaybe it’s because I’m a grandma that the title caught my eye: “Important Lessons We Can Learn from Our Grandparents for Raising Children.”

The article appeared in Cleveland County’s The Star (which, interestingly, traces its roots to August 1894 when The Cleveland Star began publication under the editorship of 17-year-old Clyde R. Hoey). It was written by John Rosemond, a family psychologist who travels the country speaking for about eight months each year, during which time he receives many “What should I do?” questions from parents, most often addressing behavior problems.

“What strikes me is that our grandparents – our great-grandparents, most certainly – would not have asked such questions,” Rosemond writes. “They either would not have ever experienced the sort of problems with which today’s parents find themselves dealing – confrontational disrespect and disobedience, for example – or if they did, they would not have felt the need for ‘expert’ advice. They knew what to do, and in most cases what they did worked, and in short order…I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the ‘behavioral’ solutions parents are seeking from people like me – people with capital letters after their names – are not really solutions at all; they’re the equivalent of using a band-aid to treat hemophilia.”

Quoting a Bob Dylan song (it’s a pretty brief article, so no room for a lot of elaboration, I guess!), Rosemond brings us to his point that “today’s parents are having problems with their kids of a sort and quantity that would amaze their grandparents because they are thinking very differently from the way their grandparents thought.”

School Attendance Undermines Children’s Family Values

Hmmm. I pulled out my book, The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community, and Self (Home Education Press, 1995), and found what I was looking for in John Taylor Gatto’s foreword:

Once children enter school the undermining and destruction of values they are taught at home is begun. The erosion of parental and cultural values is deliberate, and utterly subversive of the unity families need to be strong. In courses labeled drug education, sex education, and death education, children are taught that their parents’ rights and wrongs are based on outmoded definitions, that parents’ ideas are not reliable guides, that experts – always called “scientific” experts – are the best pathfinders to follow.

School people are fond of talking privately about bad parents, but they have no patience at all with the idea that schooling makes bad parents by removing their responsibility for their child’s development, and by removing valuable time for parents and children to associate with each other.

Family is the only class of association impossible to duplicate, yet school slyly suggests that your family can be compared with all others, ranked on supposedly objective evaluation scales. After all, if sons and daughters can be ranked, why not the mothers and fathers? And if families can be so ranked, isn’t it also possible to trade bad parents for good ones?

Quantifying family merit is another one of the big lies of schooling, like quantifying reading ability or tracking children according to their supposed future destinies. The actual truth is your family is necessary, irreplaceable, and quite incomparable with other families (except in irrelevant ways). Inside your family orbit you are automatically someone significant and special. Think of that for a moment: significance accorded because of who you are, and not because of what you do. This is an essential form of nourishment. It cannot be reliably supplied by strangers or even friends – only by the family over the long haul.

I’ve no doubt that the erosion of value of family, a combination of the “teaching” of which John speaks and a schedule that wreaks havoc on family time, has increased with each generation that has been schooled in the “modern” tradition.

The Divide Between Children Who Go to School and Those Who Homeschool

And then I began wondering: Might this state of affairs be the starting point of what might be called “the great divide” between parents who send their children to school and those who homeschool and unschool, as revealed in April when Good Morning America aired an unforgivably false picture of the practice?

I read farther in The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community, and Self to follow up John’s words with this thought:

 It stands to reason that if we parents were taught dependency on others, we are likely to feel very vulnerable when people waving college degrees and making livings in certain subject areas come along. We don’t need to take responsibility for any of the dozens of things that go wrong in life. As long as we consult an expert (for s/he knows more than we), our troubles can be pigeonholed and the expert can share his “secret formula” for fixing things. (After all, it has worked so well for countless others.) While in some cases this does make the initial trouble go away, what are the consequences of relinquishing responsibility this way?

Relying on “experts” to solve our problems leaves us feeling even more dependent on others, less self-assured of our ability to manage our own lives, and more likely to run to yet another “expert” in the future. Our immediate problem has vanished, but these side-effects of dependency never go away. Their shadows render us impotent in other aspects of our lives, leaving us unable to answer that simple question “who are you?”, so alienated from our own feelings, thoughts, and choices do we become.

Logic appears to dictate: The reality of families who place high value on family and their own ability to figure things out at the top of their priorities collides with the reality of families who have schooling – and all of its experts – at the top of theirs.

As a longtime homeschooling advocate, I have heretofore been content thinking that families who intuit something wrong with the whole government school set-up will eventually seek us out in their search for “another way.” This, however, was before state budgets were shrinking faster than cheap t-shirts, and before the resulting massive teacher layoffs are guaranteed to further denigrate the government school landscape. The situation could very easily push additional parents to become fed up enough with what passes for education to change their thinking.

See also “We Have What We’ve Education for: Now What?

When they do, they don’t need to be inundated with ever more experts to show the way. These parents will need their experienced neighbors, friends, fellow 4-H parents, and the like to be accessible and to answer their questions. Perhaps the most important thing we can do to help them will be to explain the need to stop listening to education experts so they may hear their hearts – and, perhaps, the whispers of their grandparents and great-grandparents. This is the quickest way back to their self-empowerment and the reality of family as irreplaceable. At the same time, it will serve as the sturdiest structure to bridge the great schooling divide that exists at this moment in time.

This piece originally appeared in Home Education Magazine.

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4 Responses to “Bridging the Great Schooling Divide”

  1. Eve says:

    One of the main reasons (among many) that my husband and I chose to homeschool our children was to avoid the “us versus them” mentality so common of families when their children are sent off to school. The dynamic just has to shift between parent and child, there isn’t anything else for it. School isn’t natural–dividing families for the good of the state just isn’t what we are wired for as humans or how families function best emotionally.

    • Eve, I just want to hug you! Yes, yes, yes! How could the dynamic NOT shift??? I’m so very glad your children are getting the homeschooling experience. Your family will be so much better/happier for it. So glad you’re reading Parent at the Helm…please stay in touch!

  2. Eve says:

    Linda, I’ll definitely keep in touch! I read your posts on my reader online and really enjoy what you have to say. Yours is such a refreshing point of view on the topics of education and family life.

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