The Most Depressing Photograph in the World

…, or at least in the April 2005 issue of Reason. This is from the leading page of Homeschooling Alone by Greg Beato. Here we have three young children under Mother’s watchful eyes in Tempe, Arizona:

Photo: three home-schooled children and their mother hold their hands over their hearts and hold up a United States flag in their living room

This is a family of home-schoolers starting their day—by uttering the Pledge of Allegiance. When they don’t even have to.

You want an argument for thick libertarianism over thin libertarianism? There it is.

N.B.: this is not a diatribe against home-schooling, or even against the article. The article is mostly intended as an article about why private foundations and corporate donors seem resolutely determined to keep throwing their education reform money down the hole of proven failures—like mostly-useless charter schools and technology-in-schools fads—rather than, say, offering scholarship funds to homeschooling families or co-operative organizations of home-schoolers. It’s decent as far as it goes, but here as elsewhere the cadences of the hard Right—who are withdrawing their kids from school, by and large, so that they will be unconstrained in their ability to teach their children a bunch of lies in a resolutely authoritarian atmosphere—are lurking behind the voice of almost everyone who’s allowed to speak on behalf of homeschoolers.

That doesn’t mean that everyone who homeschools is like that of course, and it sure doesn’t mean that that’s what homeschooling as such means. It isn’t; that’s just what the most obnoxiously vocal part of the movement is about. A lot of people are doing amazing things with their kids. And, hell, it doesn’t even mean that the kids being homeschooled by hard Right fundamentalists ought to go back into government schools (let alone be pushed back into it by the heavy arm of the State). Everyone has the right to flee the institutionalized education system, and it’s hard to say how they’d be better off (on balance) if they were stuck back into one of those desks. Homeschooling means a step, even if it’s a small one, towards learning in freedom The less bullying that anyone gets from the government about getting out of the institutionalized school, the better—and that means that no bullying is best of all.

But what kind of a standard is Well, at least it’s not as bad as the government schools for an anarchist to uphold? Freedom is better than coercion, sure—being left alone is better than being stomped on, and leaving other people alone is better than stomping on them. But that’s not the end of the story; while I’ll go to the mat supporting the right of parents to keep their kids out of government schools, and the wisdom of doing so even if their views about education, history, science, politics, etc. strike me as abhorrent, it’s worth pointing out that those things are abhorrent. Besides being bad in their own right, some of those views are directly opposed to maintaining a free culture. Like taking your kids out of government schools to ensure that you can hold on to an obsessive theo-nationalism and chant out UNDER GOD! every morning, for instance. The hard Right wing of the homeschooling movement may be tactical coalition partners; they may be people that I’m obligated, by principle, to support against government aggression. But they are not my friends.

Nor should they be.

3 replies to The Most Depressing Photograph in the World Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Anonymous

    I’m a liberal homeschooler, and the right wing homeschoolers aren’t my friends, either. They do more to damage what I’m doing than any other group of people.

    I arrived at homeschooling after some devastating experiences with the public school system. Now that I’m doing it, though, I’m glad I did it. It really is the ultimate freedom, for both of us!

— 2006 —

  1. Lioness

    Speaking as a homeschooler for the past three years, it looks like a ritual to tell the kids, “it’s time to stop horsing around and get down to lessons”. I’m a liberal feminist Pagan homeschooler, so I use a yoga warmup and meditation to accomplish that goal.

    You’re absolutely right in that there needs to be more coverage of non-Fundamentalist homeschoolers, and I’m pleased to see that such coverage is becoming more common.

— 2008 —

  1. "Nick Manley" - The Eternally Confused "Deviant"

    Charles,

    I am uncomfortable with seeing the hard right wing of the homeschooling movement as even tactical coalition partners. I suspect their method of child raising would fall under the cruel or abusive or irresponsible heading.

    Granted, I’d like to be able to talk to them about my concerns, so that might count as treating them as “tactical coalition partners”. I tend to think that hard rightists have been raised in a manner that makes reasonable discourse difficult to pursue though.

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